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Beyond Bullet Journal – this time it’s personal!

As I’ve been blogging about for the past few weeks, I’ve taken up bullet journaling as a way to get myself more organised and productive. My little Midori Passport now goes everywhere with me, as both to-do list and writer’s notebook, and I love it – but I wasn’t so happy with the rest of my setup. For my to-do lists, BuJo (as it’s apparently known in the community) is perfect, but for personal journals it’s just too, well, impersonal. I wanted something that captured my creative life in more detail than a dry list of activities.

Because, let’s face it, we’ve all seen awesome-looking journals in movies and TV shows, whether it’s Indiana Jones’ archaeological secrets, or the Hunters’ notebooks that feature in the TV show Supernatural – and whilst most people’s lives may be far less exciting (and admittedly lacking the deadly traps and soul-sucking demons), they’re still full of moments worth recording.

Journal scene from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”
Journal scene from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”

It was while I was researching different versions of the chronodex and spiraldex that I came across vlogger Klair Scattergood aka Rhomany, a British mixed media artist who teaches online. I liked her chatty style and her approach to organisation, so I looked into her work further and discovered that in addition to her free YouTube videos she runs paid courses, including one on journaling. It’s called When Frogs Sing and is a mixture of planning and organisation, art lessons and creative writing exercises. Perfect!

I’ve been trying to get back into drawing for a while now—and spent a fair amount of money on art materials—but have been frustrated with the rustiness of my skills after a couple of decades of neglect. Hence a refresher course starting from first principles sounded ideal. I wasn’t so interested in the writing exercises, but figured I could use this section of the course to work on some of Holly Lisle’s workshops that I’ve been meaning to redo for a while. For one thing, I really need to work on my “story bible”, i.e. worldbuilding plus character dossiers – the material I need to support my new project but which never seems to get done because I’m trying to write the damned book!

In mid-August I signed up for WFS 2015; you can start any time, and can even do last year’s course instead if you prefer a more flexible syllabus. They’re very good value for the amount of teaching material you get (mainly videos, with some PDFs for the writing exercises): a three-week taster course from WFS 2014 is £10, whilst WFS 2015 is available either as four quarterly mini-courses at £30 each or you can sign up for a whole year’s worth for £99.

The course includes an optional component: an additional “self-improvement” project of your choosing that you can pursue over the course of the year. I use the word self-improvement in its very broadest sense: class members are doing everything from bible study to Unfuck Your Habitat. The latter is far more my style (and gods know, my habitat could do with some unfucking!), so I unearthed a nice Filofax from the depths of my desk and have set that up as my household planner, as described in last week’s post.

For my creative journalling and novel planning I have:

  • Midori “Passport” Traveller’s Notebook – contains plain and lined inserts for doodling and story notes (as well as a gridded insert for my planner/bullet journal)
  • Standard Midori Traveller’s Notebook with three inserts:
    • Gridded paper for day-per-page personal journal
    • Plain paper for art class exercises
    • Lined paper for bullet journal “collections” – book lists and so on – and long-term planning
  • Tom Bihn Field Journal Notebook for general writing notes (non-book-specific)
  • X17 (A5-sized) for series bible
    • Four inserts, plain and lined

plus of course lots of pens, coloured pencils and other art materials for the coursework. As you can see in the photo below, I’ve already adorned both Midoris with cute charms – apparently, in addition to my usual fox fetish I now also have a thing about wols!

What secrets lie within?
What secrets lie within?

The X17 inserts are all micro-perforated, and the plan is to eventually take them apart and file the individual pages in an A5 binder – probably the big leather Filofax that’s been gathering dust on my desk for some time. It won’t be quite as glamorous as Indy’s journal, but on the other hand it zips up all the way round, which should protect the contents from sacrificial blood and other messy accidents!

At first I was worried I wouldn’t have anything to put in my journal every day, but so far I haven’t had any problem coming up with topics. It helps that by the time I’ve included a mini spiraldex and a handful of bullet points for what I’m reading/knitting/watching on TV, I only have space for a couple of paragraphs of text and a small drawing or photo. For the most part it’s pretty mundane stuff, but that’s the point of a personal journal: to capture the extraordinary within the ordinary, whether it’s seeing a rainbow for the first time in ages or enjoying a delicious strawberry sorbet cone on one of the last hot days of the year. I feel it’s already making me more mindful of my surroundings and activities, and I’m looking forward to including more sketches and decorative elements in future entries.

The hard part will be ensuring that this fun new hobby doesn’t eat into my writing time, but let’s face it – writers are expert procrastinators anyway. If we weren’t, social media would be a much quieter place!