Bullet Journaling - The power of paper and a pen

4 min read

That is a terrible title. Oh well.. I you have a better one I am all ears.

I wanted to take a post and share about my nerdy hobby of writing - on paper with a pen. I am a bit of a journal collector - I love the smell and textures of paper and finding the best pen to write.

But more importantly, I write because writing helps me think, ideate and has helped me solve one too many puzzles of my life. It is sort of like taking some time to meditate and to think and to ideate and to be honest with myself. Sometimes it is not even words - just doodles - sometimes not even doodles - just lines or symbols. The point is, to get things out of my brain and into paper - oursourcing parts of my puzzles and mazes into another helper so that I can visualize it on a physical device - when I am ready, or forget if I am never ready.

The benefits of writing (vs. typing) have been articulated again and again by researchers. Here is one of my favorite NPR article and here is one from Forbes.

What to write about?

I like having a dedicated place to go to to think and to take a break. So I have a dedicated journal to think and to take a break. My only requirement is to date each entry, but for the content - anything goes.

I have been writing for over decades now, and the themes that I particularly find myself writing about are - business ideas, notes from books that I have read, and introspection ideas. I do sometimes write my to-do lists and occasionally about daily events.

Each of my entries are judgment free - if I write something, the future me doesn’t get to judge the past me. Each entry is allowed to be messy - in fact it is encouraged.

Pressuring myself to keep neat journals totally defeats the purpose of having a journal sidekick in the first place.

I need to outsource the clutter in my head, not to keep the clutter in my head and outsource the neat and pretty stuff in my head.

Stories from how writing has helped

  1. Learning R: I have a CS background, but there is always something new that I want to learn. In fall of 2012 I taught myself R in my free time. I carried a pocket journal with me and wrote in it different syntax and notes that I wanted to remember. I listened to online lectures and read a few books, and declared victory in 2 months! It would have taken me forever to learn R without having my notes to go back to.

  2. Starting a business: I enjoy solving problems to a fault. I started making a journal of problems that I see and would like to see fixed. Taking the time to write down ideas instead of just thinking about them helped me to quickly eliminate the bad eggs.

  3. Reading Books: I read… a LOT! But what is the point of reading if you cannot remember what you read and learn from it? Writing small snippets for yourself to go back to is such a game changer.

How to start writing

Here are a few tips to start journaling for the first time writer:

Make the experience enjoyable. Buy a new journal - something that you would like to come back to everyday, and signifies a fresh start. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but something that you would like to see everyday. The journals I used right up to 2012 were all from the dollar store (or equivalent). Get a pen that you like to write with - flowing on the paper and doesn’t hurt your hand.

I always worried about the first page of a journal - what if I mess it up? Well - take a deep breath - trust the universe and … write!

Mistakes are what makes things beautiful and different and relatable. Think about the amazing creators like Vincent Van Gogh and Bach and Edison - they made mistakes, they created, and they allowed themselves to do what was needed to be themselves. If we don’t make a mistake, we aren’t real - mistakes are going to happen. Writing poorly is the first step to writing better, and better. So lets start aiming to write - with the intention to achieve your goal.

I’d love to hear from other writers in the community. If you would like to share your experiences, please feel free to comment below.

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