Give your Planner a Guardian Spirit

Give your Planner a Guardian Spirit

I stole this idea from Austin Kleon, who started taping figures like Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman inside his notebooks a couple years ago to act as guardian spirits. It looks like such a fun practice, an opportunity to christen and personalize our new-year journals, so why not join in?

Scour through your books, magazines/comics/manga, and other junk you’ve collected in your years as a collector of miscellany, and shake out any spirits that might seem worthy of your planner — clipping them out with a pair of scissors might be more effective. Or find a picture online to print out, if you have something in mind! You can see in this gallery, I was close to cutting out a portrait from my Iria: Zeiram the Animation DVD or slapping Ronin Division’s dog sticker into my notebook.

But while looking through donation piles of books this afternoon, I opened this volume from a Japanese collection of Henry Miller’s works, bought second-hand over a decade ago and never paid attention to again. In between its pages I found this advertisement and entry card for the Famous Writers School, an institution of some notoriety that operated a correspondence course around the 1960s and 70s.

The headline from co-founder Bennett Cerf made me smile, and I decided he would be perfect as my first planner guardian spirit. While I didn’t know much about Bennett beforehand, embedding his soul into my journal motivated me to look him up, and his work establishing and leading book publisher Random House is tremendously interesting, despite the shady schemes in his late career. The hope is that he’ll give me a restless urge to fill this notebook with new ideas.

Go out and catch your own unexpected guardian spirits to trap inside your planner, and make sure to share them with me on Twitter and Instagram — if I receive enough, I can add them here in another gallery as examples!

Planning Imperfectly

Planning Imperfectly

I spent a lot of time feeling shitty about not using my planners. It made no sense why I had so much trouble filling their pages — I love every notebook I pick up, slipping easy into the fantasy of recording Important Work and scrapbooking a Remarkable Life.

But then another year would pass with a Hobonichi Techo empty but for one week of pages. The stack of almost blank journals would inch higher. Rihanna’s cover of “Same Old Mistakes” would play as I browsed through Hobonichi’s updated line of Techos for the next year.

What kept me from using my planners was this belief that my pages had to be filled with content that was Important, Remarkable, or Beautiful. Seeing staged photos of others’ journals filled with meticulous notes and sketches from a practiced, delicate hand reinforced that idea. Like, there are people out here painting watercolor masterpieces in their notebooks, and I’m struggling to make my printed words legible lmao.

It’s like getting wrapped up in presenting perfect, curated lives on social media. I had to stop telling myself, mostly on an unconscious level, that whatever I wanted to put down had to be worthy of sharing or envy. It doesn’t make sense when this is just a personal diary, right? Who cares if, for the life of me, I can’t keep these letters straight on the line? I’m just trying to make sure I remember to drop off library books on the way home, or congratulate myself for not putting off my haircut and looking ragged for another week. It’s really not that serious.

I let go of a few habits that were in my way:

  • believing my pages needed to look like the dressed up and clean layouts other shared
  • dismissing the smallest goals as too trivial to merit ink
  • beating myself up if I missed a day or two, or if I didn’t get to cross out even those smallest goals I tried to commit to
  • caring about my penmanship or embarassing statements, as if the goal was to produce online content

I appreciated Hobonichi Techo’s Shigesato Itoi talking about his approach of just putting down whatever comes to mind, not feeling obligated to make it perfect:

Most of my entries are just things I’m thinking about. I keep my techo with me whenever I’m sitting and thinking. I don’t really sit and write an entry, but I stop and think a lot while I’m writing. Sometimes I skip the details. I don’t mind making mistakes, I just want to make sure to write things down so I can have it later.

So I set out to keep an imperfect planner, one that allowed me to write inane ideas, record unimpressive weightlifting numbers, and copy hackneyed motivational quotes. I still brought multi-colored pens, rubber stamps, and washi tape to decorate my words, but I almost never used them.

Instead I have a year’s worth of pages, most teeming with near-indecipherable notes in black ink, arrows zipping around to connect thoughts scribbled in different areas, some sentences curling into 90° angles after I ran out of room.

I’m finally using my planner, and even if the pages are messy, actually using it has made the rest of my life feel more intentional and organized, results that felt out of reach before. Even my old journals, I’ve started writing in those, too, since there’s no extra room in my current planner. Being from years past, they’re not effective as daily schedules, but I’m using them to write fiction and as scratch paper for projects like this Planner Club site. You know, Important Work.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

New Year, New Plans

New Year, New Plans

I began writing and examing planners for Tiny Cartridge six years ago, when Hobonichi launched the English edition of the popular Techo. As taken as I was with the idea of a do-it-all book that could inspire me to put creative ideas on paper, I was even more enamored by the promise of having a week — a life, even — organized out of the scatter-brained muddle that made-up my usual days.

While I struggled to use a paper journal with any consistency in the years since, I continued to talk about them on Twitter and discovered many others who shared this attraction to the potential of planners, as well as a fixation on all things stationery.

Tweets about the mundane disappear quick on the timeline, though, and I wanted a permanent home for these conversations and links. Plus, I was blessed to have a free week during the holidays, and I wanted to learn WordPress to get back in my web design bag. So after my friend Phil came up with this cute domain name, I grabbed some free Unsplash photos and went to work creating a Planner Club for us all.

I put everything together in a hurry to launch by the New Year, and I’m still trying to figure out what Planner Club to be. My hope is to develop it into a community where others can participate and share what they’re excited about with their planners.

Whenever I picture my goals for Planner Club, I remember this message Club Nintendo sent to Japanese members back in the glorious Year of Luigi (source: Kikai’s Blog, via Supper Mario Broth):

That’s the type of energy I’m on, too: Planner Club was founded for all the planner owners to feel more pleasure. So thanks for being joining Planner Club! I’m excited to see what we’ll make out of the site together in 2019!

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

What do you want Planner Club to be?

What do you want Planner Club to be?

The problem with having a name before the site is now I need to create something that lives up to the vision a phrase like Planner Club evokes.

I know I want somewhere to talk with you about how we use our planners, and to allow you to share what you love about your notebooks, but I’m not sure what that would look like here. Maybe you can help me out with this?

The site isn’t much yet, just a dozen planners and stationery accessories that I could whip up quick posts for. There’s a lot of space here for other ideas, though, and I really want to create something you’d want to return to. What do you want to see from Planner Club? What would make you want to participate or check the site? Drop me a line on Twitter (@planner_club), sign up for the mailing list in the sidebar, and we’ll talk about it!