Category Archives: stationery

Journal Friday: Taking Stock

I’ve been sitting in the garden today, enjoying the surreally mild February weather, and writing in my diary.  Taking stock.

This is the 8th week of 2014 and I have written virtually nothing apart from blog posts – and they have been rare enough.  I have been very ill, and getting over it has been a long struggle.  We are in the middle of a major life transformation as we care for elders who are coming to the ends of their lives, which requires a lot of travelling and worry.  This year has not been so much about ‘Dare’ so far, as about ‘Coping’.  And as usual, when things are difficult, creativity gets a back seat.

Now I’m feeling much better.  My brain is starting to work again.  I am still in ‘Bear Time’, though, contemplating how to navigate the coming choppy waters, and how this time of resting has helped me.  I want to take that lesson forward.  ‘Daring to rest’ seems appropriate.

I was working in my writer’s notebook yesterday.  Just jotting a few notes.  My poor notebook is getting battered.  Its been carried about in my handbag since September, when I was first trying to get back into keeping a proper writers notebook.  Its been sadly neglected lately, and as I scan the pages, I can see the entries are distinctly intermittent.  It turns out that keeping a notebook has been a really difficult habit to cultivate for me.  I think this is because:

  • I tend to keep ideas in my head (not a very effective way of recording them as they tend to drift into obscurity and get forgotten.
  • I tend to get caught up in the ‘thinking’ mode of trying to organise my ideas by keeping different notebooks for different projects, which means I never have the right notebook on me when I have an idea for that particular project.
  • I worry about the idea of having one notebook for everything, which is the obvious solution.  How will I find anything?  How can I combine my planner pages, my blog ideas and my writing ideas when tabbed sections just put me off?

My old notebook is pretty much full, now. That, at least, feels like an achievement.  Now, as I settle back into my writing groove, I need to get a new one and start using it.  A single notebook for all my ideas and projects.  I wrote long and hard about this in my journal, exploring every possibility, and the only way of dealing with it that I can see is precisely this:  to keep one notebook and to write everything in it, from writing exercises to jotting down quotes and sticking in cuttings.  To keep it by chronological not subject order.  It will be a record of my thoughts as they come to me.n  I’ll try to organise it as much as I can by using different colour pens for different areas of my life, but thats about it.

Now all I have to do it find the perfect notebook.  And that, as we stationery addicts know, is a lifetime’s search!

How do you organise your journals, your writers notebooks or sketchbooks?  Do you go by project or by time?  What format do you use?  Are you a Moleskine addict or a cheap exercise book fan?  Please share your ideas and tips with me in the comments section, I would love to hear from you.

Happy Journalling,

EF

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Inspiration Monday: Planner Smorgesbord

I’m still in the midst of Bear energy at the moment, only more so, because last week, after I wrote my last post, I went down with labyrinthitis, a nasty inflammation of the part of the inner ear that controls balance.  The result is dizziness, nausea and on occasion, terrifying episodes of vertigo. Controllable, as it turns out, but I’ve had better times.  At present, I am living with a kind of low level seasickness which, whilst its not very pleasant, is at least managable.

Reading is intermittently a problem, but I have been surfing the net a bit, and I thought I would share a few pages I have been enjoying lately, just to keep you going until my brain comes back enough to write something  more coherent!   But before we begin, I should start with all my cards on the table:

Confession:  I am a Stationery addict!

I’ve been having a bit of a planner fetish lately.  I’ve always been very fond of Philofaxy, which is the filofax addict’s dream.  Somehow, it doesn’t fulfil my passion for the visual, and I’ve always found filofaxes too rigid in their forms to really work for me.

What delight, then, to discover Staples’ ARC discbound system, which combines the flexibility of a loose leaf format like filofax with the aesthetics and practicality of a notebook.

It is very annoying that the gorgeous Martha Stewart aqua coloured ARC binders that are all over the blogosphere at the moment are not available in the UK.  I’m trying to work out how I can get hold of one.  In the meantime, have a drool at what Jen at IHeart Organizing has done with hers – it is irresistable!  (She does a blog planner too, which I am head-over-heels for.)

I love what Jackie and Michelle at A Creative Operation are doing with theirs!

If you want something more creative and visually oriented than the usual planners, take a peek at Right-Brain Planner.  I’m not sure I could aspire to such heights of visual complexity, but its pretty breathtaking, and shows that you don’t have to conform to what Filofax says your diary should look like.

If you fancy going right back to basics, you can’t do batter than iHanna’s tutorial on how to make your own!

If you want to go the whole hog, and plan your entire 2014, then do what I do and treat yourself to Leonie’s Amazing Biz and Life Planner.  This is the third year I’ve used mine and I really love it as a way of focussing on what you want.

And of course, don’t forget Jennifer Louden’s Life Organiser.  I use it religiously every Sunday.  Fact.

