I Missed My Notebook

I have been bullet journaling now for several years. Longer, I think, than I’ve been doing daily blog posts – the blog posts were facilitated in part through a dedication to using a physical journal to record my daily efforts writing. Late last year, I also picked up a very cheap, not very good sketch pad, which I have been using to also do some sketching, separated from anything ‘important’ that I may want to reference later.

At the time I wrote my pledge in the front of the book: Nothing has to be any good. It’s true. I’m going to spend a lot of my time going forward making things for no purpose but for enjoying the making. I write because I want to write, I draw because I want to draw. Audiences are beautiful and validating and rewarding, I love you so much.

But I also have to act, sometimes like you’re not there.

I’m going to show you some sketches from my book, because they’re not very good and you should see that. You should be able to see how when I hand-draw something, even as someone who does a lot of graphic design work for computer art and games and stuff like that, my drawing looks pretty bad. I’m not practiced, I’m not familiar. Things I do I don’t do very well, and part of that is because I don’t do it enough.

My bullet journal isn’t for public consumption. Sometimes there are things in there that are private, other people’s problems, things I need to keep track of because I’m concerned about someone’s surgery or their emotional wellbeing or their breakup or their need for information recorded for the police. I’m very proud of how I lay it out – it’s a simple, utilitarian layout structure I use for most weeks and I use specialised modules for specific tasks when I need them. I save stickers in it, and calendar pages, and receipts and even some game prototypes.

Mostly, though, it tracks my weeks, any incident that happened, or things that need doing, on any given day, what I made for dinner or lunch if that’s important at the time, and if the dog got walked.

I imagined at the end of 2023 I’d open up my journal and check how many times the dog got walked, what were his longest stretches without a dog walk, how often it was me, how often it was Fox, how often it was both of us, and how often he got rained out versus us being too tired to do it. I thought I’d collate that data, but I wound up deciding not to.

It feels meanspirited, and I know that Elli gets walked most days. Some days he doesn’t. Tracking whether or not he did was really important during 2020 when the days melted together. Tracking it now runs the risk of making it feel like I’m looking across at my partner who shouldn’t be walking out late at night if the air’s too cold and going well, I walked him this many times.

It’s not how it works. Elli wants to go walkies any time he can, we want to walk him when we can, you know how it is. He’s a dog. Not that I’m asking for absolution on my dog walking scheduler. What I am thinking about is the stuff I use my bullet journal to do. This week as I write this – waaay back in the 10th – I got my Bullet Journal for 2024. This book will probably last me the year. It’ll be useful for things like my pay schedule, word counts, proof of when I did things so I can check back on people who think I didn’t do them, budget, and a lot of game design, yes.

I didn’t have it for nine days of the year. Today, I sat down and opened up my new book, and started to write in it.

First I cut out some pages from the front. I found a point in the middle where nobody would care and cut some pages out there, too, to make rulers for the rest of the year. I don’t like measuring out the spreads I use every week, and the pages on this one are subtly not perfectly lined up, so a ruler made of the book’s own dots is useful. I got rid of some pages about How To Use A Bullet Journal because yeah whatever. And I wrote my title page.

Then I put some stickers on it, from my kickstarter copy of Flamecraft.

I went back through the two weeks of the year so far, filling in dates for January, making space for things. I took notes about things that happened on each day, based on my discord history, based on things I could remember. These days we dogsat, these days I did the shopping, this day we had pizza, things like that. It was calming and meditative and felt very relaxing and chill.

More than the actual process being enjoyable, though, I notice most potently afterwards that I missed knowing I had a journal to work on. I missed the idea that I could grab a notepad and do some notes in it and know they’d be there when I wanted to find them again. Having no bullet journal was a sad thing, regardless of whether or not I used the bullet journal at any given moment. Filling in a month spread is mildly bothersome. Measuring the spaces for possible spreads – I thought about maybe writing up a list of everything I watched or how often I got an early night throughout the year – was annoying.

Oh and no, I am not getting an early night right now, oops.

The journal is a process, it’s a task, it’s reference material and it’s on hand. It’s a way I can augment my memory and it’s a way I can use all these lovely things that are part of my life. Stickers do not live in drawers, for me, they get to dance on my pages. I get to parcel out my washi tapes and make little markers of days and months for later reference. I was feeling Teen Girl Squad that day, was I?

When I was done with this writeup, I sat down, pulled out my other, cheap, crappy notebook and drew for a bit. I drew three pictures, you can see them. Two are simple and fine. One is trying to be more complicated and just gets absolutely lost. I hated the face the second I tried to put it in place – what I’d been aiming for in my mind was a look of concern, of fear at being spotted, putting up a hand and backing off. It looks like a very smug, annoyed face to me now. And I will get better with practice as I look at what I did and keep trying to do better.

No moral, no lesson, no great message for you. An insight into me, and some of my art, that isn’t very good. A reminder that it’s all processes, it’s all practices. Don’t feel bad about not being the best, yet.