woman in a dark room bending over desk writing in a journal with crumpled and flying paper around her

Curmudgeonly Journaling

Are you something of a curmudgeon? A chipper person hopes you'll say something like, "Dawn, how can you even ask that? I'm an eternal optimist shooting hearts from my eyes and moonbeams from my soul." While I can't ever spell it on the first try thanks to dyslexia, I am a dyed-in-the wool curmudgeon.

Picture a short haired Black Woman with AS sitting between those grumpy old muppets in the balcony, that's me. I'm the one waiting for the show to start, with her compression socks securely fastened over her calves and hood pulled up, tweeting her thumbs sore about the outrageous prices of allergy-safe movie snacks. The closest she gets to journaling or anything meditative is pithy little comments on her Facebook memories.

That was before. Before what, you ask? Before I had enough things going on requiring me to actively develop and plan ideas, work with other people about them, and deliver in a timely fashion.

What took me so long?

I was always vaguely aware of the planner scene, but To Do Lists and the drab little calendars, we called planners back in school usually worked for my life. And then taking care of The Dude narrowed most of my time down to managing his care, guardianship reports, and scampering along to the best of my ability.

I spent some time exploring Bullet Journal techniques several years ago with an eye toward adapting it for my Spoonie Chat folks, but it didn't work out like I wanted. Then The Planner People started popping up in my life. The content they shared led me into another dimension.

If Pinterest and other leading planner spaces are to be believed, there is a world full of bespoke notebooks, calendars, and journals, rendered in gloriously neat handwriting and decorated with cutesy casual drawings that somehow always look amazing.

The fancy people inhabiting this world are productive, fit, and crushing everything there is to crush. Sigh. Meanwhile, I have terrible motor skills and handwriting, even worse spelling, and usually end up filling up all the space and then some on calendars or forms. Most of the ready-made planners out there are heavily cluttered with lots of design elements and decorations. This stuff makes it even harder for me to track or understand what I’m reading.

What made me commit to journaling?

I joined a small artists group early in 2021. We focus on growing into the best practice to make our art. That means structuring our time, developing our ideas, and bringing them out into the world. A minimalist Bullet Journal-inspired binder combined with “commonplacing” supports my participation in the group. The practice of keeping a Commonplace Book came up during the search for my sister’s birthday gift. It’s just a fancy way to describe the collection and curation of ideas that people find interesting or helpful.

This process is helping me to understand who I am as a writer and advocate, and how to help others to do the same.

Do you keep a journal or planner? I’d love to hear what you find helpful!

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