On embracing process, or an ode to the bullet journal

IMG_6312Bullet journaling chills out my perfectionism. Or at least, forces frequent application of acceptance techniques. Ripping less than stellar pages from a leather bound journal is less tidy than pulling out pages from a spiral bound notebook. So, I’m learning the practice of self-acceptance and self-compassion, even as I try out new things.

In the process, I’m learning creativity is less about inherent giftedness and largely about the grind. What am I willing to research and practice?

Photography already feels this way for me — less about an “eye” that just magically sees and more about trial-and-error. I read tips and manuals, I browse the internet for ideas, and then, I practice. Take notes, mental or literal. My bullet journal has pages of notes on things I’ve learned from different shoots, things to do better next time, things that worked great (or crashed and burned). And then, I repeat and try again.

In a quick internet search I learn a couple of different styles of lettering for headers of my pages. I don’t know how to draw donuts, banners or cameras, but here again, Google brings me examples and instructions to my fingertips. I just have to try it.

Some attempts are better than others. Multidimensional donuts are way easier for me than coffee mugs. Lettering is simpler than vegetables. But, still, even the less-than-perfect sketches get to stay.


And oh yeah, for whatever reason, I always work in ink, so mistakes are not erasable. Maybe I’ll switch that up, but likely not. As a lefty who drags her hand through her work, I hate writing with pencil.

I still use my notes of coffee shops to visit; I still write down what’s been happening in the vegetable patch. Even on my reflection pages, I don’t force full sentences or perfect writing craft. I just jot notes on feelings or moments I’d like to remember. If I want to cross out a word, I do and I move on. This is not the great American novel or theological treatise; it’s a draft sketch —  a few quick lines to leave an impression and capture glimpses of the Spirit working alongside the glances at my emotional health.


Previously I’d get frustrated when a journal got chaotic with haphazard notes or ideas, and I’d jettison the partially filled journal in favor of a fresh, unmarked notebook. Then, rapidly repeat when perfectionism meant I couldn’t find space for the messier parts of me.

Offering compassion and mercy to myself has never been a strong suit, but somehow in this bullet journaling process of organizing life and goals, I’m learning to practice this on a small scale. The index page is unsightly, but it functions, I need it and I don’t want to start over. Thus, it stays. Even if I don’t like how a particular page looks, I need the list on the other side. And so, oh well, guess I’ll keep the ugly page too. It gets to stay at the table.

And the same is true for us, too. In Matthew 13, Jesus tells a parable about the wheat and the weeds. A farmer sowed a field full of wheat, and an enemy planted weeds among the wheat. The workers came to the farmer wanting to rip out all the weeds, but the farmer said, “No. If you rip out the weeds at this stage, you’ll rip out the wheat, too. Leave it until the time of harvest.”

Bullet journaling is, for me, a constant reminder of the co-existence in this parable. Tearing out the page with mistakes means losing pages with things I need. So, it stays, and I try again. I’ll learn, and the next time maybe I won’t make the same mistakes in sketching. I don’t ignore the presence of the weeds, but I don’t let them overshadow the wheat in the journal either. And, the same goes for life outside the bullet journal as well. This micro scale is helping me practice this on a bigger level too.


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