Prior Attempts to Create a Writer’s Notebook
Tis true: every failure provides a step on the road to ultimate success! My previous woeful writer notebooks schooled me: a disorganized notebook frustrates, obliterating focus while awakening (inner critic) Poindexter. To starve that fool, I devoted time on the front end, to produce a notebook yielding what I want when I need it, in a fluid manner. My intention? Rapid in-&-out lookups, keeping my concentration intact throughout editing /revision sessions.
Background, for Context
I tossed assorted lists and entries into a once-archived 2017 A6 Hobonichi Techo Planner, dubbing the final product my Writer’s Bullet Journal. With little time expended for organizing structure, overall scheme, or the contents, the predictable transpired. Succinctly → lotsa luck TRYing to find THAT entry.
Serendipity hit during mid-August, courtesy of Hobonichi’s drip-drip daily announcements of its 2020 lineup. Among the goodies: a Weeks with a cover guaranteed to set this bird photographer’s heart aflutter. 2006’s blockbuster movie, Happy Feet, instigated this adult’s purchase of a baby Emperor Penguin plush doll, Mumble. Hobonichi scattered multiple Mumble dudes & dudettes all over a cover, naming it the Baby Penguins.
The winter of my A6 discontent dovetailed with the dawning of the Baby Penguins. Two weeks intervened between the announcement and JetPens availability. That reality gifted time to answer a critical question: precisely how could I exploit the Penguins Weeks, to transform it into a worthy Writer’s Notebook?
Note the distinction. A B6 Cafe Note Grid v2 serves as my one-book bullet journal. Because it powers my days as desired, I refused to fix what persists as the polar opposite of broken. All dated events would continue to populate the BuJo. The Writer’s Notebook would instead focus on Collections, i.e. reference data, including the snippet descriptions created per observations when out and about.
The Immediate Dualing Problems
The glory of a Hobonichi Weeks planner flows from its svelte profile, measuring a sleek 3.7″ x 5.5″. The width ensures the book’s glide in and out of most pockets, including the back pocket of my skintight jeans. But that same width inspires cuss sessions while TRYing to enter multiple events within a single calendar date block. Problem #1, then, required mastering the minuscule space issue.
The Pam Perspective birthed problem #2. As a general rule, Hobonichi’s fancier covers disappear after the year introduced. Because looking at the Penguins cover knee-jerks my spirit’s smile, I committed to a multi-year usage scenario. How? No clue going in, but I placed faith in my determination streak.
I long ago absorbed a vital planner book lesson: the trick to planner peace involves an inspired marriage between space / structure and targeted data. That singular fact taxed me throughout the week following the book’s delivery.
A Case of Love at First Sight, but with a Blight
I fell in love with the 2020 Baby Penguins Weeks. As eyes scrutinized the cover, the 2006 Happy Feet theme song played in my head. Long enamored with the idea of devising a Writer’s Notebook, I slumped during the initial A6 Techo implementation phase. As the kids say, I wasn’t feelin’ it. Honoring my instinct, I resolved to pinpoint a love-it replacement.
That issue lived on my Someday/Maybe List, awakened when I learned of the Penguins book. Given the innate portability prowess of the Hobonichi Weeks, I set out to make da sucka work!! as my Writer’s Notebook. The book begging for carry everywhere status swatted my dream → the dang monthly calendar, in particular, seems too small for a serious workout. Operative word: seems.
The width of each calendar block will hold, at most, one word or an abbreviated phrase. Hmmmm …
Transforming the Hobonichi Weeks’ Calendar Pages into this Writer’s BFFs
Prior to placing the order, I satisfied my no-planner-buy-til-usage-determined requisite. Mind mapping yielded my approach to the horizontal weekly and Notes section. But the Calendar section continued to glare at me, and I it.
Mulling the what-do-I-want-year-to-year question culminated in the immediate entry of 6-word-story writing prompts. I chose black ink, thinking I’d stick with a black-on-white color scheme, to compliment the Penguins cover. (Yeppie, welcome to Planner nerdom.) But each date block presents 7 rows. October’s 31 blocks worth of empty rows haunted me. I walked away to give my tired brain time to recharge.
Later that week, while washing dishes, the cure roared into my mind’s eye. I raced to an archived Weeks, tested a blank calendar block, and giggled like a school girl meeting Smoky Robinson. That weekend, I implemented the date-block solution: move five to six lists—formerly scheduled to feed the Notes section—to the calendar.
Writers adore alternative-word lists, designed to prevent inadvertent hiccuping of the same word throughout a book. Glancing through the helter-skelter lists amassed through the years, I chose five to grace a trailing 2021 calendar, converted to October, to test my proposition.
Next question: how to present the data in a manner guaranteed to keep like items segregated from different items. Read: gotta keep my eyes on the prize, i.e. the desired row of words. I needed some version of alternating rows. Straight highlighting of every other row, in each of the 12 calendars, assaulted my lazy bone. No way; no how. Thus, I opted instead to rely upon old faithful: color-coding the words.
The Color Scheme
I need no key to decipher the calendar’s coloring scheme. Unlike the color-codes attending my Blogger’s BuJo and Everything EDC BuJo, this coloring served only one purpose: keep my eyes on the prize. Example: by writing all alternative words for “in conclusion” in blue, my peepers naturally ignore the
- brown (“bad”)
- purple (“spark”)
- green (“encourage”), and
- orange (“think”)
rows of alternative-word entries.
The classic Weeks provides only 69 Notes pages. Word lists alone would exhaust that section. On the other hand, each month calendar presents seven rows, one consumed by the writing prompts. With six rows remaining hungry for data, I whipped out my iPad’s calculator to ascertain the nitty gritty:
- 6 rows
- 12 months
- yielding 72 rows. 72!
