Bullet Journaling 101

Not too long ago, a friend of mine introduced me to a concept called bullet journaling. It instantly appealed to me because the Tube of You personality who outlined it, well, his character is appealing and he presents the idea in a very straightforward and succinct manner. But it also touched very closely to a few points I could really use work on. Have a look and I’ll give you a few thoughts after.

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First of all, while I love the idea of journaling, I’ve never been good at it—the discipline aspect, that is. I have about a dozen books with a smattering of entries within and the timeline bounces back and forth between them, depending upon which journal appealed to me on any given day I picked it up, having not touched it for months, even years.

I am fairly decent at list making, however, and this may be where my strength and bullet journaling meet. Because I make lists every day, at work and home, and my ability to stick with them is reasonably developed, I can boast some longevity. Bullet journaling takes it a step—perhaps many—further because it’s also got the element of journaling designed into it, an activity I really wish I could develop. In this way bullet journaling becomes more than just a list, but also a reflection and history of one’s life.

Here are some advantages to this technique of journaling as presented by A.J. Kallas, the YouTuber – in bullet form, of course, in the spirit of our topic:

  • There is no limit to the ways in which people can use their bullet journals
  • Bullet journals can help people increase perspective and grow in patience
  • Utilize a bullet journal to track what you are doing: if unsatisfied, you can change that

The ways in which I see straight away that bullet journaling might work really well for me:

  • I can utilize my bullet journal for my to-do listing as well as record my activities
  • Even if keeping a master to-do list, I can write in just a few specific tasks for each day
  • The above allows me to add and cross off the bigger list and avoid becoming overwhelmed or forgetting anything
  • I can record what I did on a daily basis in just a few words and refer back to these entries if I want to pursue them further in writing
  • Making lists and crossing off the to-do portions bestows on me a sense of satisfaction, which in turn can help motivate me to continue on this path
  • The sticky notes—lost and in random, unorganized piles—are forever a thing of the past and my date book is promoted to something more than just a heavy to-do list

I’ve only been utilizing the bullet journaling technique for a few days and, admittedly, have not been 100% on top of it, but I can say I do already see an improvement. Because one of my major goals is to promote accomplishment—even small and even if not everything—things have begun to shift, and I do believe it is because what I am completing is presented as a visual for me, which enables me better to keep in mind things I’ve done from day to day because I can see them, or at least the big blocks of text. Somehow, perhaps, my brain also had recorded the feeling, the serotonin coursing through it or whatever it may be, that comes from this act of writing, preserving the knowledge that I’ve accomplished, even if I have to look to see the precise details.

The reason I highlight accomplishment right now is because of two things:

  • I have a teenage son who is terrific, smart, kind and hopelessly messy, which means I’m spending way too much of my rare spare time cleaning up after both of us
  • My brain has difficulties with filters: if my environment is cluttered, I have a difficult time focusing—and I’ve got paid work to do as well as writing projects (and that doesn’t count all the myriad other things I have to do)

For various reasons we have a lot of cleaning up and clearing out going on in our house, and we’ve also made a few changes to how we approach things. So as we are getting things physically settled and organized, I have celebrated the things we’ve accomplished to get us as close to back-on-track as we can be (nothing is ever 100% perfect, and that’s ok). Simultaneously I’ve been trying to do other things so it all doesn’t become mere existence—recall Kallas’s bullet entry regarding having a life. To that end, here’s a sample from a recent bullet journal entry:

Wednesday, November 11—Accomplished

  • Made master to-do list in back of date book
  • Started blog entry for bullet journaling
  • Paid bills
  • Cleaned under stove and managed to get broiler drawer put back in on the track
  • Helped Turtle make Flädlesuppe for German class

Saturday, November 14—To Do

  • Hang remaining framed pictures on the wall in bedroom
  • Clear out piled-up stuff on other side of the bed
  • Read one poem
  • Finish blog entry—bullet journaling
  • Read [this comes after posting!]

Ah, yes, poems…one of the forgotten beauties of life. I’ll have more on this and how my bullet journaling is progressing in an upcoming blog. Perhaps more thoughts about how to do it and use my journal will further develop. I think I will let anything occur organically rather than trying to brainstorm further changes or additions, but whatever the case, I will let you know. In the meantime, I hope I have inspired you to something that will be as beneficial (or more) as I think this will be for me.

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Many thanks to Stephanie for the vid suggestion,
and A.J. Kallas for creating it.

Journaling Life: Little Women Edition


In all its glory: A packet full of goodness, spread out like a feast.
Our updated bookcase: Two special new editions of Little Women adorn a shelf of other classics we have collected.

