Picture this, you're reading a book and you come across a passage or page that you want to recall for later. Maybe it's for your college studies, or maybe it's a recipe you want to cook up later in the week. As you continue reading, you find YET ANOTHER passage you want to mark. What do you do?
So, you hunt down for a slip of paper, maybe you remove it from your planner or notebook. Or you grab a sticky note and start jotting down notes and comments about the pages you're bookmarking. Then the nagging starts. Slowly and silently at first... appearing in the farthest corner in the back of your mind. That environmentalist guilt trip that reminds you that all this paper, those sticky notes, will do nothing to help the environment. That using more paper just creates more waste. That you'll lose the slips and lose your place and never find it again. There, you sit... paper in hand, wishing there was a better alternative to keeping track of multiple spots than using junk mail, index cards or sticky notes.
One bookmark cannot possibly hold two places, right? Wrong. Instead of ripping up valuable sticky notes that you'll trash or recycle later, why not create a multi-threaded bookmark to save your places in those books.
Last weekend, while my husband and I were at breakfast with a friend, we discussed dreams. First, my friend told us about her's; using bright words and concrete images. I was amazed at how real and vivid she described her dream as being. It was almost like listening to a recap of a favorite television show. Then kender spoke up and described his dream and how weird it was. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to share in their storytelling. I knew I dreamt, but wasn't able to recall what I did dream about. And this bummed me out, so I decided to work on what I could do to recall my dreams and then write them down.
Why do so many of us have a hard time remembering our dreams? Is it because of the deepness of sleep we achieve? Does the inability to recall our dreams hinder our personal development? Or maybe some of us cannot recall because we just dream deeply and are cursed with the inability to recall fully. I know that I, personally, LOVE dreaming. There are times I try and sneak daily naps in just so I can have more dreams! I believe that anyone, given enough practice CAN recall their dreams. With the help of a dream journal.
Keeping a record of your dreams brings out the storyteller in all of us. And who doesn't love to tell a fun story? All you need is a journal (or your planner) and a pen and setting some morning time aside to get your thoughts down. The idea is, when you first wake up in the morning, you write down the story, symbols and scenes that took place in your head while your eyes were closed. The entries do not to be too long-- however, I've found that it's more fun to try and write dreams down as if they were fictional stories than it is to just list symbols and places and people. This includes being able to add as much colorful description and dialog as you can. Some people don't have any problems writing down their dreams. They're able to write full recounts of the storyline, recall things that were said and they even know exactly what each symbol in the dream meant and how it reflects back to their life. However, for some of us, trying to remember our dreams can be tough. And this requires a bit more ritual and preparation.
Growing up, I used to have this small square trunk with an airbrushed scene of lightly colored swans swimming in some fantasy pond. It matched my room and when I laid my eyes on it, I instantly knew what I was going to use it for. Storing letters. (No comments from the peanut gallery! I guess organization and storage toys *are* a part of my genetics.) When my best friend moved out of state, we started sending each other letters. At first, these letters were kept in a shoe box. But the letters soon outgrew the box and the trunk, was perfect to store the remaining years of letters we sent back and forth. Over 10 years worth of correspondence. We stopped writing when we went to college; our friendship getting lost in the hustle of classes and freedom.
That was 10 years ago. I don't know whether or not the trunk still exists somewhere buried in the basement of my parents' house. However, I've kept to my information hoarding habits and save almost everything I find important on my computer. Smudge (my Macbook) has emails dating back to 1998, all my college essays, random PDF articles from blogs or sites and lots and lots of downloads. I tend to go PDF and download crazy when I get bored at work. So I have quite the collection of PDFs, images and freebie downloads for various design apps I prefer to use. Of course, this doesn't include the things I keep on my home network server or the backups that exist there as well. Most of the time, these files get shucked away in my computer's filing system where searching and remembering what all I have stored there becomes a nightmare.
Honestly, I'm not sure I even know half of what I have digitally now. And it bugs me sometimes. Information is only as good as you're able to use and digest it, and I feel like I'm not using what I have on this system as much as I could be. Because of this, I've been researching digital information manager applications. I'm here to tell you there is a solution. One that threatens to replace a few existing applications on my beloved Macbook. It's called DEVONthink Pro and I'm in love. And it allows me to store, catalog, search and retrieve anything I feed into it.
Yes, we all love beautiful paper and pens and leather binders and every second item on the shelves of a stationery store. And yes, many of us tend to take notes, write drafts, brainstorm, manage our time, and sketch on paper. But sooner or later, there comes a time when what we write or produce has to wind up in a digital form for sharing with others. For example, my journal and index cards may be the foundation for the articles I write here, but sooner or later I have to put fingers to keys and pound out the words.
But, like most tinkerers attracted to shiny metal objects, it's hard to keep distraction at bay. For example, while I dearly love (though not quite in a carnal sense) my new MacBook Pro, all the bells and whistles conspire to turn my attention from writing. Each bleep of my Google Gmail Notifier, which word or idea or link I want to look up, each Amazon book I want to link to, each photo I need to take and resize and optimise....