Therefore, adding one-word lists to each of the 12 calendar months translates into a potential 72 alternative-word lists. Using this approach, each of the 69 Notes pages would remain pristine, available for other aspects of my writer’s Collections. The realization coerced a background-playing tune in my head: Michael Jackson’s “I’m Badd.”
I’ll reiterate: the genuine usefulness of any to-plan book reflects the user’s perspective and imagination. I walked into this project refusing to accept defeat. I viewed every road block encountered as pushing me closer to discovering a genuine solution. Confronting the “impossible” tends to stoke creative juices. End result: the Calendar date blocks, once my nemesis, ultimately provided the precise canvas needed to host one-word alternative-word lists! Ha!
Sample Calendar Spread
I’ve never purchased a “kit” and doubt that will change. I invest no time on creating artwork, another fact unlikely to change. I do add a sticker or two, to break the monotony threatened by a wall of text or to signify something (eg, a sleeping dog sticker (EDC Daily Log) signifies a mid-day nap). The resulting spreads form a system designed to push me toward my goals. In short, my face appears—in the bullet journal definitions text—under “functional / minimalist planner.”
This spread reveals where I ran out of steam. Headers regarding alternative words for “encourage” and “think” appear, but those rows await filling. Because breaks minimize, if not preclude, goofy errors (e.g. entering “think” words on the “encourage” line), I opted to handle the completion chores on another night.
Two reasons conspired, producing an intentional blank last row:
1. Aesthetics. I prefer breathing room between the end of one horizontal week and the beginning of the next.
2. A late-breaking Idea might muscle its way onto the spread. If no such idea blossoms within the closing days of September, I’ll leave it blank.
The Full test-October calendar, #AfterThePen
Answering Predictable Questions
❓ What prompted my determination to “make the Weeks work” as a Writer’s Notebook❓
Nothing beats genuine contentment for fueling creative juices. Birds fascinate me. A bird in view triggers my happy, relaxed spirit. The chosen Weeks depicts baby Emperor Penguins. Because this Weeks sparks internal smiles every time I see it, I exploit opportunities to use it. I craved increased faithfulness to all-things-writing, including note taking. This book tics all the boxes like no other.
❓ Where do I stash writing-related events ❓
All dates, without exception, appear within my bullet journal, the B6 Cafe Note. Seat-of-the-pants experience schooled me: I can’t be trusted to check multiple calendars every dang weekday. Acknowledging this foible instigated the one-Cal-only setup. For decades, I worked from one calendar. Left its mark. I now embrace my flow, as opposed to trying to force a square peg into a round hole.
❓ What about brain dumps & ideas ❓
A companion Weeks “Memo Pad,” tucked into the front cover’s slot, gives me this space. This allows moving that über thin booklet to the always-with-me Cafe Note BuJo, by slipping this companion booklet into the Cafe Note front cover’s external pocket. The booklet thus honors the parameters established for this Writer’s Notebook → no temporary data entered within the Weeks book itself.
❓ Did I try a Jibun Techo as a Writer’s Notebook ❓
Yes. For the record, I also tried the A6 Techo and A5 Cousin. Whether Avec (half-year) or full Cousin, the A5 Hobonichi remained too porky for no-fuss carry. A bag simply transferred the weight to my shoulder. The A6 doesn’t float my boat. (Cliffhanger sensation while writing, s palm rests between the edge of the A6 nd desk.) It sits on my Archived shelf, awaiting my attention.
In contrast, I grabbed my first Jibun Techo in 2016, and every year thereafter. Some years I used two as components of my multi-book bullet journal system. We’re talkin’ straight up love affair! But the “writer’s notebook” vibe died. The J.T. Diary proved too structured; the tiny grid of the associated 3mm Idea booklets plucked my last nerve. The Idea booklet sings as a canvas for a DIY calendar, where short and sporadic entries rule the day. But entering longer strings of data, off and on throughout a typical day, proved too irritating and hence distracting.
2020 will witness my first bullet journal year without a Jibun. I’ll miss it, but the B6 Cafe Note (3.7mm!) Grid v2 better satisfies my needs, withOUT generating complaints.
❓You’ve got 69 blank Notes pages. How ya gonna fill ‘em❓
Correction. The horizontal weekly pages include an additional 58 (right-side) blank grid pages. I treat them like Notes pages, for a revised total of 127 pages. Etsy merchants offer $15 126-page Tomoe River booklets, same size as the Weeks, with a 3.7 mm grid background. The combo essentially doubles the Notes pages, while adding no show-stopping girth.
I’m still tweaking the ToC, table of contents. As I complete spreads I sense may be helpful to writing colleagues, I’ll share. Stay tuned!
❤️ By the way, my Penguins obsession triggered some fun time. My wanna-be rapper snuck out, resulting in two monthly challenge spreads for 6-word-stories → daily words rhyming with—what else—“penguins.” I’ve scheduled each to appear shortly before it’s namesake month (October and November).
Treat: the October challenge already appears in my BuJo-focused InstaGram account.
A writer’s typical stash of reference data will speed or impede editing/revision sessions, depending on the quality of the container’s organization. The Hobonichi Weeks provides a perfect repository for one-word lists via its calendar. Likewise, the book’s horizontal weekly section smiles at snippets (e.g., brief observational-sourced descriptions written while out & about). Heck, one can even coerce a song from the Yearly Index section! More on these facets in an upcoming post.
Don’t overlook “outta the box” usage schemes. Ignoring the traditional role of the monthly calendar section gifted THE long-sought solution to a vexing problem: taming lists. Think. Brain dump. Mindmap. Sketch it all out on a legal pad or the like before touching your designated notebook. Trust me; the rewards will delight you!