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“There is nothing permanent except change.” – Heraclitus
For the past year, I’ve been keeping a Bullet Journal. It’s been tremendously helpful in keeping myself on track, especially since 2016 has not been particularly calm. If you’re looking for a journaling system, I highly recommend giving it a try.
The beauty of the Bullet Journal system is that it is flexible to meet your needs, which means I can have my daily tasks and notes, then capture story ideas, revision notes, information that I might need at a future date. Its other beauty is that the only essentials are a pen and a notebook.
I started with a partially-filled notebook but ended up graduating to a nice Moleskine, rediscovering my love of fountain pens and becoming addicted to washi tape. I’ve got colored flags that help me mark pages based on the content. All very efficient, creative and actually quite fun. There’s just one problem: fountain pens and felt pens have a tendency to bleed through the paper. I have one pen I can’t use in my journal for just that reason. It’s a medium nib and it lays too much ink down.
Well, I couldn’t until this week. Turns out that July to September spawned so many notes for future books and editing in progress, I had to buy a new notebook to finish out the year, beginning with October 1. Based on suggestions from folks who do very pretty layouts on Pinterest and Instagram, instead of going for another Moleskine, I moved to a Leuchtturm1917. It’s slightly wider as it’s European sizing rather than the standard 8.5″x5.5″ that we’re used to – and that not only gives me more room to write, the ink doesn’t bleed through the paper unless I lay it down very heavily. It does ghost, as you can see in the photo, but ghosting is something I can live with. It’s much better than have lots of little dots and strokes that interfere with what you’re writing.
These lovely notebooks don’t come cheap. The three notebooks for my “simple” journaling system in 2016 cost what I used to pay for a Franklin Covey system. And yet…
A journal is only as useful as you make use of it. My old planner would often end up with lots of blank pages, or nothing but tasks. While there’s many a day in my Bullet Journal that’s just tasks, between the pages are story idea, important information, the map for fantasy world I created, what needed to be done to get Surviving 30 Days of Literary Madness ready for publication, a list of books I read this year. The first six months of the year were a more fallow creative period for me and the one notebook served me six months. The latter half requires two. I hoping that perhaps I can go four months next year, though I suspect I might end up needing one notebook a quarter. But if I go three or four or six months, the system is flexible enough that I’m not locked into “I must change notebooks at this date” unless I decide to. I ended September with less than ten blank pages left in my notebook, so it was definitely time to move to the new one.
Am I going to stay with the Leuchtturm1917? I think I may, but I’ll see how I feel halfway through November. For now, though, the ink is flowing smoothly, not bleeding through, and I just bought several new washi tapes for the fall season. With the start of NaNoWriMo only 27 days away, I’m filling the pages with the notes for this year’s project, along with the outline of a tentative production schedule for 2017. It’s a different way than I was working a year ago, but it’s getting results and that’s the important thing.
So, what type of journal are you using, if you’re using one? What do you love about it? What would you change?
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For each day of this mad sprint, there is a quote and essay designed to help keep you going at the keyboard, along with other pieces about preparation and the novelizing hangover that comes in December. There are also pages for those other moments, the ones when you’ve fallen slightly behind – or you realize this may not be a year you cross the finish line. No matter how your November novel experience is going, this book will be a companion for each day.