BuJo – For Real, This Time

I love making lists. Love checking things off to do list and recording what goes on in my life. The thing is…I sort of stink at actually keeping up with any of it. I write a to do list during work of things I have to do at home on a trusty sticky note. The sticky note never even leaves my purse upon getting home. Just stays there to be found days later, when I roll my eyes at myself for being such a flake.

My work life is kept very separate from my home life. I have a work notebook that stays at work and a work calendar that is meticulously maintained so I’m not the one forgetting about a 10 o’clock meeting that I’m supposed to be running (which I did in the past). Those times work or home interferes with the other (e.g. in to work late due to a dentist appointment, have to stay until 6 pm for a late meeting), I try to write down. But where? One of those stickies or in whatever notebook I have in front a me. A notebook that I’ll probably toss aside at the end of a month or when I get tired of it and convince myself it’s time to buy a new notebook. If something happens weeks from now and I don’t have the right notebook/calendar in front of me, it’s a 50/50 chance it’s getting forgotten until the week of.

I tried Getting Things Done. Easy – you make a giant list of everything to do then organize all of the paper you need to do those things. One folder per project. Done with a project or putting it off until later? Stash it away. All well and good…if your life can be tracked entirely on paper. But I’m an engineer – we do print out way too many Power Point slides but most of my life is transacted electronically. Emails. Policy notes. Excel files. Models. Diagrams. Do I make a million separate files, taking up a ton of space on precious shared drives or SharePoint sites? (Yes, we still use those.) It wasn’t working. I was too focused on how to plan out every.single.thing. that I didn’t have time to actually do anything. The to do list grew and grew and grew.

I became someone who purely reacted to things as they happened, maybe getting ready for something a few days in advance. My to do lists were only the things I absolutely had to do that day, unless they could be tracked via email or calendar invites. If something was in my inbox, it meant I had to do something in response. That trusty Outlook flag used for the most important things – well, in theory. Often my entire list of opened but not yet archived email was flagged.

I’d heard about bullet journaling for years. I’d read the summary from it’s creator on its elements. I’d pinned 100s of beautiful BuJo pages on Pinterest. I’d followed converts on social media. I even tried it but realized I was doing it as a way to try to appear impressive. Look at how beautiful I can make my list of books I read this year! They look like little books! Again, nothing was getting done at a rate any better than my miss-matched system of stickies, reminders, and repeating “pack lunch” in my head until I fell asleep.

Just before the end of the year, I bought a copy of the actual book, The Bullet Journal Method and read more about the “why” of all of it. Why you need to empty your head of to do lists. Why you need to focus on the things you can do today and keep things to do in the future on a different page. Why it doesn’t have to be pretty but does have to be legible and easy to find information. Why you should just keep going, one page after the other, because your brain works like that, anyway (and you have that index to find stuff).

I started just after Christmas which is amazing as I usually put off starting until a big milestone, like a new month. I emptied my head into a big list of things I knew I had to get done, from the immediate (do laundry) to things happening weeks away (see if Sarah can cover reserving a booth on 8 Jan). I read the book in bits and pieces when I was waiting for my computer to log in or my lunch to reheat. I took notes IN THE NOTEBOOK, though these did get relegated to a random later portion of it so they could all be together.

So far, it’s really working for me. I’m finding myself feeling less frazzled and getting more things done. I’m focusing on why things need to be done, not just assuming if they pop into my head as needing to be done that they’re both important and need to be done by me. Also, I’m not trying to make things super pretty. I’m using mostly whatever pen is nearby, often a random black pen or marker. Stickers if they’re handy.

The Leuchtturm I’m using comes with its own Index which makes things easy.
Things I’d like to do this year. Made a similar list last ear but only finished half the items.
January title page which is sort of funny as January notes and things don’t start for several pages. But this  is fine, as my Index tells me where things really start. (Stickers are from my Pipsticks subscription package from December.)
Random daily page. I’m not normally this productive.
Yarn stash vs planned projects. These were layer added to my Queue for better tracking, but this was how I got started with the planning of it all.



Do you BuJo? Have you before? Does it/has it worked for you?


Empty Notebook Challenge

I talked for awhile at the DC Pen show with two ladies I know via an online fountain pen group. Part of our conversation was about how much we all love buying new notebooks but have yet to fill more than one or two of them. We either wait until something important/special enough comes to mind (because a notebook is too nice to waste) or fill a few pages, buy a new notebook, and give up on the old one.

