Rediscovering watercolour

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You may have noticed that I’m a creature of obsessions. What can I say, it’s my auxiliary Ne that throws these wonderful spanners in the works. 🙂 Anyway, my latest obsession came from nowhere and ripped through my life like a tornado. I’ve mentioned that Facebook targeted me with a relevant ad for once: Little Coffee Fox. I was so inspired by her blog, and if all her tips and tricks and cheering on weren’t enough, she started a watercolour planner at about the time I started following her.

Now, I didn’t think I liked watercolours. I have trouble maneuvering with a brush, and I didn’t like the finality of it: that you need to know what you’re doing before you start. But Little Coffee Fox’s Month in Color showed me that you didn’t really need to know! You could just doodle and add linework and white gel pen highlights and basically do what you liked. So that’s why my November cover page turned out a riot of mixed media!

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So I dug out my old watercolour pencils and rediscovered a childhood passion. They’re the perfect compromise: the nib of a pen that gives you some control, and then the water soluble colour that blends and makes beautiful gradients.

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And as I continued working with a lot of watercolour on my spreads, I discovered that they were an excellent way of entering diary elements as well – like this little doodle of hubby playing the piano late one night after we watched a movie.

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And as if she’s read my mind, Little Coffee Fox has a giveaway this week: a watercolour kit with a Moleskine Watercolor Album, a Finetec gold palette, a set of three Pentel Aquash Water Brush Pens and a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. Wow… I mean, just those metallic colours has me all itching to start a new weekly spread! Or imagine painting a January cover page with silver and black…

Yes, you get it. You need this thing. Follow this link to enter the giveaway too! And while you’re at it, if you like bullet journalling, you need to follow her. 🙂 It’s a veritable rabbit hole, but so prettily decorated that you won’t notice when your life goes up in flames. 😀

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Spot the mistake!

I’m trying to move into proper bujo photograpy, and today was sunny so I thought I’d give it a shot. Problem is, it was too sunny. But even if that meant looong shadows where I didn’t want them, it also meant lace opportunities. 🙂

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That’s not the mistake, though. I’ve been pimping the cover of my bullet journal today, and I added some decorations which will certainly come off in my bag, but I just couldn’t stop myself.

Still, that’s not the mistake I’m talking about either. So can you spot it? It’s tiny, and in a way it makes sense in my case. Maybe it’s a metaphor for how I live and make my choices compared to the norm… 🙂

Preparing for November

Yesterday I made the cover page for November, and if October was all about butterflies, November will be about candles and lights.

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It’s the darkest month, the deep, inky black before the snow comes. It needs a flame to brighten it.

This monthly overview is just a start, but I know I want those lights to be a recurring feature, both on paper and in my home.

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I’m also trying out a food, music, and movie tracker. I’ve written those things on my dailies so far, but I think I want it all in one place (plus I need more space on my dailies!).

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Same with this: I’ve doodled these symbols on my dailies to signify something distressing that happened, something I learned, something I did well, and something good that happened. Now I’ll list it all on one spread, which means I’ll have to write really tiny letters!

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My first speed drawing video!

Ta-daa! I’ve been devouring these speed drawing videos for so long, and tonight I had hours to myself and a new month around the corner, so I thought “Why not?” and went ahead and made one. I’m so pleased with the colours, but please don’t look too closely at the wolf, I think it’s got rickets… 😀

Some miserable photos of a lovely spread

I really should start taking proper pictures of my bullet journal spreads with good lighting, instead of snapping a shaky, dark photo at night and then trying to make it look slightly less depressing in the editing software. But sadly I’m not there yet. Anyway, maybe a year from now it’ll be fun to look back at how dismal my bujo posts were this autumn, and I can feel smug about how pretty my photos have become by then!

Anyway. I tried a new thingy this week: the dutch door. I won’t waste time explaining something that others have explained/shown better here and here. Instead I’ll just tentatively say that I’m loving it!

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I’m using the top strip for a weekly overview with anything that needs to be done at a certain time, like meetings and such. On the row below it, I put dinners, music I’ve listened to, and any movie or TV show we watch.

On the bottom left I have my work related tasks, divided by context (read, Uni, computer), and to the right I have things to do at home plus a square I meant to track my moods in but I lost the motivation so I’m saving it for something else – a better idea, hopefully!

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As you can see below, I’ve put the names of the weekdays on my dutch door pages plus four symbols that stand for “pain in the ass”, “something I learned”, “well done” and “today’s bonus”, because these are things I always want to write down.