What was I saying? Oh, yes... it's hard to keep on topic with so many distractions.
So, the paper angle is covered; I have plenty of focus there. What I need is some way to write without digital distraction.
There are some moments that I’d call picture perfect. These are snippets of time, that seem to defy the normal timeline and settle deep within my core. Hours spent on the sofa, reading a favored Neil Gaiman book, sipping tea while the rain outside gives the world a fresh spring bath. Knowing you nailed an interview for the all-too-perfect job at your dream company. Relaxing out in the backyard, enjoying the sun, as a squirrel or rabbit or bird hops by your side... these moments make life alive.
Memories like these stay in my head and become sources of my daydreams. I often wonder what I can do to recapture the feelings and moments more often. Repeating them over and over in your mind is one way to do it and a good way to romanticize the past. However, repeating them also creates longing and I've learned that it's never too good to dwell in the past. The best way I've found is to capture these moments, in words or in images, in your journals. Distill the feeling and picture of that time in your life down to it's core and immortalize it on a page.
Last week, I lost my day job. Now I'm not looking for sympathy, it's a part of my life as a writer (we're always the first to go, it seems), but I realized something. Today was the first day I spent looking at all the things I took home from my old office. Earlier today I carefully dragged the three boxes of paper, books and the colorful nicknacks that adorned my desk and bookshelf. I went through the boxes and carefully pulled out much of the bits and bobs that I wasn't going to be needing for the "next" job and set them aside. About 99% of that pile was papers. Papers from meetings, project planner forms detailing jobs and lots of one-on-one forms. Looking back at all those forms is like looking back at 50% of my life in the past year. I wrote manuals, created fliers, and had plans for brochures and newsletters. And like most people who leave their jobs, things like these papers get tossed right into the recycling pile. (Come on... we all know that these forms get tossed or recycled. I'm not the only one here.) Well, not today.
Instead of saying adios to my last job by unceremoniously dumping the papers into the trash, where they make a great THUMP sound, I'm keeping many of the project cards and one-on-one forms that helped me focus and stay productive on my job. I'm going to use these forms to decorate my walls or paste in my journals. (I'd rather turn them into journal covers than let them decompose slowly in the cold.) Those forms helped define and shape my career over the last year. In effect, they ARE journal entries and creative memories of what I did in my life to pay the bills. Who says your art and journal entries need to be clean and messy. You now have permission to reuse those forms, save them from the landfills and go make art with them.
When I was in high school back last century, it was before computers had taken ahold of society. There were no inkjets and no print-it-yourself scrapbooking ephemera from CD-ROM collections, and even "clip art" collections --usually of the Dover variety-- where generally only available in messy third-generation Gestetner reproductions from unclean woodcuts and etchings. (You folks older than 35 probably know what I'm talking about... you kids, you just hug your svelte little Macbooks and thank heaven for Epson.) In short, it was nowhere near as easy to create a custom notebook or journal without grabbing your X-Acto knives, some glue, scraps of leatherette or thick paper, and a bunch of markers or paints. Yup, those were actually a lot of fun, those little craft projects, but for every personalised tome worthy of keeping, there would inevitably be five sorry-looking collections of folded scraps sporting misshapen heads you drew, glued beads and plastic charms from gumball machines that would fall off within two days, and perhaps a photo-machine strip of yourself and a friend making goofy faces. Not that these didn't have a personal connection of some type, but you just knew everybody would make fun of you if you took it out of your knapsack in public.
Now, it's not so much that a Levenger Circa Notebook out of the box is a plain thing. In fact, it's rather elegant in a way. But sometimes you just want to make something your own.
The sound of a gel pen scratching words across the surface of a Moleskine fill the house. The scent of red chai waifs into the air and into my nostrils. And as I write, my body relaxes and releases the tension of the day out. Images of spending hours on the sofa, delicately crafting beautiful and meaningful journal entries, always seem to dance around in my brain. Reality is, there's always more stuff to be done in one day than Nature allows. And more often than naught, promises of writing in my journal or playing in the studio before bedtime, go unfulfilled; lost to the shuffle of cleaning the house and laundry.
Do you wish there was more time in a day to do more? I know I do. Between work, chores and responsibilities (and diversions like WoW) I never seem to be able to journal as much as I want. Until now. For those of us who find ourselves constantly with less time and more on their to-do list, here's two quick journaling tips and a hack that remind us all that journaling doesn't require scheduling a special time.
Two weeks ago, we kicked this series off with an introduction to mind mapping. There we learned what mind maps are and how to make a simple one. Last week, I took the series one step further and showed you how you could apply mind maps to various aspects of a single project from brainstorming phase to project wrap up. Today, I'm going to get to the fun part that I'm sure all of you have been waiting for. The books and applications (online and desktop) that can help make your mind maps appear polished and professional. I'll give you my thoughts on each item listed here and hopefully help you form an opinion on what techniques you want to try. Of course, you may just want to stick with paper and pen... and that's fine too. I know that depending on where I am at, I sometimes want to use an computer based application for my maps; while others, I want to use my moleskine and pen set.