The Odder, The Ender

I ended 2016 well and began 2017 better. My days were structured enough for work and loose enough for being present and available for my family. Quickly, though, I lost control of my days. That’s what happens when the school year, work, and volunteer obligations hit, as well as various minor childhood illnesses. It’s hard to wrangle words into meaning while sitting next to a child with a bad cold who just wants to watch tinkly kiddie shows and put her feet on your lap. For two days. After neither of you have slept.

Priorities, though.

I’m tiptoeing back to my schedule, as the work and volunteer pressures abate for a few days.

I’ve already been published once this year, and am about to submit two more pieces by the end of the week. I have four more already out and I’m waiting to hear responses. I am motivated and disciplined. Good combination.

So, as January is often a time I try new things that don’t involve breaking a sweat or eating things that taste like kale, look like kale, or are kale, I am giving bullet journaling a go.

I’m not a doodler, and I don’t consider myself much of a visual learner. Perhaps due to innate perfectionism, art classes intimidated me. I couldn’t, from an early age, get the crayon or pencil to form the images in my head. I didn’t know how to see. Family and teachers used to gently tease me about my handwriting (which is still pretty awful) and it stuck. I never was one to make the posters for projects or events. I don’t create that way. I create in music and words and yarn sometimes, and even then I still struggle to get the piece to be what it is in my head.

I was intimidated by art classes even as I grew into a bold (obnoxious?) college student. As an undergraduate, I had to take an art class. I enrolled in an “introductory” art history course, surrounded by people who had obviously already been introduced to all things Art-Capital-A. “Pointillism” came up in the first class; I had never even heard the word and I felt so dumb, so much a rube. The professor assumed that all the nodding heads meant everyone in the room understood not only the term but the finer points (forgive the pun) of the style.

There was a basic drawing class at the same time, so I switched. That class terrified me, too. Especially the week of nude sketching, which is another story for another time. But I passed. Sort of. I don’t think the instructor was looking for too much out of me other than my showing up and being able to demonstrate a basic knowledge of negative space.

So imagine my surprise when I decided January was going to be a trial period for bullet journaling for my writing and performance. I use a Franklin-Covey system for the rest of my life, which has been my go-to for over a decade now. It works for me, but was not working for my writing.

I stumbled upon the idea for a bullet journal on Pinterest (of course) while perusing at cool fonts and handwriting. I have a few (dozen) extra notebooks lying around, so I pulled one out and started. Being me, of course, I first researching how to use them and tentatively began copying some people’s styles and writing and bullets and banners.

Quickly, I fell in love. Hard. I’ve always tried to honor my art, but this journal puts it into physical form. The intention, the goal – those become art as well.

By now, I’m already figuring out what I need and what I don’t. Also, my moleskin notebook bleeds through, which is irritating as heck because I want pristine pages each time I turn, and that means I cannot use my good markers. Small problems easily solved. I have to wait, though because I am not wasting a notebook.


I check this journal/planner more than any system I’ve tried since embracing the writing life. I can see how people can lose a lot of time making it look pretty. I’ve already broken out the correction tape, so I want to make sure it doesn’t suck me into a perfectionism vortex.

I’ll see if it works for me or if I end up working for my bullet journal. Updates to come.

Something Completely Different:

I doubt I will look back at this time in our cultural history and dub it “The Good Old Days.” I’m sure I will speak of activism and struggle and learning, of intersectionality and a divided country. Of change unsettling in ways I’ve not before experienced. But dotting those big bold markers in my life are small wonders and joys.

Making this week special:

  • My daughter’s return to health after weeks of coughing and a few days of fever.
  • Slowing down and paying attention.
  • My kids’ enthusiasm over a chess match they participated in.
  • My twins still hug me and know when it’s most needed.
  • Reading aloud Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets the second time with the kids just because revisiting a favorite book is a gift.
  • My husband grilling burgers (or anything).
  • My daughter’s curls (always).
  • Writing.
  • Decluttering.
  • Knitting.
  • My friend, K., who steadies me when I tip and who topples me when I’m too upright.
  • Hamilton.
  • The Sun Magazine: some of the best non-fiction, short fiction, and reporting I’ve enjoyed in a long time.
  • The Bobs. I’m heartsick that they are embarking on a farewell tour, but will move mountains to see them.
  • Austin Kleon has unbuckled my approach to work and his newsletter is one of the few I will open immediately upon its arrival in my inbox.
  • The 48-piece Ferrero Rocher box my brilliant husband got me for the holidays. I’m honestly surprised they’ve lasted this long. I’m also surprised I still fit into my pants.

Sometimes you find the art in the negative space.


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