What I Want In a Planner

Before I look at some specific options for my 2018 planner, I decided to make a list of the features I’m looking for. I’ve got four big priorities to make sure a planner stays useful longer than the average New Year’s resolution.

  • A5 size
    Planners need to be easy to carry around. An A5 style is big enough to fit plenty of info, but it’s also small enough to cram into most of my bags.
  • goal-setting features
    It’s easier to keep daily activities matched up with longer-term goals when I’m using the same notebook for both. Many goal-based planners also remind you to review your progress regularly.
  • 2 pages per week
    I want to spend my week mostly focusing on 2 pages. I’ve found that a weekly calendar with an extra spread of planning pages leaves some tasks lost in the shuffle.
  • thick, good-quality paper
    My favorite rollerball pens have dark, heavy ink, so good paper is a must. Unless a planner’s specs brag on their paper quality, I’m not interested.

There are a few other things that aren’t deal-breakers, but they’d be nice to have.

  • no time labels
    Breaking down my day into preset units of time is intrusive and unhelpful. Just give me space for each day and let me decide how best to use it.
  • two ribbon bookmarks
    This is such a simple thing that it’s hard to see why more brands don’t do it. It’s so convenient to be able to easily mark two different places in any notebook or planner.
  • a simple layout and style
    I want a planner that gives me structure without feeling cluttered. It also shouldn’t be overly stylized. A clean design feels more focused, and it’s less likely to clash with all the stickers I’m gonna cover this thing in.
  • some note pages
    I’d love a small section in the back to keep notes in, preferably with a dot or grid layout.

I’ve experimented with bullet journals in the past, and I use some elements of that system for my writing notebooks. But for my main planner, it’s best to trade the flexibility of a blank notebook for something that’s already set up. I like to have visual representations of my weeks and months, and DIY-ing that kind of thing feels like a time sink.

Next week I’ll start going over some of the planners I’ve found.

Adventures in Writing Workshops

My library occasionally hosts writing workshops, and I try to go to the fiction-related ones when I can. Most presenters talk about their own writing process a little, and that’s always fascinating.

Getting someone else’s perspective on any writing-related topic is usually helpful; just the process of hearing things explained in a different way can spark new ideas. It’s also encouraging to be in a room full of people who are all working towards similar goals. I spend a lot of time alone, lost in my own head, so it’s nice to get that occasional reminder that there’s a larger community out there.

Picking a Planner for 2018

I live and die by my Google Calendar, but no matter how convenient that is for managing events and appointments, I’ve always preferred pen and paper for dealing with the rest of my life.

Last year I used a Volt Planner from Ink + Volt, but despite their slick new redesign, I’m looking for something different for 2018. The Volt Planner devotes four pages to each week, which left me with a lot of wasted space. Putting my weekly goals on a different page than my day-to-day activities also kept them out of sight and out of mind, which defeats the purpose of a goal-based planner. (Yes, I’m apparently unable to focus on two sets of pages every day. After trying for a solid year, I’m ready to admit it.)

2017 Volt Planner with part of my weekly schedule filled in
my Volt Planner from 2017

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting about what type of planner I’m looking for, and I’ll share some of the options I’ve found. And hey, those Volt planners are sturdy and have great, thick paper, so if you’re more consistently capable of turning pages back and forth than I am, check ’em out.

Book Diet – 2017

I’ve always been that reader who can’t pass a used bookstore without going in, and I’ve had to set a firm one-bag limit during my county’s yearly library sale. But when I reorganized a few shelves late last August, I finally realized just how many unread novels I had lying around.

Some of them I recognized right away. There was a short stack of vintage fantasy I picked up at the thrift store down the street and a couple of larger piles of adventure hardbacks from estate sales. I found a book that I borrowed a few months before, two dirt-cheap ebay purchases, and a handful of wild looking picks from this $1 book warehouse in the area.

But there were other books that I’d completely forgotten about. Why did I have two copies of Joseph Conrad’s Victory? And why had I ever thought I’d read those sleazy-looking spy novels? Yes, the lead character is apparently a “Killmaster,” which is hilarious, but skimming the first few pages makes it obvious that those books are never going to be my thing.

It was definitely time for another book diet. I stopped buying books in September, and the plan is to keep that up through December. In the meantime, I’m working on my to-read piles and grabbing new releases from the library. I didn’t cancel anything I cared enough about to preorder, and I might bend the rules if I hear about some really limited edition that’s sure to sell out before the new year. But other than that, I’m not buying books.

Thanks to some strange law of the universe that makes every one of my library holds come in at once, I haven’t gotten through as much of my book stash as I planned to. But now that I know exactly how many unread books I have lying around, it should be easier to resist some of my more questionable book-buying impulses. Maybe next year I’ll just skip the library sale.

Horror Stories You Can Read Online

If you’re looking for something to get you in the Halloween spirit before this weekend’s round of costume parties and horror movie marathons, try one of these:

The Cask of Amontillado, by Edgar Allan Poe
I love the tight focus and the thoroughly cold-blooded narrator, and I’ve always wondered what Fortunato did to provoke such a drastic reaction.

The Yellow Wall Paper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
I like this story best when I imagine that the ending wasn’t inevitable, that things would have gone differently if only anyone had listened. Point-of-view madness makes it the scariest one of the bunch.

The Mask, by Robert W. Chambers
Art and alchemy have tragic effects on a love triangle. This one went in a different direction than I expected, but my inner mean person wishes it had ended a little sooner.

The Haunter of the Ring, by Robert E. Howard
After a meeting with friends provokes a strange reaction, one of the characters explains that he’s afraid of an inherited curse. This story hooked me quick and kept the twists coming.

For maximum effectiveness, be sure to read these in a dark room during a thunderstorm.

Time for Something New

Does anyone really care about introduction posts? I’m not sure, which means I’ll make this quick.

The previous incarnation of this blog started in 2011, but the platform I used for it isn’t a good match these days. So here’s a new version! A (hopefully) less annoying to administer version!

I won’t be importing all of my previous content, but I will repost edited versions of some of it over the next few months (I’ll tag those things “repost” as a way to keep track). So if you ended up here by way of a broken link, try using the built-in search on this page! It might send you through to what you were looking for.