Category Archives: Reflection

An Updated PigPog PDA

This post is written by Lenore, one third of the 3 woman team that makes up the awesome RSVP Stationery Podcast. You can listen to Lenore talk stationery to you over here. You could also enroll at the University where she teaches chemistry if you really want to know more about the elements that make up the world around us. You can hang out in the RSVP stationery podcast Facebook group and learn even more about stationery!

My history with to-do lists and pocket notebooks has been a messy one. Like most of us, I often have lots of little personal tasks that need doing, some on a timeline, some not, along with tasks for my work including big jobs, small jobs, and big jobs that are made up of lots of small jobs. I’ve dabbled with various organization and productivity systems in the past, but have usually fallen back on some combination of a desk pad, a stack of index cards, a pocket notebook, or random scraps of paper, none of them organized in any intentional way.

So when I read Less’s post last week about her planner setup, [ed note this is from 2006 and unearthed when we were talking about OLD school GTD methods on RSVP.} there were three main components of it that leapt out at me and made the difference:

(1)    The 4-page arrangement: two facing pages for lists, and the next two pages for random whatever. I needed this. One of my problems has always been the fact that there’s a combination of action items and random thoughts needing to be corralled, and like siblings in the back of a station wagon on a 13-hour road trip, these don’t play well together unless some thought is put into making space for them.

(2)    The concept of marking things off *or moving them forward.* I don’t know why this had never occurred to me before as a formal part of a system; it always felt like cheating to mark something off one list and move it to another, but of course, it’s brilliant, because it keeps everything where you only have to look at one display, rather than checking back.

(3)    Dropping in one vertical line for the margin, to check things off as they’re dealt with.

Of course, her setup, and the PigPog planner setup from which it’s adapted offer so much more than this. I was going to go the whole way, setting up my new notebook with sticky flags in the front, dedicated pages for various tasks, etc etc, but then it was four days after I had initially read her description and I still had no place to write down the first action item, which was, “Go back to Less’s blog post and set up planner.” So I realized that I needed to just take the very minimum components and get it going.

My setup is as basic as it gets: a dot grid No-Brand pocket notebook with a date in the front and my name and phone number in the back; 

the first set of facing pages marked with margins and separated into four to-do lists;

and the second set of facing pages marked as “idea pages”. 

Because of the weird way my first day went, the “idea pages” didn’t get any play, while the to-do list pages were nearly full. But that’s ok because I just leapfrogged over to the third set of pages for my next set of lists. It was fine.

Less’s setup has dates in the margins for when jobs need to be completed; I rarely need this feature, since I have a sense of the necessary timeline for most of my tasks, and can naturally prioritize them in an appropriate way when I have them all laid out in front of me. And since the number of tasks I’m recording is small enough for me to have an idea where most of them are in terms of progress, I don’t need the dot-slash-X-circle kinds of codes a lot of systems use. For me, a check mark indicating completion is usually plenty. Similarly, I don’t need color-coded inks (and indeed this would be an impediment to my using the system, since I don’t normally carry a variety of writing materials.) For me, it was really critical to give myself permission to write—and check off—with literally whatever is handy to write with.  (This is another point in favor of the pocket notebook, since I often feel pressure to match the ink and use good handwriting in a “nice” journal.) In my initial setup, I was thinking of three categories of jobs, but of course I didn’t allocate exactly the right amount of space for them so I ended up with some messiness when the longest list slopped into the next available space. Also, four lists is a more appropriate breakdown for me, if I’m going to use a single notebook for work and personal lists together. On my second set of to-do lists, I fixed that by starting two lists on the same page, one from the top line down, the other from the bottom line up. I left a space between them when they approached in the middle, and I still had to slop one list over to another area, but at least it was only one. Oh, and here’s one of my revlations: when the pages started filling up with jobs, and then the margins started filling up with check marks, and I found myself staring down the barrel of opening a new page of to-do lists…I was reluctant to copy some of those jobs over. They were such little things, it really seemed like I should just do them instead of carrying them to the next list. I should just…do them…oh. I should just do them. Oh, yeah. I don’t know why it took me that long to catch on, I mean the point of a to-do list is to remind me to do things, but before starting this system, I was perfectly happy to let those jobs just sort of languish on an old list. I mean, I knew I needed to do them sometime, but…well, they were on my list, weren’t they? But now I have to put up or shut up. The day this dawned on me, I completed several small tasks that would normally have just fallen off the end of the day, again and again.

