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

Empty Notebook Challenge

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)

 

On Journaling

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?

How I Journal

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.

Move over Moleskine – Welcome, Midori

Filling the Hours

There’s only so many hours in the day and not quite enough to do all of those things I want to do. (We’ll ignore my to do list. That just sort of sits without anything done until a hard deadline – like taxes being due April 15th.)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m lucky enough to have a good two to three hours free most evenings after Squirms has gone to bed. Most nights, Matt and I hang out together (we watch TV, he plays on his phone, I write letter or knit or play on my phone) but sometimes, like tonight, he’s off in his office, playing video games so I’m left to my own devices. And, yet, what am I doing? Watching tons of episodes of Scrubs and attempting to write up a few blog posts to catch folks up on what’s been going on in my life.

What would i do if I had unlimited time? And, somehow, could focus enough to do them?

  • Write that memoir I have made zero progress on.
  • Learn to write calligraphy or in a cool hand-written font.
  • Make a cross stitch sampler of all of the Dr. Who’s.
  • Sew myself some awesome skirts. (Requires actually learning how to sew, for real.)
  • Watch through all of the seasons of Friends, X-Files, Sex in the City
  • Catch up on Squirm’s scrapbook (do have photos from Jan – March printed but have yet to make the pages)
  • Write here, you know, more than once every two months
  • Make a sweater for myself I actually like
  • Take some programming classes online
  • Write letters to the rest of the people on my list (which is down to 8 from the 90+ I had in January)
  • Make some sort of a collage
  • Write to Squirms daily about what she’s done that day and things I want her to know about me
  • Make a few books by hand, especially journals
  • Make a bunch of dishcloths
Filling the Hours

Rattling Around

I’ve got a million thoughts rattling around in my head today and all of them want to be allowed to escape. It’s like my fingers can’t type fast enough or writing fast enough to keep up with everything zooming around in there. I should just crack open a notebook and empty my head. I could even use a list or a diagram – I love my lists and diagrams – of the topics I need to think about or take action on. But despite having the time and the place, I can’t bring myself to actually do it.

These sort of rattlings thoughts drive me crazy because it means I do things like get distracted when I’m heating up my lunch (mac-n-cheese with tasso ham) and nearly melt the plastic container. They keep me from focusing on what I should be – like going through the online tutorial on common Java design patterns (singletons! builders! compose entities!).

See, I got myself this brand new, shiny notebook this weekend. Matt and I were at the Crate and Barrel outlet (all alone – gasp!) and I saw this little notebook that’s bound with thread and a hard paper cover. I held it in my head for the entire 20 minutes we were in the store, begging for an excuse to buy it. It was $3.50 and we’re not in such financial straights that buying was going to bankrupt us, but I felt guilty. Thing is, I always manage to buy myself a notebook when either Matt isn’t with me or he’s not in a mood to point out that I’ve already got a good dozen notebooks that are either totally blank or only partially filled. I’ve really got a problem when it comes to new notebooks. I buy them each time we travel, when I was in school and started a new semester, when I found out I was going to be induced (so Squirms would be joining the world soon), when I switched jobs. Just about any excuse or access to an inexpensive notebook will do.

And, right now, it’s still blank, even though I’ve had all sorts of time and opportunities to sit down and write in it. And I feel like writing. And I have a pen I really like that will probably work well on the paper in the notebook. And I had no other purpose for the notebook than to contain my actual day-to-day thoughts.

What’s my problem?I blame Natalie Goldberg. Yes, I blame an author of a famous book on writing (who’s also a writing teacher, novelist, and artist) who has zero idea I even exist.This is all her fault.

Continue reading “Rattling Around”

Rattling Around