Don’t get me wrong. I’m no luddite. I use plenty of online tools to get and stay organised – Outlook for emails and meetings, Asana for managing and tracking team projects, Dropbox for document sharing and transfers…
But as a writer, I love my hard-copy diary and planner.
Pen on paper. Tactile. Real. Magic.
It wasn’t always this way. When I got my first smart phone in 2008, I abandoned the way of the papyrus and tapped everything into that little electronic wedge of delight. It was compact, lighter and easier to carry around, and I didn’t need to scrabble in the depths of my handbag for leaky pens.
But I lost a few things by going digital. The act of inputting text by tapping at a touch screen is completely removed from making your mark on paper – even iPhone 7’s digital touch/handwriting feature doesn’t come near the experience it’s trying to simulate.
You lose not only the tactile act of penmanship, but all the things that your handwriting gives away about you. The scratchy red pencil you use to scrawl in your first dentist appointment in five years. The movie night in smooth cursive script that’s decorated with little stars. A diary is a record, and my digital versions were too clean, too sanitised, too efficient. Flicking through old online calendars, everything looked the same. As if anybody could have lived that year. Yet when I pick up my old hard-copy diaries, they’re relics, full of much more than just appointments and shopping lists and reminders.
There’s also the time issue. It takes longer to ‘input’ a tapped diary entry than to handwrite a diary note, so I found that I abbreviated to save time and RSI. Consciously shortening everything I wrote in my smart phone meant succumbing to half-words, chat acronyms, dodgy emoticons, and chipping away a little more at the English language, not to mention MY WORD-WORSHIPPING WRITER’S SOUL.
So I went back to hard-copy printed paper diaries.
Page-to-a-day, two-page spread to a week, month-at-a-glance…there are many types of old-school diaries and planners to choose from, and over the years I’ve been through most of them. As a late-teen-early-twenty-something I was all about Filofax (despite catching skin in the snappy metal ring-binder way too many times). A few years later I fell for the romanticised history of Moleskine (Picasso and Hemingway used them! Well…actually, no…but they used something similar). Then this past year I discovered one that has worked better than all the rest for me as a writer and creative.
I’ve been using one of Leonie Dawson’s hand-illustrated ‘Create Your Shining Year‘ diaries (yes! that’s an affiliate link) because it’s beautiful. Equally important, it keeps me and my writing accountable. Anyone can use them, but they do seem to have a cult following among creatives (possibly because Leonie is an artist and writer…not to mention unicorn-loving hippy and kick-arse businesswoman). They also tend to sell out as there’s a limited print run.
Aside from the basic calendar and to-do lists, I have come to covet my Shining Year diary because it includes:
- monthly goal-setting pages – I set new writing goals every month, otherwise I tend to slack off and cruise
- end-of-month check-ins – because goals are only worth setting if you bother to review them!
- scheduling reminders – so that you actually take time to outline and action the steps you need to take to reach your goals – in my case mostly writing-related goals, health goals, financial goals, self-care goals
- spaces to doodle, dream, and be grateful – yes, using this diary gives me the warm fuzzies
- and though this bit might sound boring, they’re utterly practical:
- they’re hard cover,
- they’re spiral bound (no bitey metal Filofax bits),
- they lay completely flat,
- the cover wipes clean, and
- they have pockets for your bits and pieces.
So that’s what I’ve been using. I’d love to hear about the kind of diary that you use – or if you bother with one at all? Are you digital or analogue? Pixel or print? Personal secretary or completely disorganised? Let me know by commenting below – and as always, thanks for reading.
Note: I also use Leonie’s annual workbooks (there’s one for Business, and another edition for Life), so if you’re into unicorns and getting your shit together and making stuff happen they’re a fantastic tool, and work in conjunction with the diary.