From the middle of March until about two weeks ago my anxiety and stress levels were crazy high thanks to COVID-19…the Pandemic—there’s nothing like a Pandemic to really make you question your life, your life goals, your creativity and your creative life, as well as your purpose. Not that I need a Pandemic to make me questions things, but when all of your squirrels are screaming “Pandemic” it’s hard to think much less focus on your creativity. SO while many of the people who were forced to stay at home were feeling immense creative urges, I wasn’t feeling off kilter—I work from home so it felt like it should have been no big deal.
Oh, but it was a BIG deal. There’s a difference between wanting to be home and being forced to be at home. Not to mention the fact that so many people were on the Web that it made uploading my videos take longer. It also overwhelmed YouTube, which was having issues—going Live on YT became problematic the end of March and the beginning of April. It’s not an issue anymore, but for a few weeks it was a major issue. I create videos for Patreon, but I’ve found that I really enjoy going Live on YouTube.
A few weeks ago, I finally got my shit together enough to get back on YouTube on a (mostly) consistent basis. Whew! It felt good to be back. I’d felt my creativity coming back slowly but surely thanks to being on Patreon and my Patrons, who are so supportive that they make me feel like I have something important to offer others—inspiration and motivation. There are a lot of great artist’s and writer’s out there. Numerous people who create videos about journaling and planning. Many of whom create absolutely wonderful videos about those topics. But the one thing you don’t see a whole lot of are pictures that aren’t curated, videos that aren’t majorly curated. I am not a “curated” kind of person.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with an aesthetically pleasing video and/or picture. I watch a lot of people who curate their videos on YouTube. I also follow a lot of people on Instagram who curate their images. I’m not saying that I don’t clean off part of my desk or craft table so that my videos look decent. Or that I don’t try to take a halfway decent photo when I do post to IG. But I prefer to capture the creative chaos that often ensues when I am creative, or to capture the outright mess on my desk, or the process—which is often times messy. Do I get watercolor all over me sometimes? I sure do. Do I sometimes get paint on my pretty white desk? Yes, and there have been times when I’ve had to get up from my desk and go to the kitchen to get the cleaner so I can clean my desk in the middle of a creative session. Gotta love when that happens.
Earlier today I went live on YouTube to show how to add “art” to your journal pages if you’re not someone who feels comfortable drawing, or you’re a beginner when it comes to drawing or doodling. I also tried out a new art supply—M. Graham Gouache, which is fantastic by the way. I love watercolor, but gouache is fun to experiment with (for now), and I’m hoping that the more I play with gouache the better I’ll get at it. It’s similar to watercolor but different.
Despite how much I’ve wanted to get back to blogging, I’ve been remiss. No, that’s the wrong word… I love blogging, but I guess I felt blocked, or maybe I’d been away from it for such a long while that it was easier to procrastinate than it was to just sit down and write a damn blog post. So I finally said “just do it.” So here I am, just doing it! Hope you’ve enjoyed it. Thank you, especially if you’ve made it this far.
The Bullet Journal Method Book by Ryder Carroll, has changed how I look at not only my planning method, which is what I thought a bullet journal was–but nope, it’s a journal, but it has also changed how I look at my journaling. It feels more like a hybrid between a journal, common place journal, and an agenda, but we’ll talk about that later. For now, I want to concentrate on how much it’s actually helped me declutter my life, including my planning, and journals.
I’ve been practicing a form of bullet journaling on and off for a couple of years now. It has been an important tool for organization and productivity for me, as well as an outlet for a busy mind, but until I read Carroll’s book I was more busy than productive, overwhelmed, and no matter what I tried things just didn’t work–I would be productive for a bit, less overwhelmed and stressed out, but before long I’d end up frustrated because the bullet journal system didn’t seem to work as well for me as it did for so many others. Then I started reading the book The Bullet Journal Method.
If you’re not familiar with the bullet journal here’s a quote from the book written by the founder of the Bullet Journal system, Ryder Carroll:
Whether you’re an experienced Bullet Journalist or a newcomer, The Bullet Journal Method is for anyone struggling to find their place in a digital age. It will help you get organized by providing simple tools and techniques that can inject clarity, direction, and focus into your days. (p. 11)
And if you’re still not sure, check out his website and video here.
**Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission,which helps me purchase items to review, at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.**
First, let me just say I’m a creative person at heart. I am a content creator: I create videos on Youtube and on Patreon; I am a writer, an artist, a DIYer, but I’ve always thought of myself as a journaler, not a planner. I plan to make my life easier, to help me get and stay organized and productive, so when the bullet journal seemed to be more about pretty spreads, fancy to-do lists and trackers, and/or a hell of a lot of work to keep it neat and organized (for some, not all) I all but gave up. I tried going back to the system again and again, in various ways… and then I had this big A-HA moment when reading the book.
Bullet Journaling is so much more than just pretty spreads, fancy to-do lists and trackers. It takes mindfulness, adds a plan, and takes mindfulness and a strategy to maximize your time, energy, and potential, and can help you cut out the extra and allows you to focus on the important tasks, the steps to complete projects, and reach your goals.
The Bullet Journal consists of 5 parts: Index, Future Log, Monthly Log, Daily Log, and Collections. The Index assists you in locating things in your notebook–like a map. The Future Log is a brief glance at the coming months and things that you need to keep note of in the future. The Monthly Log is a timeline of the month and a list of tasks, and is the “bird’s eye view” of things. The Daily Log is the workhorse of the system–it is “designed to capture your daily tasks, events, and/or notes. Collections are considered to be the building blocks that allow you to dig deeper into things, whether it is a specific project, planning a trip, or even researching a topic of interest.
The day to day activities and events are chronicled with a simple bullet point or other key symbols that help keep things simple, and helps remove distractions and allows you to focus on the things that are most relevant. You can keep your pages as simple and minimal as your want, or decorate and be as creative as you want. The bullet journal method is simple and flexible, and he recommends using the simple backbone of the method for about 3 months before modifying it–however, if you look up “bullet journal” in Google, Pinterest, Instagram, Youtube… you’ll find pages that are really simple in design to pages that are extremely creative and artistic. Don’t be scared… There are hacks a plenty if you’d like to add art without actually drawing, and great resources if you’d rather keep your pages simple and minimalistic.
I’m going to be upfront… I’m not great at some of the aspects of the system. Like rapid logging. I’m learning it, and I’m getting better at it, but I’m a wordy, rambly, chatty person (unless I’m in a crowd) so rapid logging is not second nature to me because for it to really work efficiently you need to break things down to the bare necessities (did anyone hear the Jungle Book song, the one from the Disney movie for kids, in their head just then? well, I did). So I’m working on the “bare necessities” and what that means to me. And that’s the whole thing with any kind of journal or planner system… that you work things out for yourself–what works for you. …”I mean the bare necessities, forget about your worries and your strife… mother nature’s recipes that bring the bare necessities of life…where ever I wonder or where ever I roam…the bare necessities of life will come to you…”
Okay, okay…enough with the bare necessities, but since I’ve been made to “rest and get well” lately because of the sinus infection, bronchitis, and pneumonia that I had to get at the same time… I have been able to rest at ease lately because…well, I’ve had to because I’m sick, and my husband has put his Taurus foot down and won’t budge about how much I can do… but it’s actually given me some real time for reflection. And that reflection time has come in handy. I’ve spent a lot of time reading, or I should say re-reading various sections of the book so I can get better at things like rapid logging.
I feel like I’m almost on Pause, but that’s not been a bad thing, at least not recently because having slowed down has actually made me re-think my priorities, how I do things, the time I waste, how I could really work smarter not harder, but it’s more than that… If the majority of my journaling, planning, art, etc is more about what I’m doing as a content creator then I’m missing out… I’ve taken more time the past few months to do things in my journal, planner, etc for myself, without filming… and it’s helped, but I realized while on this “Pause” that part of the issue for me isn’t about that at all, it’s actually the opposite now… I have so many ideas, so many things I want to do, but not enough me or time to do them all. I definitely don’t have enough time to do them, film doing them, edit said videos, write random blog posts (hoping that I can get back into the habit of writing a post or two a week at least), and still live a life outside of content creation.
So I slowed my over active brain down by doing a brain spill. I spilled all those thoughts, ideas, questions, doubts, and a-ha moments I’ve been having lately… Then I started dividing them up into categories: Priority: yes or no. Can do: yes or no. Will actually do: yes or no. Requires buying things: Yes or no. And then I broke what was left down into sub-categories like How long will it take? A week? Month? Quarter? Year? And that left me with what things are actually important to me, the priority things; what things I will do but also can be done; and how long a project might take. Immediately after putting pen to paper and spilling all those words onto the page I felt better.