I use a few other adaptations that I haven’t noticed in other places (apologies if I’ve appropriated ideas without credit):

  1. For tasks that include several small sub-tasks, I often combine them on a single line, with spaces for check marks after each sub-task. Then when the whole series is done I can mark it off in the margin. For example, for an exam that has to be scored, the line might have:

“E1: Score___ Total___  Alphabetize___ Scan____ Collate____ Record____.”

Then if I need to move part of this to a new list, it might become

“E1: Collate___ Record___”

or just “Record E1.” (b)  I do use the PigPog method of keeping a sticky flag on the first page that still has active jobs listed on it. However I also literally mark across a page with a slash mark when everything on that page has been completed or moved. It helps me get over the uneasy feeling that I might be missing something.

(c) For other needs that come up, I just start from the back of the book and use space as needed. Quotes, meeting notes, ink tests, drawings my daughter does when I’m trying to distract her at a restaurant, etc. Most of the things I might need to do in a pocket notebook are sporadic and unpredictable enough that I don’t need to invest mental capital in setting them up when I start a new book. The top consideration for me is low startup costs. The best planner is the one you’ll use, and my experience is that if I have to do a lot of organizational work before I can start my organizational work, I’ll close that loop by never doing any of it (and I’ll be back to a pile of index cards, a random scattering of pocket notebooks filling simultaneously, and a lot of dropped balls and missed deadlines.)  (d) When I have a task that really has to happen pretty quick, particularly if it’s a kind of task that is outside my normal workflow (I’m lookin’ at you, insurance open enrollment period), I put a circle in the margin (with or without a date) to draw my eye every time I open the book. [Pic 8]

So, the tl;dr: new notebook; margin lines slashed in on outside edges of first two pages and date at the top (total setup time <30 sec); four categories of tasks, one category at the top and one at the bottom of each page; markthrough of entry and check mark in margin on completion of a task. A set of dedicated pages immediately after list pages for whatever brain dump/ephemera/info that needs to be captured and transferred elsewhere. A plan to use pages starting from the back for anything I need to use them for. Permission to be messy.

 

Professional Shades of Blue

At some point someone somewhere decided that the only colors of ink that are acceptably professional* are blue and black. Red is occasionally acceptable in some contexts- like accounts receivable, editing, and other jobs where a mark must be immediately recognizable. I’ve read a myriad of reasons why blue and black are the acceptable professional colors from photocopy-ability to price to general opinion. Sadly, the general opinion seems to be that black and blue ink are professional and others are not.

My workplace is one which states somewhere that we can only use black and blue ink on any official document. This translates to using blue or black ink only, as everything I fill out becomes part of the official file and the only thing that can be tossed are occasional notes to myself and scratch paper. Honestly as much as I’d like to whip out a pen loaded with Diamine Chocolat to take notes while I’m on the phone it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to cart around a fountain pen loaded with ink just for scrap notes, not to mention that the Diamine Chocolate would feather and bleed on all the paper in the building, so I”d then have to bring in a notepad just for that pen. It just doesn’t make sense.

I set out to find some blue and blue-black inks that are professional and worked on the fibery, rough, absorbent paper in my office.

1 Zebra Sarasa Indigo/Navy

Depending on where you purchase your Sarasa pens this pen will be labeled either indigo or navy. I like Indigo better so I’ll use that throughout the review. This pen is a deep dark purple tinged blue black. It’s warm and a really nice dark shade of blue. The bonus is that the Sarasa refill flows well, is smooth, and works from the moment you peel off the little waxy ball to the moment the ink is gone. The gel ink also works well on the cheap office paper. I’ve bought a bunch of these.

2 Zebra Sarasa Cobalt/Blue Gray/ Slate Blue

Zebra really needs to work on their naming conventions and stick to the same name across the brand or even within the same line. The standard Sarasa in this color is officially named Cobalt. Which is hilarious because it doesn’t even come close to looking like cobalt in any way shape or form. Their standard blue should be named cobalt. This shade of blue is more of a dusky gray blue, which is what it is called in the “vintage” series of Sarasa Clip pens. I just call it Slate Blue which is what I call all blue gray ink pens. So from here on out this is Slate Blue.

Slate blue is very sedate. You’d think that because it is gray tinged that it would be pale or faded looking, it has a good balance of blue to gray and stands out quite well on the page. In some lights this pen has a hint of green to it, but in most it just looks blue. This pen has occasional issues with the fax or photocopier. It is still legible but all the copies I’ve made of forms filled out with this ink are faded.

