Posted in Lessons Learned, Reviews, The Currents, The Writer's Life

Planning for change…

In an effort to be transparent, I might have a slight addiction to stationery and planners. They are my most-purchased items when I go to the store. I have wishlists on my Amazon dedicated to pens, notebooks, planners, stickers, journals, and the like. I’m a girl who is more excited by a gift card to Staples, Office Depot, or Hobby Lobby than I am jewelery. I know, many will find this strange and unusual. I also know that I’m not the only one out there.

I’ve spent the last week sitting down with some of my tried and true planning products to consider goals for this year and how to reach them. I want to write about my goals as a matter of keeping a record, but I also want to give my fellow planner addicts and those who are looking to get more organized my recommendations for tools based on what works for me. I’ve tried so many over the years that I know I can give you some great feedback on these. I’ll likely also do a video review at some point in the future as I pursue another goal. Right now, I’m not an affiliate for any of these products. They are simply honest recommendations based on my personal experience.

There are two major considerations for me when I choose a planner now; functionality and cost. As a student I need something that is affordable and will also allow me to track all the things that I need to for my schooling, business, and life in general. I need a planner that serves as a place to document life and creative efforts while also being easy to use and take with me. I personally prefer a pen and paper planner to a digital one. I love my iPad and I have experimented with a digital planner but, when all is said and done, I keep going back to the paper versions.

For the creative focused with plenty of time on their hands, nothing beats a BUJO. Bullet Journaling is the epitome of cusomized planning systems. There are no hard and fast rules for it. It is also probably the most affordable at the minimalist level to get started. I adored the versatility of this and honestly, if I weren’t so busy, I would keep doing my own because it is a hybrid of journal and planner that you create with a simple notebook and pens. Sure you can embellish with washi tape, stickers, and stencils. There are some awesome artistic examples out there. And if you search on YouTube there are loads of tutorials. Some of the best notebooks I’ve used for this have been the EXCEED brand that I’ve found at Walmart for about $7-$9. But you can also adapt any notebook you choose for this purpose. The biggest con for me was the amount of time it took to set it up and actually do the planning every day. I decided to find something that already had a basic usable structure for my use.

Another affordable option that is highly effective in terms of goal setting and task management is maybe a surprising one. Momentum Planners by Productive Flourishing (found here) was a surprising find for me. The price point of $18 gets you a digital, full-featured, printable planner that will help you stay motivated to reach those goals by tracking progress on tasks. They are minimalist in design focusing more on function making them great for people who like a less artistic approach. This one works well for business needs, academics, and even for writers. This allows you to get a year overview of your goals, break it down by quarters, then monthly, weekly, and finally daily. The pros to this system are a big list really. What I would take away is that you have the ability to make changes as needed without all the erasing, white-out, and correction tape. Simply print out a new blank page. The form-fillable PDF also allows you to keep things neat despite character limitations in most fields. They do offer a printed and bound version of this in limited supply at the end of the year prior. For my money, I like the PDF and being able to print what I want. I use this one as a worksheet to get the goals down, actionable, and generally keep a relevant copy of the yearly, quarterly, and monthly printed and with my other planners.

I’ve used the Erin Condren Life Planner for years. However, recent experiences with their customer service and delivery have really ruined a great product for me. So, while I find it useful and stylish, I think this will be my last year investing the $60 in this planner. It has served as a way for me to do a bit of goal setting, planning, calendar keeping, and memory keeping. But I am looking at other options for 2022. I’ll post about those later. The Life Planner is great because of the customization. There are different layouts to choose from and custom covers that are personalized. I have a number of these and I admit that I will be sad when I’m not using them anymore. Space for reflection and goals was a plus for this year’s edition. But that $60 price point is a little steep in my opinion.

As a daily planner, I’ve been using the Daily Passion Planner. I have to say that I think this is a great option for someone who likes the BUJO but needs something that already has a structure to embellish if they’re up to it. The compact sizing is great for on the go in a purse or backpack but also gives ample writing space by putting a great layout for schedule, goals, tracking space for mood and emerging ideas, and still giving the opposite page in a dot grid for journaling or lists as you need them. I feel like this will end up being a go-to for me. It has a yearly and monthly calendar along with a prompted check-in and goal worksheet. While it hasn’t replaced my usual journal, I do feel like this gives me a more focused idea of where my time goes and thoughts on various projects and ideas for changes based on how the days go. The only drawback I’ve found is that the book is designed to last 3 months, not a full year. However, they offer a buying discount if you get more than 3 at a time. So, that helps. Plus Passion Planner in general has free printable downloads so you can try the format first. They also give a planner away for every one that is sold. So, it’s a win-win in my opinion. I know plenty of start-ups, artists, and students who can use that help. Monochrome makes it easy to print off a version of your own if purchase isn’t an options. You can find them here at Passion Planner. They do have a larger format Annual version that may become a go-to for me in replacement for the Erin Condren product though. Definitely check them out.

