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Bullet Journal pitfalls and how to avoid them or deal with them

You have a lovely new journal and you can’t wait to get started, but then anxiety says “great … but what if you spoil your pages …?”

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Everyone makes mistakes, but I have put together this short list of common errors and how to avoid them:

  1. Smudges – If you are using ink of any kind then sometimes it will smudge. I would recommend using blotting paper on all ink, but especially fountain pens. Press the paper lightly on fresh ink to soak up blots, but also put blotting paper over the top of wet ink and under your hand to prevent accidental smudges as you write or draw.
  2. Using the wrong pen – This is only really a problem if you are sticking to a colour scheme and you have a selection of pens of similar colours, or if you are trying to maintain uniformity in some other way. You can keep track by having a sticky note to hand and making a KEY of what pen you have used. Some manufactured sticky notes can be quite glossy and not all pens will look the same on different types of paper, so you can make your own with a scrap of paper and a piece of washi tape. ~ If you don’t want to write out a key, then you can wrap a piece of washi tape round your pen to remind you.
  3. Spelling mistakes – if you don’t know how to spell a word then look it up or ask a virtual assistant how to spell it. If you find yourself always having to check the same words, then make a note of the correct spelling at the back of your journal.
  4. Ink leaks – some types of ink will leak through the page, especially if the paper is quite thin. Keep a page at the back of your journal to try out your pen first. You could make it fancy with doodle boxes, write a pangram or a quote, or write a list of the brand and type of your pens similar to the KEY idea (2) above.
  5. Drawing grids the wrong size – plan your page in pencil first. You don’t necessarily need to draw out the whole page in pencil, but make a few light pencil marks to help you plan. If you have layouts that you repeat then you can make yourself a cheat sheet to remind yourself of the dimensions.
  6. Carbon paper effect – back in the day, if you wanted to make a copy of a document it would often involve carbon paper. This was an inky piece of paper that you slipped between the sheet of paper you were writing on or typing on and a blank sheet of paper, inky side down. As you wrote or typed, the ink would transfer to the blank sheet, making a carbon copy. If you put the carbon paper the wrong way up, the ink went on the back of your original copy instead! Where is all this leading you may ask? ~ Well, it is to do with coloured pencils. They’re great for making colourful habit trackers etc, but when you turn the page and write on another, the coloured pencil will transfer, like carbon paper. Avoid this by putting a sheet of scrap paper between the two pages so that the pencil goes onto that instead.
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How to deal with mistakes in your journal

If the list above came too late, then don’t despair!

You could embrace your mistakes by incorporating them into your design …

Highlight them and write “whoops!” over the top. Change them into a doodle. Cross them out, deep breath and carry on.

Or, hide them …

Small mistakes can be covered with correction tape (warning: not all pens write over the top of correction tape or fluid). You can also cover them with washi tape. Gently scribble over the mistake first if you don’t want it to show through the washi.

Larger mistakes can be covered with another piece of paper, magazine cuttings, stickers, etc.

Massive mistakes can be hidden by sticking two pages together. Absolute last resort but not recommended at all is to remove the page, but this can weaken the book spine and other pages may fall out.

Final note: just relax and enjoy. Eliminating distractions and taking your time will help you become a better writer, but if you make a typo or another mistake, it really isn’t the end of the world.

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23 thoughts on “Bullet Journal pitfalls and how to avoid them or deal with them”

  1. Pingback: Improve your handwriting skills in easy steps | Journal along with me

  2. Pingback: My Bullet Journal setup for April | Marie-Celine

  3. This is perfect! I have gotten countless “cute” journals only to have them sit around, blank, because I’m too scared to “ruin” them. I’m gonna try it again! 🤗

  4. I stop using my bullet journal over a year ago. Partially because of some of the things listed here, but mostly because I got tired of having to set things up before actually the important stuff into my spreads. Even so, I want to pick it up again, so knowing how to avoid these things will be helpful when I do.

    1. I hope that you can start using your journal again. Try not to worry about mistakes if they happen. It can be frustrating, but even those perfect people on instagram make errors, but they just choose not to share them!

  5. Love this post because it happens to everyone!! I run into the problem of having the wrong pen just bc I am picky and if it doesn’t write right I get mad lol! Also, LOVE the highlight your mistake and write “whoops” 😂❤️

  6. I always feel like when I get a new notebook I don’t want to write in it in case I ruin it haha, but I’ve stuck two pages together before because of making too many mistakes! Great tips thank you 🙂

  7. I think insta/Pinterest has a lot to answer for.
    Some Bujos look like art projects, while mine looks like… Well a diary, with stickers, washi and loads of writing in it! (and possibly too many colours!)..
    And lists… So many lists!

    1. Well my handwriting definitely isn’t up to scratch and I make mistakes if I try to write the number 2 in any other way than I’ve been writing it for 40+ years. If I try to fake it, my brain just reverts back to the way I’ve always written it. One day I will realise that it’s pointless trying to override that habit and my curly 2 will stay! I agree with you Polly that it’s all because of Instagram and Pinterest. The mistakes really don’t matter.

  8. Hahaha the most common errors I always have or drawing foxes are grids the wrong size and the carbon paper affect! I do a lot of squiggly lines to separate topics but I think in the long run it makes it look more messy. Thank you for sharing Marie!

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