A Different Way for Me to Write
Mental Health Self

A Different Way for Me to Write

Well, it’s been two weeks today since I decided to start keeping a bullet journal. I’m surprised at how quickly it’s become one of the favorite parts of my day. The huge appeal of the bullet journals, of course, is that you can customize each module so that it does what you need it to do. I do a pretty good job of keeping up with my appointments and client to-do items with digital systems, so I don’t do much with it that way, but I do more personal stuff, personal to do lists, writing to do lists, that sort of thing. And of course, my morning pages.

The little book that’s changing my life.

When I first got my journal, which is a Minimalism Art notebook, I wondered if it was possible that I might manage to fill it in a year. It’s about 5×8, and the pages are dotted, 260 pages. Like a lot of people, I’ve had many many (many) blank journals over the years, but I’ve never managed to make the habit stick, resulting in a lot of journals with maybe five to ten pages filled in the beginning, and nothing else. Could I fill 260 pages in a year, well 11 months?

Ha. Hahahahaha. As of this morning, I filled out page 59. At this rate, I’m going to fill this journal up before the end of March. But interestingly, that’s brought up some weird feelings that I’m somehow “taking up too much space”, that to fill up 4 or 5 journals with my thoughts a year is excessive and why would I do that?? Thankfully, I’m ignoring that voice and continuing to eat up pages at a 4-5 page a day clip.

It’s become a really lovely part of my morning. I’m also giving myself room to play with art, something else I’ve never really done. I’m not ever really going to be super talented or anything, but that’s not the point. The point is I’m enjoying myself.

You can find a full breakdown of all the elements of a bullet journal at the official site. I use the index, which is self-explanatory–the front page where you list your topics and what pages they’re on. Right now I’m using a monthly page for tracking appointments, habits, and a gratitude log, and daily pages, where I list any to do lists for the day, random ideas, that sort of thing. I’m considering moving to a weekly layout, or changing my monthly a little–I’m not 100% happy with it. And then of course, the morning pages.

My current monthly layout

I first heard of morning pages when I read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, and she, of course, got it from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. The idea is, as early as possible in the morning,  you write longhand for three pages, just stream of consciousness. It clears your mind and helps you unblock creatively and/or emotionally. When I first heard about it, I was skeptical, and besides, how was I going to manage to find time to do that? Well, now I have as much time in the morning as I want, right? And holy crap, it’s been transformative. Not just mentally, but also in an unexpected way. I was complaining how awful my handwriting was, right? It’s improved. Dramatically.

I said I wasn’t going to be posting all sorts of layouts to instagram or anything, because I didn’t think they’d wind up being high art. But a funny thing happened. I started doing things I was proud of. If nothing else, look at the difference. First, there’s my very first daily page from January 31:

I didn’t have the hang of writing on the dotted grid and there’s my chicken scratch.


And now a recent page, from the 9th.:

Pretty headers! And I… I doodled!

I’ve started writing in cursive again, and it’s actually getting more and more legible. I wouldn’t say pretty but definitely readable. And then there’s the hand lettering. I’m learning how to do it, and to my surprise, I LOVE it. brush script is fascinating to me. I played with calligraphy a little as a kid, but this is trickier. I’m surprised how quickly I’m picking things up, especially considering that I can’t draw and my writing used to be chicken scratch. I feel like I’m discovering–or rediscovering, a part of myself I didn’t know was there. I’m already planning what my next journal will be. I bought a relatively cheaper journal this time around until I was sure I’d like it. Next time, I want to get a Leuchtturm1917 in the next size up. My pages really aren’t big enough for me to play the way I want to play. In the meantime, I keep writing every morning, and I keep practicing my hand lettering.

It’s not something I ever saw myself doing, but I’ll take it.

2 thoughts on “A Different Way for Me to Write”

  1. I have a bullet journal… somewhere. I do find it useful when I’ve got several writing projects going at once, to keep track of what was the next stage on them. (I came up with a nifty little circle graph and you color in the next stage when you’re done with it, and they’re kind of crudely drawn but I like the idea, I’m just not artistic enough to make ’em prettier.)

    I do like the idea of morning pages, though. There’s something soothing about writing in longhand sometimes; I used to do it plenty when I rode public transportation to work and back, and I don’t get many reasons to do it now. Perhaps I can try using all those blank pages in my journal for that.

    1. Heh. It DOES use a lot of pages! 🙂 I actually wrote a bunch of my current book longhand today in a separate journal. I haven’t written fiction longhand in AGES. It went a lot better than I thought it would.

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