I admit that, being new to the iPad, I’m not familiar with digital planners and I’m open to options if you have suggestions for me to try. Given some of the changes in plan for me, I might find them useful. So, I’d love suggestions for those that you use and love. I’m juggling multiple goals this year including writing new books, writing the blog, and a full-time course load with school. So it is important for me to keep myself on track. What planning methods do you use to keep yourself accountable and on track for your own goals?

Posted in Lessons Learned, My Process, The Writer's Life

My Top Tool For Creativity

When you get to know me, you’ll quickly realize that I am all over the place creatively. Yes, my primary focus is writing fiction. There are tons of other creative interests in my bag of tricks though.

For example: Did you know that I sing? Yep, I even recorded an album with a band. I also performed in musicals back in the day. I also decorate cakes and cookies with my mom. (Psst… If you’re in East Texas. We have a facebook page and take orders. So check us out here.) I am learning to draw and even paint using acrylics. I do embroidery or other sewing, usually by hand, when I watch television. And I’m slowly learning to play the violin. I could list a bunch of other things. My point, however, is that I try new things and do my best not to limit my options.

But what helps me do that? Is there some common thread in all of these things that I do?

The answer is that there is something I do on a daily basis that helps me keep it all together. I journal. I don’t mean sit down an type on the computer either. I use an actual book and I don’t limit it to words. Granted, my journals usually consist of a ton of words but, I also doodle and sometimes design pages so that they are a bit more visual. The point of it all is to put my thoughts down however they manifest.

Why?

Well, how many times have you thought of a great idea for something to do and you get sidetracked by some chore or errand? You do the required whatever it is. Then, you come back to your creative space to manifest your idea only to have forgotten what it was.

It happens to us all. Don’t worry. I can’t tell you how many great book ideas are lost to the ether because I failed to write them down early on. Carrying a notebook everywhere is second nature to me now.  You’ll rarely ever find me without a way to write something down when it pops in my mind.

Now, there are plenty of journaling resources out there. I won’t get into all of that. Some will tell you that you should only use a leather bound, lined, 80gsm paper, with an expensive fountain pen. And you should format the pages a certain way and all sorts of other nonsense. If those things suit you, go for it. But for someone who wants to keep things simple let me give you the basic break down of what you need.

Number One

A notebook. Any notebook will do. Pick one up at Walmart or Target. Back to school shopping is upon us so they are cheap to find. If you’re inspired by something fancy then, go for it and splurge. I do, however, suggest something you can carry with you. That doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. Walmart usually carries a half size notebook that easily fits in my purse or messenger bag. When on a budget, that’s a go to item on my list.

Number Two

A decent pen. Whether you prefer a felt tip like Papermate’s Flair Pens, Pilot V5s or G2, or Bic Crystal Sticks you can spend as little or as much as you like. I have all of the above along with a box of others. In fact, some of the best writing ball point pens were freebies from the bank.  But, I also have a fountain pen that I favor. It really just depends on my mood.

As for formatting? Throw all of those suggestions out the window at first. Just be creative with it. Do what you do. I generally freewrite for a while in my journal before I get started on any projects. It clears my head of the clutter and allows me to process things easier. So, start there and focus on getting the ideas out of your head and onto the pages. Think of it as a reference for later. If you feel like drawing or painting, go for it. If not, that’s okay too.

Some days may be nothing but complaining about life and the circumstances you find yourself in. That’s okay.

Some days you may find that you have a brilliant epiphany about what you want to do next in life, in a relationship, in your career, or in art. That’s okay too. In fact, those days are just amazing.

And sometimes, it will just be a mess. It will seem incoherent and disjointed. And that’s okay too.

Remember, no one reads this but you. Unless, of course, you allow them to. Then I would hope that it is someone you trust.

For any artist the journal is an essential. It is the catch all for ideas, fears, and even for celebrations. It is a sacred space with it’s own special sort of magic. The more you use it, the more of yourself you uncover. That includes hidden talents and desires for your life. I encourage everyone to try it.

In fact, give it a go and tell me about your experience with it in the comments.

Don’t forget that The Secret of the Storm is available over on Amazon. Click Here  It makes for an awesome summer break read and is available in ebook and print format.

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If you want to know more about my journaling experience, feel free to leave questions or suggestions in the comments. Maybe a journal walk through could be a good starting video for a Youtube channel. What say you?