In Which I Try Digital To Do Lists and Bullet Journaling, but Eventually Go Back to My Trusted and Familiar Multiple Random Notebook System

I was looking at old posts trying to figure out what I was up to here before I abandoned my blog, and check out this post where I was all cute thinking I was going to change my life using digital to do lists and reminders. Oh, the naïveté. I can’t remember exactly what made me abandon Wunderlist, but probably what happened is that I kept writing in my notebooks and eventually forgot the app existed. This basically also describes my relationship with Twitter, although, to be fair, I remember Twitter every few months or so when I feel like I have to promote something or get some crazy idea like that I’m going to teach people better writing practices in 140 character bursts.

I don’t know. This is just the kind of thing I do sometimes.

Over the last couple years, I’ve been taking a stab at becoming someone who keeps organized notebooks and doesn’t just write in whichever of my dozen or so active notebooks happens to be handy, but that’s not been working, either. I so admire someone like David Sedaris, who has a meticulous and organized way of keeping his notes and diaries and who actually saves his notebooks instead of periodically shredding or burning them when they don’t seem useful anymore or contain something horrifying. I’ve also been listening to the Tim Ferriss Show (I was skeptical when one of my coworkers told me to add this to my podcast queue, but I enjoy it), and half the people he interviews describe how they have shelves of the same size and color bespoke notebooks, which they’ve been using to archive the details of every conversation and experience they’ve had since birth. Of course, a lot of these people also do things like run ultramarathons or ride the 1928 Tour de France route on a bike without gears, so they do a lot of things I don’t do.

I did dabble in bullet journaling somewhat successfully during my Notebook Organization Period, but that’s broken down over the last few months as well. I think the beginning of the end was when I got a peek at the bullet journal the librarian at The Strong National Museum of Play keeps, which is illustrated so beautifully that it should be published as a coffee table book, while mine looks more like it was put together by a deranged person on an acid trip.

Lately I’ve gone back to my multiple-notebook home, where I am clearly happiest. I have a few Field Notes assigned to specific subjects, which Field Notes are good for, although they’re equally good for random notes. Something I often do with notebooks is start them thinking they’re going to be devoted to one particular topic, but then they evolve into lists, overheard conversations, ideas, and doodles. Just last week, I started a new notebook that I decided was going to be devoted to my daily to do list at home, and that’s where I wound up starting this and a few other entries I intend to post here, which was on none of my to do lists.

A lot of other writers do this, too, I know–they just don’t talk about it much, as it isn’t a system that seems recommendable. Marc Maron talks about cryptic notes on found bits of paper being part of his process, and the way Meg Cabot has Mia including class notes and grocery lists in her notebooks in The Princess Diaries series (which I’ve been relistening to over the last few months–I love those books so much) makes me think Cabot does this as well. I think my problem has been not trusting that the methods that have helped me generate all my best ideas and write a book are good enough for being the administrator of a sizable organization, which, when I write it, seems silly. Maybe other people should be wondering why they don’t have a pile of raggedy notebooks on their kitchen table and a few more in their work bag. Maybe I have something figured out and should stop worrying about it. Organization and efficiency are a priority in some endeavors, but not most of them.

Like my ongoing love-hate relationship with caffeine, I imagine this is not the end of this story.

2 Comments

  1. tanita
    Posted July 18, 2017 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    I have notebooks in my purse, bedside table, several on my desk. I’ve been known to carry one in the car. Let’s not talk about the notes written on the backs of recipes, on card stock and slips of paper, on the back of church bulletins…

    Tech Boy tries vainly to get me to use the Keep function on my phone. This does not work for me. I vainly hunt for a piece of paper when I have a thought. The electronic does not even occur.

    Let’s also draw a veil over the marginalia and other doodles in the notebooks themselves. Bullet journals are a beautiful dream belonging to someone far less …um, I think the word you used was deranged? That works. Deranged.

    I’ve given up coffee utterly, btw. My stomach finally said “NO” loudly enough. I am rather self-pitying about it, actually. But only in public. In private, fewer bathroom visits are cause for joy…

  2. adrienne
    Posted July 19, 2017 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    I am sorry to hear about coffee turning on you! That happens to a fair number of people, I think. Most of my family members who have passed have gone nearly to the grave with coffee cups still clutched in their hands, so I hope I am genetically predisposed to not winding up with this problem.

    I am also with the slips of random paper. I will momentarily be posting a quote from John Gardner that validates our approach. We are right.

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