Long before I started to amass various decks of cards, I amassed 1) big plans and 2) blank notebooks. The idea was to fill up 2) in order to execute 1). The reality is that innumerable black journals have continued to appear and disappear throughout my home according to their own mysterious laws. Some are pretty much filled, others pristine or with just one tantalizing entry from a rapidly receding year. And yes, I’ve done a bunch of things over the years, but not necessarily according to “plan.” The more important projects–parenting, a technical career–I just kinda fell into. Luckily so, since, had I any foresight at all, I’d have been scared off by the sheer amount of work involved.
In a high school history class, my teacher saw me writing lecture notes furiously on a scrap of paper. She asked me why I didn’t have a notebook. I realized with some bemusement that I DID have a notebook with me. In a rare flash of insight, I saw that I did not use it because my subconscious panic at the thought of losing said scrap of paper caused me to commit the information to memory. A weird system, but it served me well; I developed a good, even somewhat photographic memory.
But as the years have rolled on, my poor brain is filled with more stuff: memories, creative ideas (the tap seems to be opening wider as time goes on), life responsibilities. I’ve had several wildly different careers by now, and my home is filled with the paraphernalia of them all. It’s pretty messy, honestly. And the inside of my head looks a lot like my spare room.
Not all my notebooks are plain journals–there’s a smattering of calendars and day planners among them. In brief, they did not work for me–not just the keeping up with it all, but the enforced organizational system, which seemed rather jolly when I was younger (fewer memories, careers, kids) but now feels tiring.
I once bought a book called “Organizing for the Creative Person.” It had some really different and exciting strategies in the first 20 pages or so. Unfortunately, after that I lost the book somewhere in my house…
Leave it to my charismatic, smart friend Isabel to turn me on to the Next Big Hope for the, ahem, creatively disorganized–bullet journaling. This is a Thing I wasn’t aware of till now, though there’s a whole cottage industry of journals, pens, how-to’s, and the like to help you bullet journal–“bujo,” to the initiated.
The real genius of bujo, in my opinion, is the simple inclusion of an index in the front of the journal. This means I don’t have to record stuff in the “appropriate” section. I can just pour my stream of consciousness out as it flows. I need only title and number the page, and then enter it into the index. So “reach enlightenment” and “get son to mow yard” can now be guiltlessly juxtaposed–enabling me to see the deep connection between these two items, by the way. And since you create the structure (though there are a few non-negotiables, such as the Index) you can make it the way you want. Which of course leads to some interesting questions: What is it that I actually want? How is my life organized, or not, right now? Is what I want aligned with what I’m doing? Whew, I’m starting to flag just writing down these enormous questions. Hopefully with bujo, it’s learn as you go, like the rest of my life has been.
With great presence of mind, I fended off my innate tendency to over-research everything–no easy task with the plethora of videos and websites begging me to let them help me. Still, I did feel I needed a bit of a hand to get starting with making the basic structure my own. Just a bit of friendly advice from a kindly advisor. A kind of pal who could point out a couple things, or make some simple suggestions. You know, like the Lenormand.
What effort do I need to make for bujo to help me?
Mouse-Stork-Man: Move away from that nibbling thing you like to do, grow in stature and swallow your squirming. Be logical and forward-thinking–but put your heart into it.
A small animal is eating, and thereby spoiling, some food–a piece of cake perhaps. A tall bird is also eating, this time a frog. A man in old-fashioned dress (presumably contemporary to the 1800’s creation of the deck) stands straight and looks straight ahead, into the future. As the cards go left to right, the beings increase in stature, culminating in the Man, who is also the Ace of Hearts.
I lose energy with all the small thoughts that eat away at me. Time for a change and get a handle on those squirmy thoughts, by using my “masculine” qualities of logic and organizational ability. Which the Lenormand suggests I actually have.
How can I organize all my floating thoughts/ideas in bujo? (The examples I’d seen featured thoughts already far more organized than my usual crowd. I was concerned about how to deal with this.)
Bird-House-Cross: Sing and get comfortable, then you can put everything into a grid.
A bird on a tree branch has its mouth open in song. A solid, comfortable-looking house. A cross–horizontal meets vertical.
I decided this could be a two-stage process. I needed to first communicate (Bird) with myself in a natural way–after all this was supposed to be a comfortable (House) system for me. After that I could subject what came out to the perhaps painful (Cross) process of being put into the dot grid of my bujo. So I made a “Collection” I called Idea Dump that I’ll later put into the Future and Monthly Logs. Very empowering!
Would spending time on visual aids (color, stickers, tapes, etc.) be helpful to make bujo a success for me? (The elaborate spreads I’ve seen are a feast for the eyes, but would all that fluff help me keep going, or just turn into a time-consuming crash-and-burn?)
Man-Fish-Fox: The Fish, which have a traditional meaning of wealth or opulence, look trapped between that rather stern-looking man and a Fox engaged in sneaking up on a bright red chicken. Two of the Fish are looking at the Fox, while the third looks back at the Man.
I’m definitely attracted to the bright color, but it seems a bit of a trap. Use a spare, angular style to keep on track. Okay, so I did spring for washi tape–seemed like a faster way to incorporate some visual interest than endlessly drawn embellishments. I looked for a diagonal pattern after noticing how the Man’s arm crosses his body rather oddly to hold his walking stick. I went for elegant, rather than foo-foo, colors and patterns under his watchful eye. Bought some cheap brush pens though, in case the fox really does have that brilliant chicken’s best interests at heart.
What’s the best way to fit this new bujo habit into my daily life?
House-Lady-Rider: The Lady looks toward home, with her back to the Rider brandishing his whip on his rather wild steed.
Ignore the news and messages. I think I should focus on my bujo while at home, maybe using time I now spend on emails and catching up on the news. That Rider is speedy, too. My friend the Lenormand says: Do your bujo comfortably, but quickly. After all, bujo is billed as a rapid journaling system. It might take some time to get comfortable and make it look nice, but in the end it’s meant to bring movement and change into your life.
Hopefully, this is just the start of my bujo “hero’s journey.” I’m looking forward to many more installments, some of which I may report on here. As the Rider suggests, bujo is a vehicle for me to keep up with my own news.
May the Bujo Force be with you!
Cards: Game of Hope (the original Lenormand), reproduction by Lauren Forestell
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