As I was driving home, I realized that I should start a challenge to get us all our of our non-notebook-finishing ways. And, as usual, I turned to Natalie Goldberg. In Writing Down the Bones, she encourages readers to fill a notebook a month. Not fill it with artful prose or beautiful poetry, just fill it.

So, that’s the challenge. Thirty days, one notebook, fill it up. My friends and I started this on Sunday, so our last day is the US Labor Day, September 3. But feel free to join us and start whenever. (If you’re really into it, tag social media posts about your progress with #emptynotebookchallenge.)

Not sure what to write? I brainstormed and looked around for others’ recommendations about how to fill a notebook, start a journaling practice, and outline that novel that’s been bouncing around in your head for years.

  • See my posts referencing Ms. Goldberg, as she’s my main source. And read her books, especially Writing Down the Bones. Your local library is bound to have a copy or two.
  • Teach yourself Spencerian handwriting or brush lettering or to draw botanical drawings. You’ll use up lots of pages when you’re learning something new!
  • Every day before you go to sleep write clear your mind by writing about your worries, problems and good things that happened during the day. Not only will it make you sleep better you’ll be surprised how focused you’ll be in the morning! (From 10 Ways to Use a Blank Notebook)
  • Lots of great tips on Creating a Daily Journaling Practice
  • Start a bullet journal (Tiny Ray of Sunshine has a great summary printable and her posts are extremely inspirational)
  • Write your personal history (Text My Journal has a list of 50 questions)
  • Why you should write your novel on paper (Jenny Bravo Books)
  • Keep a commonplace book (See what someone else keeps and theirs here)

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes about writing:

“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up in your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” — Jack London

How do you BuJo?

A few years ago, I saw someone mention something about Bullet Journaling. I know it was a few years ago because this mention was done on Flickr, back when we were all using it for photo sharing (gee, thanks, Yahoo!). The person just put a simple note under a picture of what looked like your basic to do list: Setting up my first Bullet Journal!


As I do with anything I hear about for the first time, I Googled it and came up with the official site. Watched the video and, well, judged the whole concept harshly.

I thought it was all pretty “duh” sort of stuff. Make a list of everything you have going on or have to do in a given day. Use some sort of a key to sort between levels of importance and tasks vs calendar items. The idea of writing a new page for every day made sense; you get a daily reminder of that task you keep not getting to.

I tried out the concept – the cool kids call it BuJo for short – for a month or so but found it a waste as I didn’t have that much going on in my life that I wanted/needed to track. A basic running list on a Post-it was fine. I basically forgot about the concept until about a year ago, when I started seeing about how to extend the concept, particularly Collections and Trackers.

(Collections are a list that follows a theme. Books I Read This Year. Places I Want to Travel. Recipes Tried. Trackers are a graphical way to stay on top of goals or count things. Mark off when you drink 8 glasses of water a day. Record that you met 10,000 steps. Keep track of your mood with color-coded boxes.)

How I BuJo

At the start of April, I pulled out a rather bright yellow Leuchttrum I was saving for who knows what special purpose and started to really, truly try out this BuJo thing people keep raving about.

I chose my bright yellow Leuchttrum because, well, it’s bright yellow (easy to see it in my bag!) and Leuchttrum products really impress me with the quality of their binding and paper. The hard cover, also, is great for my rough-and-tumble ways and the dueling bookmarks make it easy to keep track of, well, two different things. The one happens to be their dotted grid. (Yeah, my Traveler’s Notebook is up in the top of my closet. I got sick of it at some point. Not sure why, exactly.)

[Note: On these pages, you’ll see what look like water droplets. Just ignore those, it’s not my not very great way to smear way some personal info.]

At the start of each moth, I have my Monthly Spread. I tried to keep with the theme of pink = personal; blue = work, purple = holidays but that went by the wayside when I went to add new things to the spread and didn’t have the correct pen color handy. Still, it worked for my initial setup.

I have a couple collections in the very front – the April Hobonichi Challenge and the Yarn Love Challenge, both from Instagram. Another collection is in the back – books I’ve read/listened to this year.

Each day, I try to record what I need to get done along with what I ate. Note this is my notebook for just my personal life, so no work things in here (that’s in another notebook).

[Aside: You’ll notice I’m not great about actually getting anything done on my list but that’s more of a me thing than a BuJo thing. I have yet to get into the habit of actually checking my to do list once I get home – makes it hard to do things I can only do from home like finish a knitting project. Also, I don’t put down things like laundry or do the dishes, things I do every few days, if not daily. My BuJo is for keeping track of bigger things I tend to forget to do if I don’t write them down.]