The next thing I realized is that no matter how well Ryder Carroll has explained the Bullet Journal System and how it can be individualized, there are people like me who are creative and need or want to be a bit creative with it, thus the pretty, fancy bullet journals. I’ve simplified mine… to little bits of art here and there, but it’s much more functional now. And I’ve been modifying how I do things in my Hobonichi, the journal/planner that is Grand Central Station…I have stopped limiting myself. Stopped thinking in terms of “I should do this here…and this there…” I’ve decided to truly follow my intuition and that means sticking with my creative journey, which encompasses art, journals, writing, and the bullet journal system.
So here’s what I’ve taken away from the Bullet Journal Method in a nut shell. Ryder calls it a “mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system” and that is definitely what it feels like now that I understand the system more. It feels a bit like having an extra part in my brain to help me deal with my life, and all that my life entails–including the creative bits. And I can include as much or as little creative bits as I want to. Eventually, I am going to merge the creative journal and the bullet journal together. I can feel it coming. But for now I’m going to stick to being a bit creative here and there in my bullet journal. Work in it this way for the next 3 months like he suggests. The whole Rapid logging thing is really about capturing key words, abbreviating…short hand really. When I think of rapid logging I think of “short hand.” Old school I know but that’s what I think of. So rapid logging is really highlighting the important bits… or capturing the important bits with key words and short hand like abbreviations, symbols, underlining, bold, etc…
And if you really think about what you’re doing, what you’ve done, what you still need to do (what you’ve migrated and why you’ve migrated it)… is it important? Vital? Necessary? Why does it matter? And as you “check in” or reflect on things, the mental inventory, that’s when it clicks… instead of working on auto pilot I’m actually being intentional and mindful of how I use my time and energy, of what is and isn’t working, what I’m doing… Ryder Carroll designed the Bullet Journal to “House whatever your thoughts look like,” which included his notes, schedule, sketches, etc… and to be FLEXIBLE. As I delve more and more into the bullet journal, or the “mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system, ” I find myself understanding much more about the how’s, why’s, what’s, and when’s of my own system and what works for me.
If you’d like to find out more about my journey with the bullet journal check out my video on Youtube:
For the past few months, well really for a little over a year now, I’ve been finding my way through my new normal. When things change we often feel a bit out of sorts. I felt out of sorts in a variety of ways, but I tried to hold to being authentic. Being authentic isn’t always easy, especially when you’re grieving (people want to make you feel better, and you want to feel better, but grief ebbs and flows–and let’s face it, after a while you get tired of being asked how you’re doing? and others sometimes feel awkward when your grief is brought up). To be an authentic person means honesty, openness, integrity. It’s being genuine, “authentic.” When you’re authentic, people find it refreshing to be around you, to get to know you, to interact with you.
So why is being authentic sometimes hard? For the past few years, I’ve been honing my skills and techniques when it comes to journaling: art, handwriting, drawing, composition. And yet it often feels like the insurgence of messages from social media just keep telling me that unless my pages from social media don’t look aesthetically pleasing, which means damn near perfect, then the pages aren’t likely to be seen by many of my peers. However, the messages about being “authentic,” “progress not perfection,” “just be yourself” or “be true to yourself,” or “do it your way” are front and center. Seems like a bit of a contradiction to me.
**Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.**
Don’t get me wrong, phrases like “be authentic” or “progress not perfection” are positive and encouraging statements, even if they can seem a bit cliche, are usually well-intended, but it’s not always easy to just be yourself, which is being authentic; or to let go of the anxiety you feel over your less than perfect but authentic watercolor of Thanksgiving when you’re constantly being bombarded by pictures, posts, videos, etc. that are damn near perfect. So you think to yourself… Hmm, maybe they photoshopped theirs–I sure wish I knew how to use Photoshop. Or maybe they took a class–maybe I should take a class. Or maybe they’ve been practicing for years–maybe I need to practice more. All three of those might be true, or just one of them might be true, yet it doesn’t matter, what matters is how you feel when you’re looking at those pictures–if you’re comparing yourself to others then you’re doing yourself an injustice.
