Friday, December 18, 2015

A Writer meets the "Planner" World -- Filofax, Midori Travelers' Notebook, Hobonichi, Bullet Journal

"Plan," to me, has always been a dreaded, 4-letter word!  I just don't plan, like to plan, or enjoy planning.  This has been the cause of some consternation and complications in my life, to be sure.  I don't know if it's the artist in me, the Aquarian birth sign, growing up the youngest child in my family, or what, but planning has always felt like a restriction.  If something gets "planned," then it feels like something I am obligated to do and I immediately want to rebel against doing that thing on that day at that particular time -- just out of principle!

This is not to say, of course, that I never make plans or keep them.  Books under contract, obviously, have deadlines a writer must meet, and I have met them.  If you value family or friendship, you must agree to meet at certain times or make other plans to enjoy time together or be there for these people you care about when they need you.  If you have a job outside the home, you have to plan ahead for many tasks involved in that employment, including getting up early enough to get yourself to wherever the job takes place!  Plans happen, and plans get fulfilled.

However, to make a conscious effort of setting up calendars, notebooks, etc. for the chief purpose of planning out one's days, weeks, months, years, activities, and tasks has seemed like a drudgery beyond anything I would ever want to put any more energy toward than is required.  It would certainly not be anything I'd ever consider doing for fun!

I still pretty much feel that way, but browsing on the Internet (as one does when perhaps avoiding some "planned" task that one should be attending to instead!), I have come across a community of artisans, craftspeople, and enthusiasts who like the mechanisms of planning.  These folks relish calendars, pens and notebooks, etc.  Called "planners," the books these people buy, trade, and work in take on various configurations.

Surprisingly to me, I have found that I share some interests with these kinds of "planner people."  To get to the point -- they love stationery, and I do, too!  The hassle of grocery shopping, for example, has always been helped a bit for me by taking a quick stroll through the small books and stationery section in the grocery store.  Like all writers I know, I frequent bookstores and stationery stores wherever I can find them and haunt websites for these places all the time.  To find other people, who are not necessarily writers, but who share the passion for ink and paper, notebooks, and stationery supplies, etc. has been an unexpected and pleasant experience.

There are various kinds of "planner" books.  Many crafters work in them to create modified scrapbooks of their lives.  They decorate the pages and create keepsakes out of them.  Other forms of these books are what writers such as myself would call more specifically, journals.  Crafters may decorate these as well, but in these they also record thoughts, happenings, creative ideas, stories, etc.  It is a pleasure indeed to find people returning to paper and ink over the speed and invisible existence of electronic technology -- to value the recording of their thoughts, ideas, etc. on paper, BY HAND.  Warms the heart to read about their passion and watch videos of them sharing their excitement!

The book pictured above is what is called a travelers' notebook in the Midori style.  Bascially, it is a simple flat cover wrapped around several little notebooks held together inside with elastic cords and held together on the outside with another elastic band.  The sizes of these "TN" (Travelers' Notebooks -- or "MTN" for the Midori brand of these) vary, but this one is the traditional "narrow" size -- roughly about 5" x 8".

I traveled with a travelers' notebook like this one recently from the U.S. to the U.K.  It fits easily in the hand, even while dragging luggage with the other hand.  It doesn't take up as much space on a table in a restaurant or café when one is eating and writing alone as a wider notebook does.  The irregular height vs. width ratio still gives a fair amount of room for writing on each page.

What you lack in width gets made up a little in the height.  Having more than one notebook bound under one cover can be a writer's dream -- different projects, types of notes, etc. can be separated by notebook.  There are typically not as many pages per little book as a writer might prefer, but that could be helped by finding a notebook that fits the size but has more pages and just using that inside the cover, or perhaps with just one other small notebook or folder for loose paper in there besides.

Not sure yet how long I will use this (I like to call my process "organic" -- pretty much the opposite of how a true planner person might like to work!), but I'm really liking the "TN" format right now.  Currently, I have 5 little notebooks (or what are called "inserts") in mine + a file folder and plastic zipper pouch for stationery accessories.  There is a built-in pen loop.  The loop is a little large for the pen I currently like to use in this set of books, but I solved that by adding another pen to help fill the gap.

Each of the 5 notebooks serves a different purpose in my current creative process and practice on-the-go.  To carry small notebooks with different purposes all in a pack like this is enjoyable, indeed.  It solves the problem I used to have putting a small notebook in my bag -- when I had some time to work with some ideas while out, the little notebook in my bag always seemed like the wrong one I wanted to work in at the time.

So, we shall see!

I am also experimenting with other journal, calendar, or notes formats such as a Japanese brand like Hobonichi, ringed binders such as Filofaxes, and a concept called the Bullet Journal (bascially, a notebook of dotted lists -- no guns involved!) with which one can use a notebook without a pre-printed layout.  Rather than use the calendar sections of these much for planning beyond the obvious, I've been finding them useful for what I call "tracking" instead -- not what is coming up so much, or planning for things on certain days that I will likely do on different days! -- but rather to track what has already happened, to help remember when something last happened, perhaps things I'd like to track on a regular basis, etc.

Will let you know how I'm getting along with these in future posts.

Thank you to all the planners, bloggers, stationery enthusiasts, etc. who share their journeys on the Internet.  As a writer, non-planner, stationery enthusiast (ha!), I'm enjoying reading and viewing your pages, drawings, decorations, pictures, ideas, and videos and will continue to watch, read, and learn from you!