I also take notes here and there without any sort of structure, right in my notebook. Things like my doctor’s phone number or the quote the pharmacist gave me for my new medication. (Now it makes sense why you don’t get a photo of that stuff, right?)

I’ll admit, it’s not a visually appealing BuJo, but it’s that way on purpose. My nature means I’ll just obsess over it’s looks until I decide it’s not pretty enough and chuck it aside entirely. With having it remain purely functional, I actually use it.

How Others BuJo

So say everyone has their own style would be an understatement. Some are breathtakingly beautiful, others plain. Some are extremely detailed, others more minimalistic. If you want some inspiration, I’d recommend the following folks on Instagram: bluelahe, craftyenginerd, showmeyourplanner, tinyrayofsunshine. Facebook also has a ton of BuJo groups.

How do you BuJo?

On Journaling

One of the many tags I look at here on WordPress and on Blolovin’ is journaling. I often learn about new things to try in my journaling (or, more accurately, that I think about trying then don’t ever actually implement). Here’s some of the best things I’ve read about journaling this week, in no particular order.

  • Christie of Feeding on Folly – trying to journal…and not being so great about it (link)
  • Amanda of Scattered Journal Pages – why she journals (link)
  • Jimi of Jimi the Phoenix – why the author stopped journaling (link)
  • Cath of Bookish Maug – how to get started in journaling, particularly her super fun sort of journaling involving hand-lettering and drawing (link)
  • Michelle of Factotum of Arts – excellent example of a special type of journaling, hers is all about her quilts (link)
  • Cat of Go Explore Le Monde – travel journaling inspiration and tips, one of my favorite types (link)


Where I Blog

In the show Dead Again, the main character talks about she always loved Halloween as a kid because it let you look into other people’s homes, even briefly. I love getting peaks into peoples lives like that – it’s part of the reason I read personal blogs, follow strangers on Instagram who post photos of their usual life/surroundings, and look into windows as I drive by houses (which sounds really, really creepy).

Turn-about is fair play so I thought I’d give you all a peak into my actual life, by showing you where I blog. Usually, I actually sit on the couch with the TV in front of me, so it’s more like where I blog on the weekend and I don’t have to worry about where Lizzie is (and she’s currently napping).

I’m siting at our dinning room table and looking back into the main part of our kitchen. You’ll recognize our blue and white tablecloth from many of my photos of stuff. It was cheap, washes well, and I think it’s not too awfully distracting for photos. I’m probably wrote on the distraction part, but I’m lazy.

The table, as you’ll see, is often covered in stuff, some of which is only here because I’m in creative mode. The two fabric bags have scrap fingering-weight yarn and my yellow hat progress in them. The striped thing is a cowl I made awhile back that I’m actually going to continue as a long leftovers scarf. There’s also my three notebooks – Midori for daily notes about what happened, red Lechtrum (however you spell it) for to do lists, and a Staedler lined one that is currently empty but may become a journal for Morning Pages. And a box and a zipped case of pens and that box of stationary. Oh, right, my Caffeine Free Diet Coke and today’s snack, cinnamon sugar-free applesauce.

The other stuff here is much more common, fresh flowers, the bread bowl Matt’s mom brought us back from Tanzania, E’s coloring notebook and two things of crayons – that’s what in the Ariel bag and the plastic container you can sort of see. Cookbook pile that has yet to find a home (thanks to recent library book sales and a splurge at a local DC bookstore over a month ago).

The kitchen is much neater than usual, I’ll note. Looking at the photo, I realized I missed two cans that will go to church for the annual canned goods drive and the Vitamix canister is one incidence of E running through the kitchen away from falling.

So, yeah, there’s where I blog on a quiet weekend afternoon. I wear comfy clothes (stretchy pants, tshirt, hoodie), drink too much soda and snack, and listen to music Matt despises as I sit here and write.

What does your writing space look like? Show me it, or describe it to me. Messy? Clean? Just for writing or a stolen space like mine?

NaBloPoMo 2016

Each year, I make my best attempt to blog every day of November. Usually I only make it until about day ten then attempt to stretch it by responding to writing prompts or pulling random photos from the Internet.