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And these pages are my favourite, because one thing I really enjoy with my bullet journal is the diary part of it. I tend to use it both for remembering fun things that happened, funny quotes, lightbulb moments, etc, but also for pictures. When a day is done and the page doesn’t have to look structured anymore because I don’t need to be able to quickly check my tasks, I like to wind down and reward myself/debrief by drawing or painting something, like I’ve done below.

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And so a grey, depressing day with no sun becomes something beautiful because charcoal is beautiful! That’s one point of art, isn’t it? To make the drudgery beautiful?

 

No tasks done, no pretty planner!

DSC_0190_01.JPGSo I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately (grief, cloudy weather, incessant car problems, broken mobile, thyroid issues, and back pain can do that to a girl), and I almost felt like my post the other day was a total lie. It sounds like the bullet journal means I’ve got everything figured out. I don’t, but it does help. I think that without it, I would have been completely under the weather, but with it, I’ve managed to take one step at a time and accomplished a few things.

Like today! Today I had a brightish idea. I’ve been devouring images of other people’s pretty mood trackers, and their creative ways of ticking off each day prompted me to try something new with my “task boxes”.

To begin with, they looked like this:

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Simple and plain. Tick each box as I do the task. But it wasn’t very motivating, just demoralizing when I didn’t fill them in and the row of empty boxes stared at me accusingly at the end of the day.

Enter prettiness!

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Today I didn’t allow myself to really decorate my daily spread until I’d done my tasks. I decided that one task (student assignments I had to grade) would be a purple garland – purple is my colour code for the course in question, and the garland felt like a nice addition to the “g” in the Swedish word for Wednesday in my planner. And the brightish idea I mentioned above was that I couldn’t add my garland until I graded the assignments!

To begin with, I drew each leaf as I opened a new student document and then filled it in once I’d posted my feedback. I could have drawn them all first and then filled them in as I went, but seeing all my unfinished tasks felt too stressful, so I concentrated on one at a time. Towards the end, when I realized I would have the energy to complete them all, I drew the final five leaves in one sitting.

So the natural response to something like this is “Good god, girl! This way everything you do takes five times as long to complete. How does that help your productivity?”

And the answer is, well, the alternative is I don’t do it at all but sit in a corner and whimper, okay? 😀 Some things in life you have to do even though you hate them, and one of those things for me is to tell others how to write correct references according to the APA system. I hate writing references myself, and I hate telling others what to do, so when you combine these two… you get the picture. So really, having a system like this where I get a silly little reward for each time I point out that someone missed a comma here or should have italicized that, it really helps!

Oh, and I also completely drowned my October cover spread in Too Much Stuff, so it went from this

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to this!

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A kick in the behind for the creative mind

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Are you a highly creative person who constantly struggles with structure and efficiency? Who flings yourself with abandon into every shiny new thing, and then you lose track of your thoughts or lose interest once you’ve jotted down your ideas in a notebook you’ll never look at again?

If so, this blog post may not help you at all – but you already know that, don’t you? Because you’ve already poured hours of your life into an Internet drain of tips and tricks to get more organized. You’ve hoarded planners and notebooks and pens – you’ve even tried Outlook’s calendar because everyone said it was the future. Or you’ve put things into your phone with alarms attached, but when the alarm went off you still didn’t do the thing because the time was wrong, or you missed it because it wasn’t in the to-do list you were following on that particular day.

Well. I know how you feel. And I hope I’ve found a Panacea.

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This has nothing to do with the blog post, but my hands are beginning to resemble my mum’s. It’s so weird to look down at them and see HER hands!

You may not be like me (INTP, 5w4, air-and-fire chart, cold-but-sensitive, disciplined-but-lazy, razor-sharp scatterbrain), and you may not be helped by what I’m about to tell you. But I’ve had an epiphany, okay? And who has the strength to keep quiet about epiphanies? So anyway, my big Eureka moment came when I realized that it’s essential for me to play at work. To use precious time to do silly things like writing and rewriting and colour-coding things in a planner, or drawing elaborate brain-storming maps on giant pieces of paper.

And perhaps, perhaps using a bullet journal.

You see, a while ago I got a relevant ad on Facebook. I know, unicorn, right? Never happens. But it did happen. I got an ad for this blog, and I checked it out because I sensed that it would speak to me. Sure enough, it proved to be a veritable rabbit hole, and I dove in with all the death-defying grace of Evel Knievel. After a few hours of reading, I took Little Coffee Fox’s advice and decided to apply my creativity to the most boring aspects of my life. To force those boring things into my world of colour and fun.

