{What I Love} no2: W.E.D.

This year it seems like everyone in the scrapbooking world is doing Project Life, which is a concept of weekly scrapbooking. Each week, you print your photos and make a layout covering that week's details, using divided sheet protectors for speed and cute embellishments for, well, cuteness. You put photos, journaling, and bits of ephemera in the little pockets, all with the goal of capturing your everyday life.

I admire the many people who are able to accomplish this, but Project Life is not my thing. (Just as the December Daily thing isn't.) Not because I don't believe in capturing the everyday stuff—I do. But. One of the benefits of reaching my advanced age (I turn 40 this year!) is that I am finally beginning to know myself, and I know this: I wouldn't stick with the Project Life approach. I'd fizzle out in a month or so and then be left with all those supplies to feel guilty over.

Plus, I don't want to stop scrapbooking the way I already scrapbook. I do a lot of everyday-moments stuff in my albums. I write on my blog. And in my journal. AND I do my W.E.D. notebook. It is enough for me.

Perhaps some of you are thinking—W.E.D.? What is that? You can read more about it here. In essence, it is exactly what it stands for: Write Every Day. There is just enough space in the notebook to write one image per day. What was most memorable about that day? I jot it down. Sometimes it takes me three minutes. Sometimes I have a lot to say so it takes me eight minutes and very small handwriting. One of my good friends who did this last year told me that the small space makes it easier for her to stay consistent, not because of laziness but because of guilt elimination. You can only fit one image or moment in the space—so you fit it and feel satisfied.

And, I know: it doesn't seem as fun as Project Life or other similar projects. It's not, somehow, as sexy. But now that I've done it for two years I can tell you this: it is meaningful.

I have put down little snippets of my life on paper. The funny things and the frustrating things and the beautiful things. My W.E.D. notebooks are resources for scrapbook journaling. They are a family archive. They are my memory's back up.

And they are simple.

I don't have to print anything. I don't have to Photoshop pictures. I don't have to cut, glue, trim, or measure. I just open my little side table drawer, get out my WED notebook and pen, and then write. Sometimes I do stick a few things down—a movie ticket, a receipt, a scrap of something. Sometimes I sketch something and then write about it (and the writing always includes an apology for my dismal sketching skills).

Last year, between Ragnar and the Hobble Creek Half, I somehow fell off my W.E.D. goals. (I think I got out of the habit because I slept away from home for Ragnar.) I didn't write anything for those two months. Now, flipping through my notebook, I feel a sense of loss: what didn't I write down those days that I have now lost? I can't get them back. Which makes me more determined this year to do better.

Except, here it is, February 2 and I only printed my W.E.D. notebook YESTERDAY. I know---fail. Somehow January got away from me. My 2011 notebook has been covered with sticky notes of stuff I wanted to add when i finally did get it printed. BUT! It is. Finally printed, that is. This year I also made one for each of my boys to use. None of them are excited but I'm hoping I can perhaps ignite their interest somehow.

If you want to make your own W.E.D. notebook, here is a PDF you can print:

Download 2012 write every day calendar

Don't worry about missing January. Maybe, if you still remember, jot down a few impressions from the earlier days of this week. You could even skip printing January to save paper! Print the pages double sided, so that the first week is printed on the back side of the title page—that way, the margins will be correct for when you have it bound. I use a sheet of double-sided patterned paper on top of the title page, and then I have my copy store put a plastic cover and back on it, then spiral bind everything together.

It works. It's functional. It keeps me (usually) dedicated to watching for moments and, thus, more involved in my life. It's one of the things that make me happy right now, and yes: I do love it!

Are you doing any year-long projects?

2011 Write Every Day

Ah, January. The month I switch Bath & Body fragrances (from Midnight Pomegranate to Twilight Woods), and get all sorts of inspired to do little household projects (like reorganizing cluttered kitchen cupboards, cleaning closets, and sorting my bookshelves), and try to make positive changes (probably after two months of being a potato I should start exercising again, yes?). It's a month that inspires fresh starts and resolutions.

One of the goals I will be revisiting this year (who am I kidding? I am always revisiting this goal) is the one of writing every day. This is a binary system of goals: writing for publication (perhaps this will finally be the year I am noticed?) and writing for getting down memories. The publication part is an entirely different post—this one is focusing on the memory part.

