Shot Myself in the Foot with a Bullet Journal

You and I have often talked about how to maintain goals we set. And those we don’t keep…

Click on the journal for a peek at so many images of Bullet Journal pages...

Click on the journal for a peek at so many images of Bullet Journal pages...

 This month—beginning Monday, Feb. 1stI pledged to begin an intensive picture book study, committing to at least 5 hours a day studying/reading/writing picture books. I’ve “pledged” before, but life…especially “important” family and work commitments keep getting in the way. Sound familiar?

This study commitment will require fortitude and organization. A writer friend of mine, Cindy Faughnan, recently set herself up with a Bullet Journal. A tuck it into your purse or pocket paper-pen-ink-no-battery-required journal. In support, she sent me a link to a basic How-To Bullet Journal U-tube video. Here's the link: The Analog System in the Digital Age.

After viewing, I bought my journal—bright pink—selected “the” pen, and following the step-by-step instructions, began setting up my journal. But I had a few questions…  

Turns out this Bullet Journal video is not a one-off; it’s part of a cult-er…craze…er website. There's a library! A Blog! A Store!!!! And slews of videos featuring other bullet journal aficionados showing & explaining their particular journaling styles. Too many . . . 

My excitement over this simple little system turned to angst.

  • Was I numbering correctly?
  • Bulleting, dashing, circling, arrowing appropriately?
  • Were my squares large enough?
  • Too large?
  • Should I color code it? Is that twee? Or just one pen? If one, which?
  • Should I write my goals on the front cover or first page?
  • Should my Future Log go across or down?
  • Should I copy a calendar and tape it in. Or create my own.
  • How many pages would I need for my monthly/daily task lists?...
  • How many other pages—books, movies, words, ideas, goals, writing project, house projects…what am I forgetting?
  • What if I mess it up?!!

                         I can not have an ugly Bullet Journal…

 After ripping out and starting over a few times,  I quit. I had to. My Bullet Journal was on the verge of being pageless.

BTW: This study includes returning to writing Morning Pages ala Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way.  Here's a link to a video explaining Cameron's Morning Pages.

 Feb. 3. was a dark day. I woke worrying about how I was going to continue my planned picture book intensive study if I couldn’t even manage a Bullet Journal?  

In the wee hours before morning I laid in bed driving myself crazy thinking about this Bullet Journal and all the other to-dos on my list, when It dawned on me how instead of mentally agonizing, I could agonize on the page and thus at least accomplish something…my Morning Pages!

Trouble was, I couldn't find any paper on which to write my Morning Pages. The last notebook I'd used to write Morning Pages was full. And I couldn’t find another one…anywhere. Was I destined to fail at this, too??

I’ve often thought these Morning Pages should be called Mourning Pages, M-O-U-R-N-ING...you’re saying farewell to life as you knew it.
— Julia Cameron on how morning pages should we whinny, petty, grumpy...

Then something one of the gals in one of those “Let Me Show You MY Bullet Journal” videos popped into my head. She’d been sharing how she had refashioned her weekly task list from the previous year and then, after all that work, said: “I’m going to try it. If I don’t like it, I’ll do something else next month…”

  Hallauah!!! (Que the Choir!)

 This is MY Journal. There was no rule saying it could “only” be a Bullet Journal... Or that it had “last” for a year... Or more than a month…Or be pretty...  

There was only one rule: If it’s going to work, it has to work for me.

I flipped half-way back and begin my morning pages there.  Done.

. . . Minor problem. The page number? (Every Bullet Journal has an index to each section.)

Click on the pic to see more

Click on the pic to see more

Very handy, but . . . Should I count all the pages so I could number the page about half-way back, I’d designated Morning Pages 1? Or write my darn Morning Pages?

 I made the tough decision: I stuck a post-it sticky on the first Morning Page—so I could find the spot again, took a breath and especially pleased to know that everything I needed to begin my days—my new Bullet Journal, pen, stick-notes & designated Morning Pages pages all in one tidy book—I began to write…

 If you’ve stuck with me through this entire post, I have no doubt you’re thinking—boring… tedious...if this is the worst of her worries… What a waste… a waste of time…hers and mine.

It’s tedious for me, too. That’s my whole point.

 Agonizing, doubt, questioning, beating myself up, aka “worry” is, in the words of Ben Franklin “Interest paid on trouble before it is due.” 

 But, “worry” is what I do.  If I'm going to play, I have to payfirst. That's how I roll. I have to circle before I can begin anew.  I have to get to that place where I am willing to allow myself to tear out a few pages, let go, make mistakes. Only then can I find my way in. This time, it was creating new routine. Next time, it will be something else…

 Trust in the Process. (I’m writing that in my Bullet Journal.)