Meanwhile, being a bit compromised in the moving-about-without-falling-over department at the moment, I’ve been hanging my nose over the Organised Portable Home Office at ‘I’m an Organizing Junkie’.  Somehow I have got to make that one work so I don’t spend my whole life struggling up and down the stairs to find notebooks or binders when I’m working on the sofa instead of at my desk!

On that note, dear readers, I am going off to think about what to write about in my next post, but I hope that this one has fed your inner planner addict!

Happy creating,

EF

The Only Two Books A Writer Needs (Part 1)

BookshelfThe bookshelf by my desk

It’s that ‘Back to School’ time of year, when I can’t walk past a stationery shop without nearly having a heart attack.  Every time I go to Staples, I feel like I want to rip all the notebooks off the shelves and writhe about in them like an ecstatic horse.  The Martha Stewart Home Office line gives me palpitations.

But there isn’t enough money to buy everything I want, and besides, I have cupboards full of notebooks and pens already – how many does a writer really need?

Need is not something we really think about much these days.  It is not a First World problem, because most of have enough to meet our primary needs, and at that point, the word morphs into that seductive, purple velvet lined entity that is ‘Want’.

Want becomes most acute for me when I am in a book shop.  It is very hard to avoid the conviction that that my life will not be complete until I have the latest edition of wotsit, or that Benedict Cumberbatch will fall in love with me, if only I buy that particular tome.  I’m too much the magpie.  I like the latest sparkling things.  It’s a terrible affliction.

My new office space, and all the decluttering that went with it, has focussed my mind on this issue.  How many books does a writer really need?  And more to the point, how many books on writing does a writer really need?

The truth is, horrible though it may be, I don’t really need every copy of every book about writing that comes out.  I can get them from the library if I want them.  I only really need two books:

The Dictionary

In my opinion, no house or building, or even tent, is complete without a dictionary.  A reasonable one.  I’m not saying you have to go out and buy the full length Oxford English Dictionary, which runs to an insane number of volumes, and which only public institutions and Russian oligarchs are probably capable of affording.  You don’t even have to buy the two-volume Shorter version, which is still prohibitively expensive.  Lets face it, you could probably look up the more obscure words that these monsters contain online.

But you need a dictionary.

A dictionary is your friend.  A dictionary provides meaning in the world.  It provides knowledge.  It makes sense.  Even if English is your mother tongue, and you think you know everything it has to offer, believe me, there will always be a seven letter word beginning with L that turns out to be a seventeenth Hungarian stomach pump that you never knew existed.  That’s why I love the English language.  In all its glory, it is like an endless adventure through the Amazon jungle, where thrilling new words are always lurking under unexpected leaves.  And you never know when they might pop up.

Best to have a dictionary close at hand when you are reading.  You never know.  (You wouldn’t believe the number of times my husband has lost his temper with me in bed at night, when I have been reading my bedtime novel and found a word I don’t know – and asked him what it meant.  He’s got a PhD, and wields words like ‘hermeneutics’ on a daily basis, so I assume he knows everything.  He gets a bit short-tempered when asked about seventeenth century Hungarian stomach pumps when he’s sleepy!)

If you are intent on expanding your vocabulary, as I am, keep a little notebook too, to scribble down new words and meanings so that you remember them.

I have a very nice Chambers Dictionary, which my mother-in-law gave me.  It was second hand, but the meanings it gives are accessible, and it has a wide enough variety of words to satisfy my needs at the moment.  It is also a chunky 5.5cm thick, with nice fine paper, and so is a really satisfying thing to handle too.  You can pick up reasonable dictionaries in stationers and book shops this time of year at great ‘Back to School’ prices, but second hand bookshops and charity shops are always a good bet too, because dictionaries are slow to go out of date, and the basics will always be of use.

(Some readers will be bouncing around in their seats at this point, and crying the praises of online and digital dictionaries.  Yes, I get that they are useful, but they do not have the browsing dimension that real books do, and therefore I still recommend you get the hard copy.)

I originally wrote this as one post, but it got so big I decided to split it.  I think it words better that way, and I hope you agree!  So the next post, on Friday, will be about the second crucial book you need to have on your bookshelf.  The thesaurus.

Meanwhile, Happy wording,

EF

Journal Friday: The Life Organiser

life org pages 2I’ve been enjoying Jennifer Louden’s The Life Organiser for a while now, and I wanted to share it with you.  It is a weekly practise that may offer those who struggle with daily journaling an easier way into self-expression.

Now I have to confess, I’ve got a bit of a thing about the whole Organising scene.  It is definitely a displacement activity for me.  I would much rather go out and drool over new Filofaxes than actually do the work to sort out my office.  I love stationery.  I love notebooks.  I love books about how to organise your life.  I love the websites too.  Call me a GTD addict.  It cons me into thinking I’m actually getting something done.  I am sure many of you can relate to that!