A week ago today my son and I went to watch Little Women, a movie whose book I’d never read save for excerpts in elementary school primers. I’d never pursued it further, and as for the why, I’ll get more into that in a future post. For now, suffice to say there are so many reasons to love the movie, which I have now watched twice (the book I am still reading), and the craft within is one of them. Marmie, Jo, Beth, Amy and Meg create much, and these items are not only meaningful and discussed, but also utilized in activities that bring them together, as a family and within their community, something sadly absent in much of today’s world of mass- and commercially-manufactured goods.

With this re-appearance of Little Women, two paths came together in my world: the re-stirrings of creative instinct and Louisa May Alcott’s story of four sisters who have captured my  heart. An online friend and I had been discussing crafting over the last couple of months, and last week I received a packet of items from her to help me get my kit going at a bit of a fuller speed. On Thursday evening I was literally sorting through her wonderful items just minutes before my boy and I were about to dash out the door for my second round of the film (his third).

There may be a dye bath in this material’s future.

In the days since then I’ve developed a minor obsession with the tale—again, more for another post—and ideas related to the March girls passed through my head as the materials caressed my fingers. I recalled my mother sewing wee clothes for my dolls, and I contemplated a shawl from some gauzy fabric for a little Jo, or perhaps Meg. Might I start a small doll collection now? Would I be able to use some of this material for their 1860s clothing, which I love so much? (Except the hoop skirts, a dreadful fashion mistake.) I’m not exactly sure at this point where I’ll go with some items or ideas, but it’s fun to comb through the treasure trove as I brainstorm possibilities.

Have a look at some images from my haul and ideas as they begin to develop ~

From far end of table seen in the first image above

Some of these items appear to be or are pretty fancy, but many of these types of things can be created with your own hand, especially if you are decent at drawing. If you’re not, you can still make beautiful items that Amy March would adore, using stencils, stick- and sew-ons, water colors and more.

I adore the old-world feel of the products advertised on so many of the labels I’d seen on vintage brands, if only in pictures online. Sometimes I wonder that to antebellum or later Victorian eyes, these labels seemed quite modern,  especially with their arching fonts or, as with the letter C in the image below, a swooping, sweeping stroke.

I am certain today’s manufacturers are quite aware of our affinity for such reminders of the world our ancestors inhabited, and make good use of their knowledge.  I shan’t name any names, but there are those amongst us who purchase some items simply for the label appeal: the faraway-ness of the times in which these labels originated made way for their descendants, simultaneously bearing that same distant feel yet striking familiarity.

Beautiful flowers to adorn nearly any idea a journaling artist could come up with. These are manufactured but can also easily be made with tissue paper or even napkins, as in the absolutely gorgeous junk journal’s opening pages at the link (click image)
Wouldn’t this make a pretty tablecloth? Beth would surely love to feed her doll at such a lovely setup.
Steam punk! These itty bitty spools, clothes pins, what look like the innards of a clock and more give off an old feel, transporting our imaginations in time. One could probably even do spirograph-type imaging with these small, circular pieces, resulting in pictures that illustrate what we’ve learned about the historical eras on our minds.

Join us going forward with this new series exploring various types of journaling and the creativity one can bring to it, using items such as the above or with simple things one might ordinarily toss or recycle. Inspirations are endless and can come from literature, science, history, geography, film, travel, nature, industry, fashion, memoir, food, the animal world or any theme you can possibly come up with.

How could I forget!? A very special thanks to Stephanie for all the wonderful trinkets and treasures! Have a  look at her website for more, right here!

Additional Note: Oopsie! I’ve come back in and cleaned up a few editing errors I discovered upon subsequent reads. 

Reading 2017: Importance of Book Covers (from the IndieBRAG Cover Contest Series)

A few months back I visited with Stephanie, who at that time helped organize indieBRAG‘s cover contest. It was another opportunity for me to chat about book covers and the role they play in my reading and blogging, and it was a lot of fun!


Book cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories, and often times readers first judge a book by its cover. This year indieBRAG has put together a cover contest of books chosen by the indieBRAG Team. These covers were chosen based on several factors including; 1) professionalism 2) visual appeal 3) creativity and 4) fit with the story/genre.

This week we have asked the ladies of the indieBRAG Interview Team to discuss with us the importance of book covers, what they like, want to see more of and so on. Today Lisl talks with us about this.

Lisl, on the scale one to five, how important are book covers to you?

I’d probably say in between four and five. Though I add the caveat that there have been books with solid color covers I’ve enjoyed. If a work’s premise appeals to me, I won’t not read it because of a dull jacket, but it is so that such a cover lessens the chances I’ll be drawn closer and discover the richness between the pages.

Why are they important to you?

A fantastic cover often draws me to a book, even from across a room (or stack). It will make a statement or offer some insight or perspective to the story, or even provide food for further thought that wasn’t necessarily addressed in the book, at least not directly. Sometimes it’s just beautiful or striking in a way that makes me want to experience the pleasure of simply taking it in.