...On a new page, that I'll number, and add to the index, so I can turn to it easily P.R.N. 

Nuthin’ Doin’

“What are you doing today?” Curtis asked as I drove him to work.

 “What are you doing tomorrow?” He asked again last night.

“What do you have going on this week?” He asked as I dropped him off at the airport.

 

“Nothing.” I replied. “Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. I have absolutely not one single thing planned.”

 

 

He gave me a surprised look. Curtis never has nothing to do, nothing planned.

Most people don’t. Or rather, DO…all the time.

Even when we aren’t “doing” anything, we are doing something: Listening to music, Texting, Checking email, Facebook, Instagram, Playing Candy/Trivia Crush, Scrabble with Friends, etc. etc. Usually something electronic.

ACG School in Jakarta 

ACG School in Jakarta 

When I visit schools, I’ll chat with the kids about my writering life. Inevitably someone will ask:

“Where do your ideas come from?”

 I often respond by opening it up to the class and asking them:

“Where can we get ideas?”

Eventually the flood of suggestions peters out . . . Because ideas do that.

Life, the everyday business of living, can be tiring. Trying to live creatively can be even more so. The myriad of How-to, Discovery, Recovery books and articles focused on ways to revive our creative spirits, suggest this tiredness, miasma, block, burnout, lack of creativity . . . . is because we are creatively exhausted. (And perhaps otherwise, too.)

Stock Photo: Stressed man with  smoking head   More   www.dreamstime.com

Stock Photo: Stressed man with smoking head More

www.dreamstime.com

Whether from lack of use, or because we’ve used up all we had, our creative tanks have run dry and need refilling.

. . . and not a drop to think.

. . . and not a drop to think.

Many, including Julia Cameron’s oft sited 12-Step Recovery guide, The Artist’s Way, recommend taking oneself on weekly Artist’s Dates as a way of “refilling our creative wells.”

Filling our wells—if we follow this sage advice—is easy. The question then is: How do we empty it? 

How do we tap into those creative wells so those wonderful ideas can flow? 

When working with school kids, at that point where the ideaphoria slows, I’ll ask:

“Does your teacher ever give an assignment and not one single idea pops into your head? Does that ever happen to you?”

A sea of nodding heads is always the answer I get.

At that point I’ll give them my sure fire Well-Draining Idea-Generator:  

Empty your head and do nothing.

Try it.

I dare you.

I double dog dare you.

Make a “Do Nothing” Date . . .  and Don’t!  

Don’t take your phone. Don’t plug in. Don’t bring a friend. Don’t set an agenda.

Before long, the spigot will open Whoosh! and ideas will begin to flow. Could be they already were flowing, but we just couldn't hear to catch them.* Either way, that  plenty o’ nuttin’ starts to sound like something. 

To borrow from Dr. Suess: Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!

Nuthin’ Doin’ Playlist:

*What's the worst that can happen? You'll have spent an idyll hour or two. (Ever ponder the connection between idyll, idle and ideal?) 

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Fill 'er Up! What Poppy Taught Me...

Back in the 70’s during gas rationing, my grandfather and I would idle in the gas station line together on “Even Days" so we could fuel up our cars.

For those of you post-rationing folks, cars with license plates ending in odd numbers could fill up on “Odd Days,” Mon-Wed-Fri, those of us with even-numbered plates could fill up on Tues-Thurs-Sat.

If either of our tanks fuel levels had dropped below half-a-tank, Poppy insisted on it. Spending this time with my grandfather would have been enough, but, as an added bonus, he’d pay to fill up my tank, too. (A much needed and appreciated college student “gift”.) Poppy got a kick out of it, too. As he neared the front of the line, Poppy would get into his car without a backward glance at me. After filling up with the allowed amount of gas: 10 or 12 gals, sometimes only 5, Poppy'd pay, telling the attendant “Put that cute blonde’s gas on my tab, too,” and drive off.

Poppy’s rule about refueling often and never letting your tank get below the half-full mark has stuck with me. Whether true, or an old car talk myth, Pops said all the yuck settled to the bottom of the tank. So, if I allowed my tank to get low, along with fuel, all the sediment and unwanted gunk will be sucked into the engine. 

In that way, writers, artists, anyone who creates, are like cars. Our creative "wells" can run dry, too.  Tales of creatives "refueling" are many and varied, some legendary: Hemingway & Steinbeck went adventuring; Parker and Fitzgerald shook and stirred. Others, try perhaps less entertaining, but more healthful routes such as Julia Cameron's The Artist’s Way. This 12-Step Guide to Creative Recovery, suggests weekly artist dates as a way of topping up our creativity. 