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I did struggle for a while. The whole of September disappeared into a frenzy of trying to merge my new bullet journal system with the GTD system I’d been using so far. I read David Allen’s book a few years back and it changed my life, especially the “next task” bit which has really helped me get control over my planning. But I used to use a binder and rip out my ugly, prefab weekly spreads when I was done with them, which meant that I didn’t keep any memories from my life. It’s like I obliterated the days I’d lived every Friday, and when I came across bullet journalling, I realized I didn’t want to live like that.

Okay, it wasn’t just the bullet thing. It was also the death of a friend. I suddenly felt like oh my god, this stretch of time on Earth actually is precious and I want to remember it, savour it, live it consciously.

And here was this system that would let me do exactly that.

But integrating bullet journalling into GTD was easier said than done. Results partially demonstrated below.

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I’ve been using a binder for so long that I’ve forgotten how not to move pages around all the time. As I improvised with the new system, I had to rip pages out and glue them in where I needed them – and then redo it all again when that didn’t work either.

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Pretty, yeah? Nah. Not exactly something you’d post to Instagram to brag about your planner.

I pondered going back to my binder so many times, but there were two things that stopped me:

  1. Every so often – since I’m a total klutz – I’ll drop things. And when binders hit the floor, well… basically, papers fly, which means you can kiss your careful organization goodbye.
  2. The fucking rings! They’re in the way 24/7. You can’t write on the left side of your spread, and bullet journalling absolutely depends on The Spread. I was not going to miss out on The Spread because of the fucking rings.

So I persevered.

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Not very far into my bullet journal adventure, I realized that having pages with Random Stuff in between my weekly spreads was a no-go. Scotch tape to the rescue! But does it feel inspring to use a falling-apart planner with scotch tape all over the place?

No.

So after a few weeks of agonizing, doodling, thinking, ripping-out, glueing-in again, and taping together of pages, I finally decided to abandon my first “growing-pains” journal and migrate to – yes, I fell for it – a Leuchtturm1917. :-/

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And it actually seems to be worth it. I love the dotted grid and the prenumbered pages. I love the discipline it inspires in my hand.

I also love the slew of coloured pens I splurged on because… well, I can rationalize all I want, but I needed to say ‘fuck you’ to certain aspects of my life (dead friends and all that), so I felt like I deserved something frivolous. Also I needed to reconnect with a younger me who loved all things colourful and stationary-related (and who hadn’t met said friend yet… You want symbolism? I’ve got symbolism!).

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So yeah. I remember now. Pen and paper was my first love in life. That said, I love – no, I adore – computers and gadgets and editing software and the Internet. But now and again, I need to touch base with pen and paper in hand, with doodles and colours and the actual physicality of putting pen to paper. I need to feel the structure in the page, the way the ink flows from my fingertips.

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Sometimes I think I deserve my back pain. This is my idea of ergonomy – and always has been. No desks for me as a child. Floor or bed works fine.

It’s simple, really. A child would understand it. I’ve always known I was creative, but when life/work/accountant types have told me to suppress it, I’ve dutifully suppressed it (until the drudgery of soulless work drained me of all sense of fun and I lost the will to live).

But no more. Nowadays I follow my whims and spend time decorating my planner, thinking through the day to come with colourful pen in hand, however frivolous it may seem when I’ve got tons to do. Because sooner or later, I know I’ll check off all my duties, but since I’m inspired to do them, I’ll be much more efficient.

So when I’ve tired out my brain with reading scientific reports for two hours, I don’t force-feed it more scientific reports just because there’s still a pile to get through. Instead I turn to something else, something fun and silly and “pointless”, and I let myself do that until a new spark leads me in a more “serious” direction again – which invariably happens!

You just have to trust yourself to get back in the groove after your little outing into la la land. Because if you don’t allow yourself to play, you won’t do the other things well either.

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Funnily enough, this way of living often leads to the opposite of procrastinating: I do things that don’t need to be done in months, instead of what’s actually on my desk at the moment. But the great thing about this is that when the deadline for the future thing approaches, I’ve long since started the project and perhaps even half finished it, so I already have wind in my sails!

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To sum up, I firmly believe that if you’re creative (and I mean deeply, pathologically creative), you need to make your life creative, even the boring things. Like, sure, you can curse your way through paying your bills and cleaning your house, or you can – I dunno – put on some music and dance with the broom? You know best what will work for you, but my point is that we have a choice either to suffer through the boring stuff by closing our eyes and thinking of England, or we can make the task adapt to us instead of the other way round.

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Finally, a note on the often gorgeous spreads you see on Instagram and the like: those are the result of painstaking practice and countless mistakes. Nothing is perfect the first time – or the thousandth time. There’s always a different truth behind the scenes.

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