What do you not like in book covers?

Despite my comment above about solid covers, I really don’t care for them. They’re bland and don’t provide any kind of visual peek into the world the story’s characters inhabit, which I really love. I can understand an author preferring not to have images of characters; some want to leave that visualization up to reader interpretation, and I respect that. However, not to have any image, pattern or design detracts from the experience of reading a book—reading the cover is an integral part of the event. The lacking even strikes me as a bit lazy.

What would you like to see more of in covers?

Hmmm … I wasn’t really sure how to answer this at first, so I did a quick examination of five covers I especially like. One, for 1066: What Fates Impose, by Glynn Holloway, is fairly straightforward, with minimal but forceful design that takes a stand, replicating the martial tone threaded throughout the novel. The image on Sarah Bruce Kelly’s Vivaldi’s Muse is the partial reproduction of a Lefebvre painting, which in particular sets a tone, with its creative beauty and expression, and absolutely spot-on colors, that exactly matches the personality of the historical character portrayed within—plus it’s a picture not often seen within the reproductive market (greeting cards, coasters, books, etc.) The other three show images with lots of detail and space for commentary on the themes: Anna Belfrage’s A Rip in the Veil’s girl walking away from the viewer is surrounded by a host of detail meaningful to the theme, as is the warrior on Paula Lofting’s Sons of the Wolf (first edition). And finally, Annie Whitehead designed a magnificent cover for Alvar the Kingmaker that reflects—literally even, what with items mirrored in a crown’s arch—contemplations of the past and present for the people involved, as well as their future and that of others: strands of life that touch multiple lives, including those yet to come, in this world and the next.

Despite the various styles these book covers all have, it’s easy to recognize that the statements made by or the reading of them provide strong and meaningful links to what happens within the narratives. The characters might even recognize themselves or something close to their identity within the images, and if that’s the case, then surely it is all the more striking for a reader. Moreover, the various styles of these covers indicate that there are many ways to achieve this intimacy and insight. 

So I suppose the short(er) answer would be that I’d really love to see covers with more connection to the people and places that populate the books. Their lives and events depicted meant enough to put them to paper, so why not go all the way?

How many books have you read this year thus far? 

Well, 34 to be precise, though I confess I haven’t even looked at one portion of my goal (sci-fi), which focuses more on genre this year than numbers.

Do you participate in cover contests by voting for your favorite? 

I would if I knew about them! I love examining and interpreting covers, though it is true I haven’t been online quite as much recently as in the past, so I’m sure I miss a lot. Which is why I was so excited to learn about indieBRAG’s contest—even as an observer.

When writing a book review do you consider the covers to be part of your rating the book?

Truth be told, I’m not in love with star ratings, and don’t use them (except within online social cataloging sites that make me, in order to post reviews). My reviews tend to be non-linear and contain a touch of the analytical; how much I enjoyed each work can be determined by my words. But as a more direct answer, I typically don’t talk about covers, at least not at great length. This is partly because my entries are a bit longer than many other reviews, and adding too much more might on occasion become a bit weighty for some readers. Also, for better or worse, not all books have covers that bear much discussion.

How much do you blog per week and how much do you talk about book covers?

Also for better or worse, my blogging has to be scheduled around my family and work, so I don’t have a set number of entries per week, though I try to do at least one. (That doesn’t always happen!) I have done a couple of cover crushes, after the practice initiated by a fellow blogger and indieBRAG reviewer, and would love to do more. Sometimes I make mention of covers in reviews, though for the reasons stated above I don’t always.

It’s been great chatting with you, Stephanie, about book covers—and as always, I thoroughly enjoyed the get-together!

A pleasure, Lisl! Thank you for visiting today.

Link to another interview with Lisl here.


Well, my book count has increased since this interview originally published, and you can see what I’ve read here (and what I’m still reading, here). I do confess, however, I remain behind in my sci-fi ….

Also, you won’t want to miss: Stephanie’s blog, Layered Pages, and her fun new endeavor, Novel Expressions, a Facebook page that in January shall be expanding into a blog well worth marking your calendar for. She’ll be partnering with Erin, whose own blog, Flashlight Commentary, is birthplace of the cover crush spoken of above. 

Previous entries in the Reading 2017 series:

Readers’ Chat with Stephanie Hopkins

Origins of the Challenge

Reading Challenge 2017

New Genre Library (True Crime): Murder in Greenwich

The Importance of Book Covers (Book Blogger Group Chat)

New Genre Library (Graphic Novel): The Metamorphosis

New Genre Library is a three-part spinoff series of Reading 2017


New Genre Library (Science fiction): Title TBA

And a fun entry to round out the year!