3 Paperhate Inkjoy Slate Blue

This is another deep dark blue. There is a hint of teal or green in some lights but I’ve not had any complaints about this color. I suspect that because unless you are looking at it next to other shades of blue it just looks like dark blue or an attempt at blue-black. I’m not going to gush about the Inkjoy, go read this if you want to read all about the wonder of the Inkjoy.

4 Zebra Sarasa Blue

This blue is bright, vibrant, and stands out on the page. It leans toward the warm purpley side of blue. Honestly, I’m not a fan of this shade. It reminds me of Noodler’s Bay State Blue in intensity and color. Maybe a shade or two darker, but it’s got that sort of pop on the page. It would kill or stain your pen though, so bonus?

5 Pentel Energel Blue

A good standard shade of blue. It photocopies well and is visible on all forms I’ve used it on. Boring but decent blue.

6 Pilot G2 Blue

I list this because the G2 performs really well on all forms of cheap paper. It’s a nice standard blue too. Boring, but it’s blue.

Continue reading

Writing Process Examined

After NaNoWriMo I decided to start my next novel and continue writing by hand. Thus far I’ve written 66,600 words across 4 Yoobi composition books and used only graphite. The Yoobi books are significantly smoother in texture than the Norcom and Roaring Springs Comp books I used for NaNo. The tactile feel is substantially different, and I’m really enjoying the feel. I began writing on February 26th (this writing is initially being done on 3/31) so I’ve done a substantial amount of writing in the last 30 days. In fact I reached 50,000 words after only 20 days.

Pencils used in writing.

My work schedule has settled down to my working most days after 2pm until about 7pm with longer days here and there. I’ve had to revamp when I write. In the past I had a strict no media- reading, TV, movies, art, or writing before work. I’m prone to getting into the flow and not knowing what time it is, and have been late to work in the past. Now that I’m working afternoons and evenings, that just doesn’t work. If I’m up at 10am I need to be able to work before work otherwise I waste most of my day, because I’m often fried after work.

I’ve set alarms on my phone to alert me to about a half hour before I need to leave, and then again when I need to get out of the house so I won’t be late. The 30 minutes allows me to jot down my thoughts for the scene and where I’m thinking it will go on  a sticky note as well as wrap up the thought. It also gives me enough time to pack my bag and grab a snack. I listen to podcasts on my way to work that help me to disengage from the creative process and get into the right mode for work. (Erasables, Myth and Legend, I Should be Writing, Art Supply Posse, etc)

After work I often find I need some down time to unwind. While writing is helpful in helping me to unwind I find that reading something can be more helpful in shifting from work mind to creative mind. I often read and listen to music for an hour or so after work. Occasionally I watch TV, but I find that many of the TV shows that I’ve been watching tend to aggravate me more than relax me.* I tend to save up 3 or 4 episodes of any one show and then watch them all in one day.

Often after reading for a few hours I’ll hit up the novel again and get a few more pages down. Sometimes I don’t get to it. I’ve learned not to beat myself up if I can’t write after work or skip a day. After all, I won NaNo once, and I’m currently crushing the number of words I did in NaNo 2016. I can do it even if I take days off. So a day or two off here and there is no big deal, hell, I am now looking at it as a needed rest for my brain. The other side of that is that just because I’m not writing doesn’t mean that I’m not thinking about the novel. I’m a fan of the idea that sometimes the brain needs downtime to noodle through thoughts and figure out the sticky bits. Sometimes the downtime is needed reflective time.

So while yes the adage of “apply ass to chair” is a good one, sometimes the brain needs time to reflect without the pressure of the pencil/pen/keyboard. So long as you get the ass back into the chair after a day or two- even if it is to work on a different project, and you aren’t using the downtime to avoid the writing, the I think it’s all good.

Continue reading

Sunday Study: The Perfection of the Paper Clip

All my stationery nerd friends said, “Read this book, you’ll love it.” Well, I have and I don’t.

When I spot a factual error in a book it makes me question all other information held as facts in the book. The first factual error I found was on page 26 where Ward states that reed pens are “filled by pouring ink into the top of the pen.” Apparently Ward has never used a reed pen because this is  hilariously wrong. Reed pens are dip pens. You soak some reed pens (bamboo) in water before use to activate the capillaries in the bamboo, but even still they are still dip pens. They function similarly to quill and steel dip nibs.. You dip them in ink. After this point I was left wondering what else was wrong.