Lately, though, I have been wrestling with something of a mid-life crisis, and that, together with the complexities of actually writing on a regular basis for this website, as focussed my attention on the real core of the whole productivity mindset:

 Intention

Life Coaches and self-development gurus go on about formulating your life goals, having a vision, a mission statement, working towards SMART goals, and all that stuff.  Achievement, in other words.  All of which is great of you actually know where you are going, and what you want.

But what if, like me, you are about to fall off the edge of 45, and still don’t have a clue what you want to do when you grow up?

Deciding what direction you want to push your life in is a huge project.  It can feel overwhelming.  Jennifer Louden’s approach is more subtle and manageable.  Building on her work with The Women’s Comfort Book, and other invaluable tomes, she has written a workbook that gives the reader a chance to get in touch with their essential self, cut down empty busyness and focus on what is really important.  On a week-by-week and day-by-day basis, she encourages you to think about what is going on in your life, here and now, and what you need to help you flourish.  It feels quiet, comforting and manageable.  And it offers you a chance to choose direction and improve the quality of your life in a gentle, incremental way.  So how does it work?

 The Life Organiser Book

The book itself is a delightfully satisfying object to handle, even before you get inside.  It begins with some explanatory chapters, and then sets to work.  Each week of the year has a two page spread, offering journal prompts and questions to contemplate and answer, inspiring quotes and the chance to list things you have to do, would like to do, and can reasonably let go of (the latter is my favourite, because it is the most thought-provoking for me.)  It is all laid out so that you can use the actual book to write in if you like, but there are inspiring examples at the front of how other women have made their own notebooks and digital documents into Life Organisers too.

My Life Organiser Kit

My Life Organiser kit comes in this cute little bag...

My Life Organiser kit comes in this cute little bag…

I was given a little bag which is just the right size to keep my organiser kit in, and my day-to-day dates diary and journal fit in there nicely too.

 I like to use lots of bright colours when I am answering the questions, so I include coloured felt-tipped pens, both fine and brush point, so that I can do that.  I have settled on a colour scheme that I like, with particular colours for certain subjects, and that helps me if I want to check back through the pages of my notebook.

... and here is what's in it!… and here is what’s in it!

The notebook itself is one I bought from WH Smith because I liked the cover.  It has wide-spaced lines and lies open easily, which is great if I want to do a two-page spread for a mind map or such like.

Doing My Organising

I try to do my Organiser on Sundays or Mondays, so I can set a clear intention for myself for the week.

I like to write in my journal or do morning pages before I start on my organiser because it clears my mind, and helps me to focus on my needs rather than my complaints.  I like to check my date diary or calendar before I start too, so I know what appointments I’ve got coming up, and how my time and energy will have to be distributed for the ensuing week.

When I have done that, I put in the date, and then write a section I call:

Where I am right now

This is a way of grounding myself, working out where I am emotionally and physically, and what issues are coming up for me at present.  It isn’t in the Louden version, but I find it useful to do.

Once I know where I am, I start on the actual questions for the week.  I always write out the questions in, in full, in a bright pen.  (This year I am using pink, last year it was orange.) I answer in a kind of stream-of-consciousness.  Sometimes a list comes out, sometimes a paragraph, sometimes a complete rant!  It doesn’t matter what, it is all instructive.  It tells me what is important to me at the moment, what I need to encourage and nourish myself, what I need to take notice of.  From these realisations come the lists of what I could do, must do, and need to let go of.

I have found it is important not to make long lists of things to get done or to force myself to release things.  Once you become prescriptive, these things become OUGHTS, and just make yet more burdens to add to those we have already.  I keep my list of things I could do for the week to a minimum so I don’t pressure myself.  Sometimes it is just a couple of things I could think about.

The lists can then be transferred over into my day to day diary and calendar if appropriate.  I can make appointments to do the self-care things I have identified, and book rest time in, which I need because of my health.  I put my ‘Let Go Of:’ list in the margin of my diary too, so that when I refer to it every day, I reminded of what is important to me.

Life Org pagesI think the Life Organiser is a more mindful way of keeping true to my intentions and needs than the endless To Do lists most productivity tools offer.  It forms a kind of accounting process that lies on top of my journaling, a means of orienting myself in a more concrete way.  Because I do it on a weekly basis, (although sometimes I miss, in which case, I don’t worry about it)  it doesn’t feel so much like a chore, and I look forward to it.  It keeps me in touch with myself and has helped me formulate my dreams and visions into doable agendas in a gentle way that seems far less scary than other methods.

I recommend it.  Get yourself a copy, and have a bash.  You might find it bridges the gap between journaling and Filofaxes that you need!

(You can find out mroe about the amazing Jennifer Louden here.)

Happy journaling

EF