…and I’m not necessarily planning to do better this year, though I do have a plan. I came up with a quick list as I was eating my breakfast this morning:

  1. Intro post
  2. Lizzie update (lots o’photos)
  3. WIP update
  4. Fall in VA (photo heavy post)
  5. Dishcloth FOs
  6. Harper’s Ferry
  7. Mail stats
  8. Wreath FOs (yes, I added wreath making to my craftiness)
  9. WIP update
  10. Uhhhh…
  11. Return to sock knitting
  12. Shenandoah trips of 2016
  13. Uhhh…
  14. New hair color – 2 weeks later (just dyed it last night, all by myself)
  15. Uhhh…
  16. WIP update
  17. Lizzie update (’cause she’ll have done something cute by then)
  18. Coworker knits
  19. Knife skills class / return to cooking
  20. Recipe sharing
  21. What I’m thankful for
  22. Germany Pt 1
  23. Germany Pt 2
  24. Germany Pt 3
  25. Germany Pt 4
  26. Germany Pt 5
  27. Germany Pt 6
  28. Germany Pt 7 (what? we were there for nearly 3 weeks)
  29. Uhhh….
  30. Wrap-up post

See? Much more of a plan. Only “what the heck do I write about?” days in there, versus my usual handful of ideas and lots of blanks.

Anyone else out there participating? Anyone else out there, period?

How I Journal

I’ve had a journal off and on for years. Blame Harriet the Spy then, later, Bridget Jones’s diary. There’s just something very therapeutic about recording what happened each day. Getting it all out on paper so it doesn’t cloud my head the next day. Also, I have a horrible memory for what happened in the past and writing it down is about the only way I have of going back and jogging my memory.

I’d been looking for a good journaling format since I first got my MTN last summer. I played around with bulleted lists or attempting to doodle-record my day but nothing seemed right. Then I came across this post on LifeHacker about a simple format for journaling.

I used the literal format the author described for a little while and enjoyed it. Lots of structure, different ways of looking at your day. It’s now evolved a little.

How I Journal Now

  • Where: Right now, it’s in my graph paper MTN insert. May move to a lined insert as it works for my format.
  • When: Usually the next day, after breakfast but before the day really gets going. Weekdays, it’s at my desk at work. Weekends, usually during nap time.
  • What I record:
    • Weather: Cold? Hot? Rain? Snow? Wind? Record it so I can go back to see if it really was as chilly in February as I remember or if I was freezing only in retrospect.
    • What I Wore: Yes, I am shallow, but I’m writing it down to help when I do purges of my closet. Something never show up? Toss it. Something show up all the time? Tells me to look into buying something similar to it in the future.
    • What happened: Main part of my daily pages. Detailed list of what I did or generally went on around me during the day. Short sentences, maybe a bit of reflection.
    • Accomplished: What I managed to get done, even if it’s as little as “did a load of laundry!”
    • Learned: What I learned about myself or the world that day. Main place to record news (e.g. Friend A is having a baby boy!)
    • Thankful: Specific things I’m thankful for that day
    • Impression: Got the idea from here. Basically, a little square representing each day in a month/quarter (whatever fits on a page). Each color rates the day, overall as great/ok/bad.

Do you journal? What format, if any do you use? Is it all words or images or both? When do you journal?

Book Roundup: Writing Books

It’s no secret that I love reading and writing, so why not combine the two together? I thought I’d take a few moments to share a little bit about two very different writing books I, well, devoured. I won’t use my usual format – first lines of writing books tend to be rather bland, ironically – but will keep it easy: a few favorite quotes that I underlined as I read (What? They are books I own.)

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Golderg

I must be honest, I didn’t just read this one for the first time, but read it again over the winter, when I wanted to write but could not focus on it for the life of me. It’s written as a series of essays, some are direct commandments/lessons, others are illustrative stories. Her laid-back attitude is present, throughout, never judging you too harshly.

  • “Through practice you actually do get better. You learn to trust your deep self more and not give in to your voice that wants to avoid writing.”
  • “Often I look around the room as my students as they write and can tell which ones are really on and present at a given time in their writing. They are more intensely involved and their bodies are hanging loose.”
  • “You might have to be willing to write junk for five years, because we have accumulated it over many more than that and have been gladly avoiding it in ourselves.”
  • “(Making a list) makes you start noticing material for writing in your daily life, and your writing comes out of a relationship withy our life and its texture.”
  • “You can make up all kinds of friendly tricks. Just don’t get caught in the endless cycle of guilt, avoidance, and pressure. When it is your time to write, write.”
  • “Our tasks is to say a holy yes to the real things of our life as they exist – the real truth of who we are…”
  • “Be specific. Don’t say ‘fruit.’ Tell what kind of fruit- ‘It is a pomegranate.’ Give things the dignity of their names.”
  • “Make a list of the stories you’ve told over and over. That’s a lot of writing to be done.”
  • “Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of the beginning. Probably that’s why we decide we’re done. It’s getting too scary.”
  • “If you find you are having trouble writing and nothing seems real, just write about food….Where did you eat it, who were you with, what season was it in?”
  • “After you have filled a whole notebook in writing practice (perhaps it took you a month), sit down and reread the entire notebook as though it weren’t yours.