In the section about Moleskines he writes that the “first” time a moleskine was labeled as “Made in China” was only after the company had been purchased by SGCapital in 2013. I suspect this may be a typo and he meant 2003, which was certainly before Modo e Modo was purchased. Further I remember the online uproar the “Made in China” label created. I remember my first “Made in China” Moleskine. I got that Moleskine long before 2013. In fact 2013 is long after I’d given up using Moleskines due to quality control issues. It is true that the Moley had always been made in China, and had previously been labeled, “Designed in Italy.” Further I have some issues with his “historical” facts of small-m moleskines. Yes there was one Parisian supplier that sold those made by someone Chatwin loved, but moleskines are a style of small pocketable notebooks- not just the one sold in that one shop. Rather, moleskine was used to describe all manner of small pocketable notebooks covered in oil cloth and were available all over Europe.

After this point I began to hate read the book. The section on pencils is quite good, though I’m reticent to take anything he’s written as factual given the previous factual errors. The section on King’s The Dark Half may not be totally accurate.

Ward’s humor is not funny to me. He tries really hard to be pithy and funny but often his jokes fall flat. Where Rees has deadpan down pat Ward’s attempt at humor fall flat and scratching my head, wondering how did he think that was funny? I got what he was trying to say, I just never found the humor in what he had written. Frankly, Ward’s writing style bores me. I’ve read many of the books on his reference list, and while those are boring they are far more informative than Ward’s book and because the writing was solid, well researched and informative with out wannabe pithy commentary, they were good.

I’m sorry, but The Perfection of the Paper Clip is anything but perfect, and I can’t even say it’s good. I’m not including an Amazon link for this one. just because I tortured myself doesn’t mean you should too.

Sunday Study: Writing Down the Bones

I’m not sure how Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones has escaped my attention. I was published back in 1986 and chapter 1 is a blueprint for every writing with a stationery affliction to delve deeper into that affliction.

For 32 years Goldberg has suggested to readers that they find a pen that lets them write fast on  cheap paper that they feel they can write garbage on. Interestingly, without ever reading this book this is advice I’ve given to journalers who have taken my classes- get journals that you will use- that you feel okay slopping paint into, spilling ink onto the pages, a journal where you won’t worry about making mistakes, one where you’ll feel okay simply turning the page. Goldberg adds a snippet at the end of chapter 1 about use of a voice recorder, something even more applicable today when most of us with smart (or even semi smart) phones carry in our pockets. The section about using a computer word processor is pretty cute in that it was written in ’86 when typewriters were the norm. I do wonder what she would say about talk-to-text? 

It’s interesting to think about the pens and pencils we like and why we like them. Goldberg mentions a pen being speedy and allowing her to record her thoughts quickly lest her mind out pace her hand. How many times have we had a thought about something we’d like to write or journal about only to forget it once we get pen to paper?

Goldberg encourages reader to really deeply think about which pen and paper combination allows them to write freely. I see this as a direct outcropping of her Zen meditation practice. For anyone who has practiced mindfulness writing can be a form, but also focusing on the feeling of pencil or pen on page can really bring about a sense of calm, and that can be channelled into the writing of the novel or into the journaling itself.

As a for instance. I’m a fan of rougher paper when writing with pencils. I love the feeling of pencil across the toothy page of a cheap composition notebook. In opposition, my friend Dee of The Weekly Pencil likes  smooth paper with her pencils, like Maruman. Alternatively, I like a smooth page for my fountain pens. I like the skating sensation of the nib across the page. Knowing these things about what we like can encourage us to delve deeper into our SABLE stash of materials and actually use them for their intended purpose- writing and arting.

 

How Much is TOO Much?

I’ve been in this holding pattern of knowing I have enough notebooks and journals to last me for the next several years. I haven’t bought a new edition of Field Notes in quite some time.* I’ve traded and sold some off but felt no need to buy more.  My use pattern is pretty stable. I generally go through 1.5 per month, occasionally less, occasionally more. I use them in the same way every time. I’m a user and not a collector. I’ve blathered on and on about my feeling that the bottom of the Field Notes collectable market is going to drop at some point and the only editions to be worth any money will be the early editions. I still hold to that belief and I still point to Beanie Babies as an example of how this can happen.

