Week 18 - On Journals

5. OK. I think I want to try this. What do you recommend?

I recommend starting with a bullet journal. The easiest for most of us is to start with daily to-do lists. Then to add on some observations of our days - personal, work related, fantasies. Ideas, insights, revelations, more tasks which pop up in mind - all go in the journal.

Here are the steps I suggest - a mongrel version of the bullet journal system.

  1. Get a notebook and a pen or pencil. (any kind)
  2. Decide what time of day you plan to write your journal (morning with coffee / night before bed /etc). And decide what cadence. I recommend starting with every day, and then changing it up as you need it.
  3. Title the first two pages as "Index".
  4. Every page you write, write the date.
  5. Number the pages as you go.
  6. Write doodle and draw everyday - todo lists, quotes, observations, notes,reminders, ideas ...
  7. Update the index with the title of the page and the page number. You can index everything at first, and then get rid of the ones that make no sense to you as you go along.
  8. And change it as you need it to. Make it more complicated, beautiful or minimal per your aesthetic and time commitment.

You can of course, read a lot of articles, and watch a lot of videos on how people journal and set-up their journals. However, be aware that a lot of people decorate the heck out of their journal, and if that isn't your aesthetic (like it isn't mine)it can be overwhelming and disheartening.

For the non-decorative journalers, here is a great video to get started: Composition Notebook bullet journal system

6. A look into Morning Pages

I first learned about Morning Pages in Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way" about 10 years ago. Since then, it has been on-off a part of my life. It has helped me so much that I've gifted this book more than any other book so far. So what exactly are morning pages?

“ Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages – they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page...and then do three more pages tomorrow. ”

Morning pages are one thing I recommend you give a try. It takes time, and takes about a month or so to have a visible effect on your mental processes.

In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself. The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent. Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather—in many cases—offers an alternative to it.

— Susan Sontag

7. Bullet Journaling with GTD.

If you are interested in the cult of productivity, or if you have struggled with juggling multiple projects at a time, you must have come across David Allen's "Getting Things Done". Well, turns out a franken-hybrid of Bullet Journaling + Getting Things Done is really amazing.

And here is a setup video : GTD based project planning in bullet journals

But then, if you start building monsters, why stop at the Bullet Journal + GTD mashup? Why not add the "commonplace" and "morning pages" along with the two? And that is exactly what I do:

  • Notebook 1 : A hybrid of the bullet journal + common place book + weekly and daily planning + morning pages
  • Notebook 2: The "ToDO factory" - a giant list of all todos
  • Notebook 3: The master project book which has all my projects, steps, experiments, observations, and project goals.

I use a travelers journal to keep all these notebooks together. And, here's a link about How I(the author) bullet Journal in a traveler's notebook

8. What is a travelers journal?

A Traveler’s Notebook is a book-like cover, originally made of leather, that holds more than one smaller notebooks or inserts with elastic bands. Basically a collection of your notebooks which live together, but which can be removed, moved around or replaced easily. Talk about loosely coupled and highly aligned.

9. What is a travelers journal used for?

People use travelers notebooks for many many reasons, like:

  • As a Daily Journal
  • For Planning
  • Everyday organizer
  • As a Travel Journal
  • For work stuff
  • Bullet journal
  • For writing stuff
  • Fun and Functional List Making
  • Habit Tracking and Reinforcing
  • Keeping Track of Big Projects
  • Wedding or Party Guest Books
  • Doodling and Zentangling
  • Memory Keeping
  • Collecting Inspirational Quotes
  • Scrap booking

"It’s an odd idea for someone like me to keep a diary; not only because I have never done so before, but because it seems to me that neither I — nor for that matter anyone else — will be interested in the unbosomings of a 13-year-old schoolgirl. Still, what does that matter? I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart."

— Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

10. DIY travelers journal

The 'original' travelers journal was/is made by a company called Midori, now rebranded as The Travellers Company. Today, a lot of companies make them out of all kinds of materials - leather like the original one, cardboard, fabric ... you name it. More importantly, for me, there is a huge DIY community of people making 'Fauxdori's and 'Fabricdoris'.

If you want to jump into the rabbit-hole with me, here are a bunch of links:

    An article with links to other videos, articles on how to make your own fauxdori with different materials.
  2. DIY Bullet Journal | Traveler's Notebook Style on youtube
    On how to make your own inserts as well as the travelers notebook
  3. DIY Leather Traveler’s Notebook Cover with a Pocket
    An in-depth (meaning long with lot of information) on how to make your own leather travelers journal. I loved the way the maker laced the elastic.
  4. Vintage Book to Midori Fauxdori Travelers Notebook
    How to convert an old book cover to a travelers journal.

My DIY travelers notebooks.

11. My Travelers Journals

And so here, are the travelers journals I've made and use. I made one from dark blue leather in a B5 size - that holds large graph notebooks. This is the one which holds composition books, the "Big Book of Projects". I made and use another one in size A5 - a regular journal size. This is my main daily workhorse set of journals. And the orange pretty one used to be a cover of a handmade paper notebook which I used up. This one holds a pocket notebook, which I can carry around everywhere! Materials used:

  1. Pre-cut leather journal piece from The Leather Guy
  2. Elastic cords from Michaels
  3. Japanese-style screw punch by Bira from Amazon

12. Write to me

I would love to hear from you all. Do you write in journals? Have you ever written? Why did you stop? Do you think you will start again? Any interesting articles/videos/thoughts to share? Any DIY things I should be looking at making?

Written on June 21, 2020.

This was Issue #18 of the Year of the Turtle. You can see all the past newsletters on this website.

The fonts used here are from David Jonathan Ross' Font of the Month Club