Creativity is such a personal thing, from what and/or how we choose to be creative, to the mediums we use, to the execution, and the process. And yet, for those of us who are creative, especially those of us who are content creators, it is difficult to not feel at least a bit of anxiety, stress over uploading our images, posts, and/or videos on social media when every time you turn around someone is telling you that in order for you to succeed, to grow, to be well liked, and/or to be well received you need to curate your pictures, posts, videos. Or you need this background, or these supplies, or this camera, this type of cover photos, or this kind of thumbnail, or this kind of title or tags… the list is endless.
All of those “things” that we supposedly need to be creative, to keep a journal or a sketchbook or planner, to make a video, to have a Youtube channel or a website/blog or an Instagram account… they are just that–things. Things that may or may not work really well for some. Things that some like and others don’t. In an age where there are more and more people choosing to live a more minimalist life, or who are striving to go deeper instead of wider (check “Depth Year’), I don’t get it. Well, maybe I don’t get why it took me so long to get that “less is sometimes more.”
My Dad used to tell us that “there’s no such thing as can’t,” and for the longest time I reminded myself of that whenever I felt stuck, when I couldn’t figure out how to do something, or when I felt scared that I wasn’t smart enough or good enough or enough in general. But when my Dad died of cancer last year (October 2017) and my Mom was put into ICU and I was fighting to save her, fighting to keep her fighting, I learned what real strength is. What courage really means. My mom was in the hospital for 10 days and 9 nights. Her organs were shutting down when I signed her into the ER, and when they wheeled her into the ICU my Dad was still in one of the rooms because I had to leave my (grown) children with their grandfather so he wouldn’t be alone when he drew his last breath (after the respirator was pulled) so I could admit my mom into the hospital. It’s a year later and I’m finally starting to get my groove back.
I’m finally starting to get back into the flow. My New Normal, as I like to call it. But it wasn’t until the past few months that I finally started to feel remotely normal. That I felt the kind of depth of creativity that I felt before going through such a traumatic experience–my creative well is a bit different now. Now that I finally feel like my “authentic” self, there are a few things that I’ve noticed –even though I knew these things were out there, that I knew were an issue, I hadn’t let myself dwell on any of it too much–I had other things on my mind that were far more important; things like getting my creative groove back, like finding my way through grief and healing, like figuring out what my new normal was/is.
I’m not a Pro at content creation, especially on Youtube, but I do know what I like when watching Youtube videos. I’m definitely not an Instagram guru–hell, some months I’m doing good if I post a few pictures, let alone one a day or even one a week. Nor am a I much of a Twitterer, or very good about Pinterest, but I’m starting to get a wee bit better at some things. However, the thing that has often held me back is that I rarely curate my photos, or my videos for that matter. The real question is why I haven’t gone the route of curating my photos, or making my videos, my YT channel, more curated.
Progress not Perfection
Do I have to curate? No. My desk is often messy when I’m in the middle of creating. And as much as I wish I kept things really clean and clutter free, often my supplies are scattered all over my craft table and desk. Even when I’ve taken a bit of time to curate a photo there is still usually at least a wee bit of mess. Instead of a jar of fresh, clean water, or a clutter free area, I’ve simply moved a few things around so that you can clearly see what I want seen, and the rest is… well it’s how I roll. I love what I do.
I love being creative. I love art, writing, journals, pens, watercolor, tomoe river paper, traveler’s notebooks, leather, markers, fountain pens, color… the list could go on, but the thing I love the most is any chance I have to be creative. I would love to be able to be creative with photos, to learn how to use Photoshop, to be able to create my own logo, to use said logo on my videos, my cover photo for YT, FB, etc… but the one thing I’m not real sure about, even when I do endeavor to learn how to use Photoshop, is to completely curate my photos. I want others out there, like me, to know that’s it’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay to be messy when you create. It’s okay for your art not to be perfect. We’re human beings not robots, our creativity is priceless, perfect or not. The more we practice the better we get, but it’s the process of being creative that is important. It’s the journey not the destination (another cliche, I know).
So I’ll continue to post pictures that aren’t perfect. Videos that aren’t perfect. I’ll continue to create art that isn’t perfect. I’ll continue to be myself and to be true to myself. And hopefully, that will help someone else who has struggled to be creative. I’ll continue to share some of what I create even when many of my creations are no where near perfection. It’s truly not about perfection, it’s about the process, the progress–that’s what creativity and authenticity are to me.