Anyway, I was vaguely aware that Field Notes had raise the price of their colors editions and collaborations. Apparently they vary from around $13 to $14. Especially interesting is that the L.L. Bean edition is on the higher end and costs $14 per 3-pack. The Carhart was around $13, adding taxes and what not it was around $15. So if you order them online you are also going to pay shipping. The cost is going to be even higher.  At $14 that’s $4.67 per notebook. At $13 that’s $4.33 per notebook.

Fourteen bucks is too high for pocket notebooks. I don't care if they are special/limited editions. Stupid. #imout

A post shared by LC Harper (@originallcharper) on

What is the cost of production of a notebook? It varies based off of the scale of production. If I sit down with a ream of HP LaserJet 24# paper ($9.50 at Amazon) and a stack of Neehah Astrobright Eclipse Black Cardstock ($7.64 at Amazon). I have a total of $17.14 invested. I can make 41 notebooks from the 500 sheets of paper and the cardstock. Without factoring in staples, a long reach stapler or my time. I’m looking at each notebook costing 42 cents.

Thinking about the time that it takes to staple, fold, trim, and check for quality; I know I can make quite a few of these in an hour. I spent 15 minutes stapling and folding 8 full sized Traveler’s notebook inserts. Trimming took another minute. That means in one hour I can possibly churn out 30 hand stapled and trimmed notebooks. Pocket sized notebooks take slightly longer because they are smaller and require 2 cuts instead of just one. So I can also make roughly 30 pocket notebooks in an hour.

If I charge $1.50 per notebook I’m making roughly $1 gross per notebook. Some of that money must be used for administrative fees- paying Etsy and Paypal- we’ll roughly estimate that at 50 cents. so I’m down to 50 cents of profit per notebook. Which leaves me making roughly $15 per hour for my labor. If I charge $2 per notebook, then I’m making roughly $30 an hour for my labor.

This does not factor in time spent packing and shipping items to people.

The examples given above are using relatively inexpensive papers and covers by an individual person. If I were to buy a case of the HP LaserJet paper it would bring the cover down dramatically. The more paper I buy the cheaper it is. Further if I automate the production it gets even cheaper and cheaper.

I digress. Smart shopping means that the bookbinder can find deals and make their own pocket notebooks at a fraction of the price of Field Notes. as someone who has made and sold handmade notebooks in the past I’m rather appalled that the corporate collaborations with Field Notes are $14 a pack. It’s not like FN is doing a great deal of design work here. Every corporation has a “Look Book” or “Design Bible” that details the colors, color combinations, fonts to use, and how the logo can be used. The first LLBean books are LLBean colors and camo over dirt standard Field Notes. The Carhart books are the Carhart logo exploded out and in Carhart colors, with an admittedly cool back cover**. All this stuff would come straight out of the corporate look books. The first LLBean books could have been farted out by anyone with adobe and a mockup of the Field Notes covers. $14 is too much for little more than a kraft notebook with a fresh coat of paint.

With the price hike I submit to you that Field Notes has jumped the shark and diverted far from their initial inspiration. After all the inspiration was promotional notebooks that were often given away free with the purchase of goods. Instead Field Notes and their Corporate Collaborators are now making the consumer pay for the notebooks, at a premium price.

Continue reading

Comparison of Sharpeners: Long Point

Here’s a little reference of points produced by long point sharpeners.

Included are:

  • Carl Angel-5
  • KUM  Automatic Long Point
  • KUM  5L or Stenographer
  • KUM Masterpiece
  • Apsara Long Point

These are all sharpened on a #2/HB Ticonderoga of som sort. The natural wooden pencil in the various pics is a factory sharpened General’s Cedar Pointe #1

 

In Defense of the Humble Pilot G2

I’ve railed against the Pilot G2 in the past. It blobs. It skips. It smears. It isn’t waterproof nor is it lightfast. It is everything I don’t like in a pen that I draw or sketch with, in fact it is horrible for either of the 2 purposes in which I usually use a pen. I’ve never understood the popularity of the Pilot G2, until I began my current DayJob*.

The DayJob require black or blue ink, and black ink on particular documents as some sort of herald to professionalism and for perceived legal reasons. I’ve blown through an astonishing number of black gel ink pens in the last 6 months in a search for the best of the best. What really blows my mind is how fast some of the gel pens were consumed. One of these days I must log the number of pages I’ve written/signed/filled out with each pen. I’ve used Papermate Gel InkJoy, Zebra Sarasa, Uniball Jetstream, Uniball Signo, Staples 0.5 Stick Gel pens, and the Pilot G2. All with black ink.

