wherein our author finds inefficiency more efficient after all

Over the past few years, I've had a troubled relationship with my notebook.

It's the double-handling. Writing by hand necessarily entails typing it all up; and I never have enough time to keep up with it; and it seems inefficient. So I've been chasing my tail, trying to set up computer-based systems to replace my notebook. Scrivener for writing and organising my drafts. 2Do (lately; there's been a string of them) for tasks and reminders. Google Calendar for appointments. Drafts for taking notes on my phone; Simplenote and Notational Velocity for keeping my non-manuscript writing notes available everywhere; Dropbox and Sync and the list goes on.

FullSizeRender (22)The one thing I could never replicate on a computer was the feel of pen on paper, the slowness of it, the frustrating cramp in my wrist and fingers as my hand struggles to keep up with my thoughts and forces a precision of expression. For me, writing by hand is vital for brainstorming — and since my drafts are highly organic, and I brainstorm all the way through, it doesn't matter how many electronic capturing systems I set up. Sooner or later, within days, often only hours, I'm back to jotting down my thoughts in a notebook.

Then, at the start of the month, quite by accident, I stumbled upon the instagram #bulletjournalchallenge feed, and I quickly fell down the rabbit hole of all the pretty. (Seriously, have you seen what some people do with their notebooks? Have you seen how awesome handwriting can be, and how some geniuses use and play with white space and text orientation and combine sketchwork with organisation?

And damnit, I wanted the pretty.

today's border
today's border
So I decided, since I couldn't jettison the notebook, to embrace its presence a little more. Not to be my everything, the way the Bullet Journal method encouraged, because the endless writing and re-writing and migrating of tasks made me baulk. But to incorporate some prettiness: leave some white space on the page; add some drawings or sketches here or there; add some scrapbooking elements, or some colour.

sketching in the margins (and more) - I tend to do these ahead of time, usually when I'm waiting &c.
sketching in the margins (and more) – I tend to do these ahead of time, usually when I'm waiting &c., and then the content flows around it. The feather has since been further filled in with various zentangle patterns.
I discovered a love of washi tape as a quick way to add decoration (I am still stupidly pressed for time, after all).
I discovered a love of washi tape as a quick way to add decoration (I am still stupidly pressed for time, after all).

I found the handwriting freed my mind from all its internal nagging; and the permission to sketch and scribble was meditative, which I've been sorely missing in my life for some time now.

IMG_5031And within a week it happened: I went from noting down my days on paper, to actively planning them that way. My cloud task-list languished, while my notebook — which didn't need firing up, or to bleat and beep and buzz at me — was filled with completed tasks. More and more, I've adopted the whole of the Bullet Journal approach, including a monthly, weekly and daily layout. The monthly and weekly layouts seem more about summarising and tracking than they are about planning ahead, but I find the zooming in/out at a page-flip extremely helpful for planning each day. And all that migrating and re-writing of tasks I was fearing? Isn't really happening, because instead I'm actually getting my tasks done.

I think this article on the pitfalls of the electronic to-do list goes some way towards explaining why I'm preferring the paper approach of late, and why it's working. I still have a Trello account to track big-scale projects, which would otherwise span years/multiple notebooks; but that's really only for projects with no discernable start and end dates (like writing on-spec manuscripts).

Anyone else find pen on paper indispensable? I'd love to hear why! Or have you managed to make the jump to the cloud without looking back?

2 thoughts on “wherein our author finds inefficiency more efficient after all

  1. That washi tape is so cute! I'll bring my rolls next time I visit so you can steal some. (I started giving my various story sections half-page title doodles, just to make them easy to find when skimming.) (Also your doodles are so pretty.)

    1. You indulge in washi tape too? Why did you not get me on to this stuff earlier? It's awesome. And agree on the title doodling, I'm doing the same, and/or practicing fancy fonts (terribly!), because now my notebook is filling up ultra-fast and I do a lot of skimming back and forth on those brainstorming sessions. (I also index the side of each page so I can quickly see all the green pages which relate to, for example, the troll novel.)

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