Wednesday, September 13, 2017

From Chaos to Calm: How I am Learning to Organize My Writing and My Life


My long-time writing partner Corey occasionally surprises me with a comment like, "You're so organized!" This is usually in reference to me having miraculously dug up a long-forgotten email from an editor or a very early draft of an old picture book manuscript.

But here's the thing: I'm not really organized. I'm just really good at finding things.

Just ask my kids. One of them once gave me a certificate officially naming me "Finder of Things." I can find a minuscule Lego piece in our mini van. I can find a random scrap of paper with my husband's vacation schedule on it. And I can (usually) find an email from 2006 that contains feedback on a manuscript that I haven't thought of in years.

But, organized? Ha. I can't even keep my desk organized for a week straight.

I have a stack of miscellaneous to-be-filed papers sitting on top of the printer (I move it whenever I need to make a copy of something). I have piles of random scrap paper filled with jottings that I'm afraid I'll forget. My desktop computer is decorated with sticky notes of varied colors with everything from passwords to notes about manuscripts.

For years, I've only been as organized as I've had to be. I've had a system--if you can call it that--that's worked. Sort of.

But life as a published author has made me realize that I need to be more efficient. And to be more efficient, I need to be more organized.

So, I've gradually been making changes. Last year I purchased a planner to help me organize social media posts. Using it has helped me be more consistent and less messy.

But I needed some way to organize my LIFE. It seemed that no matter how purposeful I tried to be with reminders and the calendar on my iPad (and the pile of notes on my desk), my life was still organized chaos.

Then I discovered the idea of bullet journaling.

I have always loved journaling. I've got junk journals, art journals, sketch books, poetry journals, and too many composition notebooks to remember. I love writing things down. I love sketching, doodling, and experimenting with paint and collage. So when I started seeing "bullet journal" ideas popping up on my favorite Pinterest and Instagram feeds, I was intrigued. I was impressed. And then, I was a little intimidated. But the journaler in me overrode my doubt, so I started clicking on posts titled "bullet journaling for the beginner," and those eventually led me to where it all started: bulletjournal.com. Seeing the efficiency of the bullet journal in its simplest form opened a new world to me!

I started my own bullet journal in early August, and it has changed my life. It's helped me plan ahead and organize my days, remember important dates and events, keep track of writing projects, plan family meals, and so much more. It's my daily to-do list, my reading log, my idea notebook. I even have a spread for Christmas gift ideas. It's all organized and relatively neat. And amazingly, it works. Even for me, the queen of (as my sister once said) Organized Clutter.

Why does this work so well for me where other attempts have failed? I think it's because of two things. One, it's tactile. I can hold it, write in it, flip through its pages. And two, it gives me room to be as creative as I want. I can doodle in it, try fancy lettering, use sharpies or colored pencils. I don't feel restricted or overwhelmed; I feel creatively empowered! And that is an amazing thing.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the "organized clutter" in your life? Maybe a bullet journal could work for you too!

2 comments:

  1. Ha! I am very organized BECAUSE I am a terrible finder. :)
    I love bullet journaling, too! I've kept a version of a bullet journal for years, but once they "took off," I got so many good ideas for how to improve it! (Like an actual weekly calendar spread, instead of my jotted notes for the week...) It also helps to make it pretty! :)

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    Replies
    1. I love putting together my weekly spread. I love that they are pretty and purposeful (isn't that a fun combination?).

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