To outsiders, and worse, to ourselves, “Filling the Well” and “Resisting,” as Steven Pressfield in War of Art calls procrastination, avoidance, and other obstacles that keep us from creating, can seem to be one and the same.  Therefore, guilt or that darned clock—tick tick tick-Time’s-a-wasting-Slacker—can stop us from taking time to recharge our creative spirits.

Eventually, just as my 79 MG Midget sputtered and died on the way back from Lake Tahoe the one Sunday night I didn’t heed Poppy’s warning to never let my gas tank fall below half, our joie de create can sputter out.

Heed the difference between “Filling the Well” and “Resisting”.

While I absolutely do not believe our creativity can ever truly dry up. I know energy for, and interest in, doing the hard work it takes to rejuvenate, re hydrate, revitalize a shriveled creativity spirit can dwindle. Why risk it? Much smarter, and definitely more fun, to follow Poppy’s lead and refuel regularly.

Since February is the Heart month, with International Book Giving Day smack dab in the middle on Valentine’s Day, I’m devoting my February posts to “Loving Up” and "Filling Up" our creative wells. 

dog-bookday.jpg

 

Bonus: If you buy a Children's Book to Give, let me know and I'll join you by donating a book in your honor.

Post in Comments or Here!

Meet my new grandson, Dylan!

Meet my new grandson, Dylan!

 

 

Until then, I’ll be playing Mimi. My favorite newish way to refuel.

 

Time For A Top Up!

Big Cuz Ben showing me how!

Big Cuz Ben showing me how!

 

 

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The Truth About Visitors

Visitors use towels, dirty dishes, take up space, have the nerve to claim the TV clicker . . .basically wreak havoc on routine. And more...

. . . If were lucky that is!

After having a home in New York for more than 3 years, I could name the sights on my way to and from the grocery, post office, hardware store & the airport exits. . .  I was especially familiar with the view from my desk chair. And since we're being truthful, with the view from the fridge to the TV. . .  I had a drawer full of New York/Long Island "Sights to See" Guides but had never cracked the spines. 

Then the visitor came! 

The visitor was framly (friend-so-long-they're-family) John from Tulsa. John and I, almost 30 years ago, worked together. We were both restaurant cooks. Our working relationship spread from kitchen work, to raising kids, gardening, decorating, painting, unpacking, packing. We work well together and have fun while we work. Our motto is: 

Crank up the music and get er done! 

Without apologizing, I'll admit how, in anticipation of John's visit, I looked around at my house, at the columns of boxes needed to be unpacked, at the stacks of pictures waiting to be hung, and the cupboards waiting to be organized, at the wallpaper waiting to be hung, and practically salivating. Imagine what John and I could accomplish this week!

And even though John was using one of his two-only weeks of vacation to come and visit, he wouldn't have minded one bit. In fact, I know he would have loved it! (He's that kind . . . )

Still. . . as enticing as the thought of all we could accomplish was, instead we:

Walked and walked and walked the city, discovering wonders like this Zipper Graffiti

Walked and walked and walked the city, discovering wonders like this Zipper Graffiti

Hunkered under a nut vendor's umbrella during a rain shower, then finally broke down--after we were soaked--and bought umbrellas.  

Hunkered under a nut vendor's umbrella during a rain shower, then finally broke down--after we were soaked--and bought umbrellas.  

Toured  Radio City Music Hall --and sneaked snaps of  Tony Award  rehearsal through the camera room window. Then, come Sunday night, glued ourselves to the TV with take-away dinner to watch the show because "we were there"!

Toured Radio City Music Hall--and sneaked snaps of Tony Award rehearsal through the camera room window. Then, come Sunday night, glued ourselves to the TV with take-away dinner to watch the show because "we were there"!

Braved the long and winding line at The Original Shake Shack. Which shake should we try? 

Braved the long and winding line at The Original Shake Shack. Which shake should we try? 

Took turns playing "photographer" with Russian tourists at Rockefeller Center--while pretending not to speak English

Took turns playing "photographer" with Russian tourists at Rockefeller Center--while pretending not to speak English

Before I knew it, I notices my mind drifting back to my stories. The "What ifs" and "I could trys" were popping, snapping, pinging and zinging in my noggin. At a level I hadn't experienced since first beginning on this writing journey, I found myself wanting to get to work. I even pulled out my cell phone to jot some story notes. 

Sniffed spices and filched samples at  Grand Central Station Marketplace

Sniffed spices and filched samples at Grand Central Station Marketplace

And even bought souvenirs   

And even bought souvenirs

 

Played with Dots pillows--even though we knew we'd get in trouble-- in  Dylan's Candy Store

Played with Dots pillows--even though we knew we'd get in trouble-- in Dylan's Candy Store

Sat at Meg Ryan's infamous " Sleepless in Seattle " table at  Katz's Deli (with the bossiest, grouchiest staff in the world!)