On Writing by Stephen King

I must admit I’ve never been the biggest fan of his novels, but I’ve always admired his ability to create horror out of little details in an overall vague environment. Misery? Yeah, saw the movie in tenth grade and it still haunts me. Matt bought me a copy of his writing book for my birthday last year and it soon became my before-bed reading material, pen in hand. He’s very honest that he has no idea about how to write well, but that his good friend, who happens to be Amy Tan, convinced him to write a book about it, anyway.

  • “We are writers, and we never ask one another where we get our ideas; we know we don’t know.”
  • “Stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginately, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all  you’re managing to do is shovel shit from a sitting position”
  • “You must not come lightly to the blank page.”
  • “Build up your own toolbox then build up enough muscle so you can carry it with you. Then, instead of looking at a hard job and getting discouraged, you will perhaps seize the correct tool and get immediately to work.”
    • Related: “Put your vocabulary on the top shelf of the toolbox, and don’t make any conscious effort to improve it. One of the really bad things you can do to your writing it to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pent in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.”
  • “Paragraphs are almost as importance for how they look as for what they say; they are maps of intent….When composing it’s best not to think too much about where paragraphs begin and end; the trick is to let nature take its course. If you don’t like it later on, fix it then.”
  • “While it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writing, and while it is equally impossible to make a great write out of a good writer, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one.”
  • “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all else: read a lot and write a lot.”
    • “Every book you pick up has it’s own lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to reach than the good ones.”
    • “I suggest a thousand words a day, and because I’m feeling magnanimous, I’ll also suggest that you can take one day a week off, at least to begin with.”
  • “Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationships, sex, and work.”
  • “Know what to describe and what can be left alone while you get on with your main job, which is telling the story…good description usually consists of a few well-chosen details that will stand for everything else.”
  • “The first draft – the All-Story Draft – should be written with no help (or interference) from anyone else.”
  • “All novels are really letters aimed at one person.”

Tell Me

What books on your craft, be it writing or something else entirely, inspire or teach you?

Welcome Back

I know, the first post after a long hiatus is always awkward. The writer apologizes for the long absence, maybe even provides a reason for it before rushing through a giant listing of everything which has happen in the last day/month/decade. Then, a good half of the time, there’s zero follow-up posts. Just one “hey, guys, I’m backkkk!” then, silence.

So, where does this bring us? Well, here’s my update, in my own hand.

I do plan to actually get back into the swing of things. Things have calmed down ever so slightly and I am hopeful my life will not fill right back up to overflowing. And I actually have a plan. Took-a-page-in-a-notebook sort of a plan. With bullet points and a calendar and all that fancy stuff.

You should be impressed. But not too impressed. This is my blog, after all.

Move over Moleskine – Welcome, Midori

I used to be obsessed with the Moleskine line of notebooks. Ten years ago, I was spending my first summer in California and learned of the simple notebooks with a ribbon bookmark and high quality paper. They only came in a few basic types then – lined, blank, blank thicker paper, and grid/graph paper in one of two sizes and a standard opening or reporter-style that flipped open along the short edge. Of course, they’ve now expanded into all sorts of sizes and paper options and even have their own bags and pens. Basically, they’ve sold out.

I wasn’t looking to give them up, however. I regularly use other notebooks, mostly cheaper ones that didn’t intimidate me as much as my Moleskines did. The ‘skines were pretty and expensive and had a great history that they give you in the little print out tucked into the back cover. The sort of notebook that is just begging for art and excellent writing and everything I thought I wasn’t capable of producing on an average day. In short, I was intimidated by them. I buy a new one and spend weeks or months carrying it around, rarely actually using it. Just this morning, I found four of them among my things in my office, mostly empty.

But then I found Midori. These are more expensive notebooks, with even higher quality paper. They’re still handmade, even. And, yet, somehow, I don’t have that same intimidation factor. Maybe it’s becuase they’re not that old – only haven gotten started in the last 5 years. Maybe it’s because they aren’t that popular. Maybe because they are refillable rather than leaving the user stuck with the default paper type and 200 or so pages.

Whatever convinced me, I am very happy.

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I got the notebook a little over a week ago and have faithfully spent twenty minutes writing in it each day. Eventually, I’m hoping to get up the nerve to draw in my notebook or remember to collect more ephemera from my daily life. But, for now, I’m really liking what the notebook has lead to. I’m writing. Daily. I’m inspired and excited. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.