I loved all of them.

The DayJob uses the finest cheapest of all the available Staples recycled papers. It is as absorbent as a Brawny paper towel. In fact I’ve used it to mop up spilled coffee in the past. The InkJoy glides over the page like butter on a hot griddle. The Sarasa writes and writes without skipping or blobbing. The Uniball pens performed flawlessly, writing page after page without skipping or blobs- silk smooth on the page.

The Pilot G2 has surprised me and has become my go to gel pen for this cheap absorbent paper. Unlike all the other pens I’ve used it doesn’t absorb into the paper, it sits on the surface of the cheap paper. The pen still glides smoothly, less smoothly than the InkJoy or the Sarasa, but still smooth enough to be enjoyable. What really sold me on the G2 is it’s longevity when compared to the other gel ink pens. Most of the other pens lasted roughly a week to two weeks. The G2 in heavy use lasted three plus weeks.** Given the amount that I write in my job, that is a huge amount of time. It’s also nearly double the time of most of the other pens used.

I cannot believe that I’m going to write this, the Pilot G2 is the superior gel ink pen if you are writing on super cheap absorbent paper. It’s not quite as smooth as the others mentioned here but it writes for much much longer. This is enough for me to purchase a package of my own 

Continue reading

NaNoWriMo 2016

This year I participated, and won NaNoWriMo. If you don’t know about Nano, the idea is that people sit down during November and write 50,000 words. That’s 1667 words per day, every day, for 30 days. Phew.Early

I’ve tried to do Nano many times and always failed. I had excuses- too busy with work, the holidays, travel for the holidays, work around the holidays included 12 and 16 hours shifts. All of that is true, and it makes it really really hard to sit down and write, let alone creatively write on any of those days. In fact, sometimes all I wanted after those hard and horrible work days was to plunk my butt down in front of the TV and vegetate. Frankly, in the past that is what I did.img_20161129_185013

So what was different this year? Well first I decided to write everything by hand- pencil, pen and paper. Second, I don’t have the same job I used to have- my schedule is still chaotic but I carved out time every day to write. Third, On days I had more time, I wrote more. I padded my numbers when I could. I had several days where I wrote between 2000 and 3000 words.  Finally, I decided I was going to win.img_20161120_174950

Let’s address these points one by one, writing by hand is not easy but it offers a tactile experience which I think I crave when drafting a piece of writing. I’ve almost always written drafts of my blog posts, papers, and other writing with pencil, pen, and paper. This is what feels natural and works for me. Even this post has the bones of it written in my pocket notebook. Not the full post, but the ideas I’m hitting, pencil and pocket notebook. After I get the idea drafted I then type it up, mostly without looking at the paper draft. Occasionally I’ll reference it as I write, but especially for shorter pieces like this, I find no need to refer back to the notebook. I’m sure that if and when I type the novel, I’ll be referring to the notebook more often. Or I’ll go through and make an outline of the major chapters and events and work off that.

The work schedule is still chaotic, but it’s much more of a managed chaos. Further my commute home is not panic inducing- I don’t have to be on a congested highway, often I can drive through beautiful rural scenery, so it’s actually relaxing. Oddly enough, my schedule this year included a lot of travel in November for family events and killed those days for writing. I also had to work extended hours the week of turkey day to meet my hourly requirements. So my actual work days were all over the place and the hours worked extended more so than in October. Nothing like the 12 to 16 hours days I worked 10 years ago, but not far from it. Combine the more regular hours with a shorter commute and I suddenly have an extra hour a day.img_20161116_231854

When I had time I wrote more. If I found I had a spare 10 or 15 minutes, I scrawled down 100 words, or even a sentence. 10 to 15 minutes here and there add up to an hour over the course of a day. I had several days where I wrote 2000 to 3000 words and a few days where I wrote more than 3000 words. This was key to success. I had 2 days where I was sick and literally got down only 180 words each of those days. Also on the days where I was traveling, I had only 900 words or so. Being able to write more on days where I had the time was crucial.