Sat at Meg Ryan's infamous "Sleepless in Seattle" table at Katz's Deli (with the bossiest, grouchiest staff in the world!)

Note one, but two tours of the   Tenement Museum  , and walked the streets, and explored the gift shop . . . 

Note one, but two tours of the Tenement Museum, and walked the streets, and explored the gift shop . . . 

And finished with a Frozen Hot Chocolate at  Serendipity 3- -because of that scene in the movie . . . 

And finished with a Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity 3--because of that scene in the movie . . . 

Julia Cameron, discusses the importance of taking ones' self on "artist dates" in her 12 Step Guide to Creative Recovery, The Artist's Way. She believes these dates to be so restorative, she prescribes them weekly as a vital component of the recovery process. 

As prescribed, I've taken myself on Artist Dates. However, as with gym time, spa time, dentist visits, and other "good for you" scheduled events, regardless how enjoyable,  I tend to rush through Artist Dates to art stores, playgrounds, museums and the like. After,  I tick them off like just another chore on the list and more on. 

When the Newark Express pulled away last evening, I was sad to see John leaving.

When the Newark Express pulled away last evening, I was sad to see John leaving.

At the same time I was bubbly, energized and excited to get back to writing. Why?

When we were kids and acting fussy. Not naughty, but that sort of irritating, pestery, whiney baby-ish, my folks would send us outside. "Let them play it out," they'd say. As though, by playing hard, we could use up, expel our peevishness. 

Artist Dates can be inspirational, informative, restorative even. But let's face it, they aren't necessarily fun. On the otherhand, Play Dates are fun. What the heck? We are writing for children + We are trying to tap into our inner children + Play Dates are fun = Maybe you do need to stay focused, keep your butt in the chair, approach writing as seriously as every other career. But, but, every now and again, especially when we're feeling peevish, we need to get out there and play! 

The truth about visitors is: Visitors visit to have fun. They want to play. And, unless they visit when we're away, they come looking for a playmate. Sure, we can do our best to stick to "business as usual" when we have visitors. But why?  

Playmate! Come out and play with me/And bring your dollies, three/climb up my apple tree . . . 

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Walking Into The World-And Over The Edge

Mondays, the GGs (my Girl Group)–a Sisterhood of Creative Explorers–gather. We are working through Walking Into the World by Julia Cameron. It is a follow-up to The Artist's Way, her twelve-step guide to creative living. One component of Cameron's creativity recovery program is the Weekly Walk. "Most of us spend life on the run, too busy and too hurried to walk anywhere," Cameron writes, maintaining the solution to many of our problems will arise if we make time to walk. "Native Americans pursue vision quests, Aborigines do walkabout. Both of these cultures know walking clears the head." And so, for the duration of the course, she asks us to commit to weekly 20-minute walks. "You will find these walks focus your thinking and instigate your breakthroughs," she concludes.

According to her instructions we are to put on comfy clothes and shoes and just go out walking-"go far enough and long enough that you feel both your body and your mind "unkink." Jakarta is many things, but it is not walker-friendly. The streets are busy, loud, cloudy with fumes, often rutted and potholed. The sidewalks-where there are sidewalks- are riddled with holes and loose stones and catawampus paving, or are crowded with parked motorcycles and food carts. No matter how many kilometers I walked, my mind and body would never "unkink." And so, I have taken Cameron's proclamation: "Where you walk matters less than that you walk," as permission to take my weekly walks on my backyard treadmill.

Giving due credit, the image "backyard" conjures is far from the truth. The area beyond my French doors is better described as oasis or resort-a delightful place to "unkink" even without the walk.

Oasis or not, it takes me longer than the proscribed 20-minutes to warm up my creative world. First I have to examining my garden, looking for weeks that need pulling, bushes that need pruning, twisted flags, untidy vines (Oasis are the bottle-blondes of gardens). The twisted flags can eat up 10 minutes easily as I imagine myself untangling-untangling-untangling them. I follow the yard survey with a run through of everything I could be doing if I were not walking on the treadmill and chase that with everything I plan to do when I finish. Eventually, after breaking the cycle with a 3-5 minute run which leaves me nauseous and too oxygen deprived to think, I drift into that mindless, floating place from wince solutions come.

I was there, totally there, last night -completely unkinked and free, drifting, bouncing, floating from thought to thought to...the solution. I had walked into the World, Julia's World, so lost in my alpha that I forgot where I was-and stepped right off the edge.

Fortunately, the treadmill backs into the corner of the patio and the walls stopped my fall.

Julia Cameron should paste a warning label on the next edition:  Creative Recovery Can Be Dangerous.

See, the pink flag is tangled in the vine--and who didn't roll up the hose?
See, the pink flag is tangled in the vine--and who didn't roll up the hose?