Five for Five? Plotting a path to victory

Raise your hand if you knew this post was coming? That's right, in 2 weeks I join the zombie horde of writers, furiously typing purple prose to reach their 50,000 word word goal. I will once again be, a NaNoWriMo novelist. To recap, NaNoWriMo is a month long journey where people around the world attempt to write a complete novel(la) in about 30 days. By the seat of their pants. Some people go into this "competition" with no plot or characters to write about, others like myself, create a loose plot and maybe a character or two before we start writing. Last year, I introduced you to the D*I*Y Planner Story pack and all the goodies that are on those index cards. This year, all year long, I've used the cards to collect plots and snippets for use during NaNo. This year, I'll explain how many multiple brainstorming sessions not only helped me hone in on a plot but helped me create endings and a working outline.

Visual Artist Challenges: Inspiration for Scrapbookers and Art Journalists

Writing prompts abound everywhere. They help guide and tease memories and thoughts out of our brains where they describe worlds and thoughts on a blank page. However, what happens to us crafty types when our minds draw a blank? The canvas is blank; the knitting needles have no yarn on them; we're not feeling inspired to draw. What resources or prompts can we get to help tease the visual art from our minds and down on the page or on our screens? Well, luckily for us there are a lot of different visual arts challenges out there online, waiting to help us uncover our visual art.

Today I'm going to share a few sites and books that help challenge your art and your creativity. I've found that participating in challenges not only help inspire my inner artist but explore the connections between artists located around the world. Art communities tend to use the term challenges instead of prompts because a challenge forces you to think, to push the creative edge and to share your art with others who are working on the same goal. I love this idea of collaborator art as it's always fun to get feed back on your art. While many of these challenges appear under digital or print based scrapbooking, I feel that they have merit and inspiration for ALL types of visual artistry, from scrapbooking to altered journalling to beading and clay.

Inside My Hipster

I've been using my HipsterPDA and this site for about a year now. Doug's been awesome about making lots of new forms for me to use and test out. And I know that a lot of you (after all his forms ARE the reason you're on the site right now, right?) agree with me that it's fun to download and cut out and build your own planners according to your views of GTD or any other productivity methodology you follow, right? Since I've had the chance to use the forms for a year, I thought it'd be fun to show you how I set my hipster up and what forms I've been using.

Let's talk about cases first. When I first started my Hipster I ended up using a plastic case I found several years ago from a local Barnes and Noble. It's translucent blue and has a handle on top. It closes like an envelope and latches somewhat securely. I wish I could give you a nice web link where you can view more information on it, but I have no idea who made it and who stocks it these days. I know that Barnes also doesn't carry it anymore. Then I tried converting over to a 3x5 Moleskine Accordian Notebook. But I found that I wanted more index cards and planner forms than the poor thing could handle. I like thick and full planners. I used to keep all the pages of my classic sized planner in the case, even if I wasn't going to use it because I've always liked books that had weight and substance to them. These days, however, my forms go in style. The latest case is a black 3 x 5 Leather-Rope Accordion File by Levenger. It's perfect for me. I bought it from their site after I started working full time again. It looks a bit more professional than my old blue case and certainly holds a few more cards than it too.

Review : IdeaSpotting

Lately I've been trying to find new ways to push my mind into generating lots of creative content. Tried and true ways of brainstorming seem old and stale to me now. Don't get me wrong... they generate lots of great ideas, many of which become topics for my articles here at D*I*Y Planner. Even so, lately I've felt like I've been in a rut and I needed something new, something odd enough to jolt me out of habit and onto a new, funkier thought path. My something arrived in the form of a book called IdeaSpotting, by Sam Harrison.

Harrison starts out simple, by defining his goal of how the book can train you into finding your next idea. The rest of the 256-page tome of insight and inspiration is jam packed with ideas and quotes; suggestions and exercies to get any brain rebooted into thinking new ideas.