Last, I decided I was going to win. In years past I had already decided before I had failed that I was going to fail. I am horrible at month long daily challenges. I failed at NaNoJoMo (November is National Journaling Month) and every other monthly challenge I’ve tried. This isn’t hyperbole, I cannot commit to doing something everyday. I just can’t. You might say, “But, Less, you JUST did!” The thing is I didn’t. I setup my Nano so that I wouldn’t have to write every day. I made sure I had WAY more words in the beginning to give myself extra words so that I wouldn’t have to write on days if I didn’t feel like it. And on those days (2 of them) I wrote exactly one page. I forced myself to do so, even though I hated it whole I did it, and grumbled the whole time. But I decided that I would win and DAMN IT I was gonna win.

So what did I learn from this experience? First off, I CAN write 50,000 words in a month. Writing 50,000 words in a month is hard damn work. Not only is it hard work, but it’s physically demanding work. I wrote over 3000 words 2 days in a row and then had to fill out several 10 page assessments at work, my wrist is still in pain, in fact I had to do several smaller days and take frequent breaks after that, simply to rest my wrist. Because carpal tunnel and inflamed shit in your wrists and hands hurts like whoa! Especially WHOA when you are writing more than usual.  I learned that I cannot do 2000- 3000 words a day on the regular, but I can do less than a 1000.

The experience has shown me that despite my misgivings I CAN do a daily challenge so long as I pad my results so I can take days where I work less than others. I write a lot pretty regularly. Generally I write quite a bit for the blog, and discard it, at one point I was probably producing 1500 words a day for this blog, and never publishing them. I have FILES AND FILES of blogs posts that never developed past an idea. I’ve got notebooks full of idea seeds that never germinated. But this month I pushed out a 50,040 word draft that can use another 100,000 words to complete and be a finished novel. Frankly thought what I’ve written thus far needs a lot of work, it is a first draft of something that COULD be more. That is huge for my writterly self esteem.

Frankly I think when you boil the experience of NaNoWriMo down to it’s core, it’s all about gaining self esteem as a writer. Sure it’s been said (over and over) that to write a good book you need to write a lot, everyday and fail at writing until finally you figure out what you are doing. And by gosh, I think I’m getting it now. Maybe I have a long ways to go before I’m not just a blogging hack, but hey, I’m on that road now.

SSS: Writing as a Way of Healing

Writing as a Way of Healing by Louse  DeSalvo, was required reading in my bibliotherapy class, and it’s well worth the piddly amount I spent to buy it and the amount of time I spent reading. (Seriously the ‘Zon has it for a mere 70 cents right now.) It focuses on writing, and specifically the Pennebaker Paradigm* (PP.) The basic idea with the PP is that you write for a set period of time about something that bothers you. You do the same thing for a day or two, telling a story- with a beginning, middle, and end; and eventually you find some relief from your depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc…  There’s a been a great deal of research into the PP, and I won’t bore you with the details but the gist of it is that if you can tell a coherent story about the thing that bothers you (that beginning, middle and end are important) you start to feel better. The PP is used to back up a great deal of the support out there for journaling as a healing tool.writinghealing

The chapter I chose to look closely at for this SSS was Chapter 3, “Writing as a Therapeutic Process.” It’s a good one to look at because it delves quite deeply into the desire to write and how damaging it is to not write if you really feel the need to do so. This, also applies to making art. If someone really feels a great drive to make art but they leave behind “childish things” in favor of work and other adult pursuits, they are leaving their creative self unfulfilled. A journal maybe a tiny drop in the bucket of creativity, but it is a necessary outlet, no matter if it is written or art based. One of the most interesting bits in this chapter is the various accounts from writers who used writing as a way to heal themselves.

Sadly, this chapter also flogs the age old untruth that “creativity comes from pain.” Yes, many people who have experienced some sort of traumatic event or pain in their life are creative people but also there are many people who are creative who have not experienced trauma. It really does a disservice to the community of creatives to portray us all as “broken” people who create out of desperate need. Perhaps this is an unfair critique of a book where the entire premise is based on “writing as healing” but frankly, it’s tiring to read the lame trope that artists are damaged. Yes, pain can bring about wonderful creative works, but pain does not beget creativity. Rather, creativity is a salve for wounds. This, I think, is what DeSalvo is attempting to get at by writing about pain and creativity, but sadly misses the mark with the blanket statements about creativity and pain.

The rest of the book is well worth the effort to read and delve into, though it is about novel writing, much of it’s contents also relate to visual journaling. Telling a story is telling a story regardless of how the story is told- through images or words or some combination of the two.

Next week, I’m going to review an old favorite, How to Make a Journal of Your Life, by Dan Price.

Continue reading