Review: The Decorated Journal

The Decorated Journal: Creating Beautifully Expressive Journal PagesNow, I'm not the sort of man who likes to crochet cozies for his fountain pens, nor the type to accessorise his planner with dangling hand-wrought cameos that match my tie. In fact, if you listen to my wife, you will no doubt hear laments about my inability to even tell the difference between off-white, eggshell, and creme provence, which apparently is the hallmark of a person sorely in need of an expensive interior decorating course. But, these failings aside, I do have an artistic streak that blazes briefly every now and then, inspiring me to consider all the things I could do to bring a dash of beauty into the more mundane corners of my life. A corner in question: my journals.

Once, while shopping with a friend of mine for "design idea" books, I noticed him thumbing through a coffee-table-sized tome that barely had 50 pages, and asked him if it was any good. His response was, "It's $75, and $60 is for the white space." And so it is with many of the books I've seen on the subject of keeping a creative visual journal. In fact, it's one of the reasons why I've left every single one upon the shelves, except for one. That's The Decorated Journal, by Gwen Diehn.

Book of Countings

When I moved into my home, fondly referred to as the Perch, I had to make a tough call. Do I get cable modem or cable television. It was a hard call to make but also an easy one for me. I'm a net junkie and I needed to be connected. So I opted for high speed internet. While television works great for background noise, the biggest reason I switched my tube off was due to news programs. Honestly, they're overwhelmingly negative. And after September 11, 2001... things seem to be even more depressing. Almost a full 20 minutes of the nightly 10 o'clock news seems to get filled up with sad and depressing stories. Occasionally, tales of happiness and joy get shown but to me they're few and far between. This was not what I wanted to see or fill my life up with; and it was something I have not missed.

Instead I learned how to make my own news. I found a use for a journal a friend in college gave to me. She filled the spiral bound journal with a cat on the cover with inspirational quotes and messages. It took me almost 10 years to figure out what to use it for. Taking this book out I decided that it was time to put it too good use. I call it the Book of Counted Blessings and Gifts and for the past 6 years, I've written down (almost daily) the blessings and gifts that life and my travels have given me.

Quick Tips: Five Fun Ways to Use the D*I*Y Planner Job Tracker Form

I figured it was time to break out the D*I*Y Planner forms and select another form, at random, and come up with 5 new ways to use it. So, this time... the lucky form is the Job Tracker form from the D*I*Y Planner Classic Pack. I picked the Job Tracker because it's late and I thought it'd be a challenging form to come up with 5 new unique ways to use it. So, let's see what things we can do with this form, shall we?

Detailed Trip Journal. Yes, I know that the latest form pack does contain a Trip Diary, but for me, there's not that many detailed fields for this form. You can transform this form into a log that tracks more details about a single place on your destination. Enter the name of the place you want to talk about on the Client field. Then use the dates to describe how long and when you visited it. Track your expenses down in the Expenses form. Use the Notes field to jot quick thoughts or keywords about the place and then use the Specifics field to journal or log all actives done in the location. You can even use this form in conjunction with the other Trip Diary to create a more vivid record of any voyage or trip made in the world.

Modding the D*I*Y Planner: Text Changes and Translations

Lately, I've been going back and re-reading many of the site comments in preparation for the Widget Kit specifications. As you probably know (if you've been around here a while), the D*I*Y Planner project has been created in the spirit of true "do-it-yourself-ness," and it occurs to me that many of the requests I see are easily accomplished by almost anybody with access to the right software. In other words, you don't need to be an guru, or a graphic designer, to handle many of the smaller things that people ask for on a regular basis. I've decided to start a small (and infrequent) series on "modding" the D*I*Y Planner templates for the most common purposes. Today, I'm going to cover textual changes, such as those required for producing translations and changing page headers.

Building Rapport with Words

Some days, when I type to my friends, I don't feel like they're getting what I say. They seem argumentative and don't really "listen" to what I am saying. Of course, other days, it's like they're psychic and truly get everything I'm writing to them, with very little explanation. We mesh on the same wave length and our communication and ideas flow like we share one brain. I'm sure you've had days where you felt this way too. Want to know a secret to making this connection happen all the time? It's actually rather easy and I'll let you in on the secret with the admission price of reading this article. It's all about rapport.