Last year I introduced my W. E. D. concept. The basic concept is similar to taking a photo every day, except for this one you do with words. I've managed to fulfill my goal of writing every day in my WED notebook and I am in love with the things I have recorded, many of which would have been forgotten. Funny things said by kids and other family members; bits and pieces of conversations; ideas for blog posts. I've written down my reactions to TV shows, or the title of a song I caught on the radio while brushing my teeth before bed; little reminders of things to do tomorrow, snippets of dreams, feelings I didn't want to forget (both negative and positive!). I've striven to get down the essence of a day into words. Writing in my W.E.D. notebook became not about writing well so much as writing exactly, using words to communicate one important thing.

I've learned many things from my W.E.D. experiment, but the one I think will linger the most is this: the key to sticking to a goal is to simplify it as much as possible.  Especially when we set our scrapbooker side to something, it's easy to make it complicated—to make it about the products & the pretty paper & finding the perfect pen. The Write Every Day notebook strips all of that away. It isn't fancy or complicated; it's simple and utilitarian. Once you print and bind it, you're finished. Your pen doesn't have to be archival or special in any way. You just pick up your notebook every day and write a little bit.

That "little bit" is important, too. The notebook doesn't have a ton of space each day. Just enough for three or four sentences (depending on your handwriting, of course!). Having a small space to fill helps you overcome some of the fear wrapped up in writing. You don't have to start with the history of everything. You don't have to tell an entire story. You don't have to fill an entire blank page. Just a friendly little rectangle. You fill it up with the thing that felt most important that day, and then you move on.

One last thing I loved about this process: using my own handwriting. Truly, my handwriting is awful. It's not quirky-cute at all. It's uneven and random and rough. But seeing pages of it again (after years of blogging and journaling on my computer) feels more personal—feels more like me caught on paper.

Suffice it to say, I am doing this process again this year. I imagine I'll do it every year! If you'd like to join me, here's how:

  1. Download the 2011 WED calendar: Download 2011 write every day calendar
  2. Print it double sided. If you're not lucky enough to own a printer that does that for you, simply print the odd pages first, then re-feed them and print the even pages on the back. (Test this out on your printer first, since they all feed paper differently. Make sure you're printing the right week on the correct back!)
  3. Pick two cardstocks or thicker patterned papers you love. Double sided papers are awesome here! One will be the front, the other the back.
  4. Take this all to a copy store and have them spiral bind it for you. (Unless you own a coil binder. Then you can do it yourself.)
  5. Write. Every day!

I write in my W.E.D. every night before I go to bed. There were a few nights last year I forgot, or was just too tired, but not many—fewer than 20 in the entire year, I think. When that happened, I wrote first thing the next morning. I kept it in the table by my bed, with a handful of pens. Now it's stored with the rest of my handwritten journals, and 2011 has taken its place.

Happy writing!

Write Every Day

One of my clearest memories of my grandma Elsie's home: in her family room, she had hanging on her walls seemingly every single calendar she'd ever had. I'm not sure she ever removed any calendar. She'd just hang up the new one in a empty space. Most of them were cat-themed calendars, so you'd walk into her house and be met with hundreds of kitty eyes staring back at you.

I'm not 100% certain, but I think she turned the pages on all of those calendars, every month.

I always thought this was weird, but now that I am an adult I have to confess: I, too, cannot bring myself to throw away a calendar. Granted, they are kept in a standing folder in the office closet, out of sight, and not hung up everywhere. But I so understand the impulse. A calendar becomes a sort of journal, if you write things on it. I've got things like miles I ran, how much I weighed, funny things the kids have said, notes from doctor's appointments, to-do lists, and other things I wanted to remember for myriad reasons, all written on calendars.

I'm also learning that not everyone has this impulse to record and remember. It's more of an individual personality thing than it is a basic human trait. Still, I think lots of people like keeping track of the details of their lives. Witness, for example, the little flurry that began last year, fueled by Very Important Scrapbookers like Becky Higgins, to take a snapshot every single day as a way of keeping a personal record.

I tried to do the photo-a-day (PAD) thing. I liked the idea because it felt simple: just a picture every day, and write about it. I photographed things like us cleaning the toy room or organizing the boys' bookshelves; doctors appointments and desserts; kids playing and kids doing homework. I made it without any failures through all of January and part of February, and I love the little details I captured. But I kept getting frustrated, because it didn't often end up that the subject of my PAD reflected THE moment or experience I really wanted to capture. Either I always had my camera to my eye, trying to capture THE most important memory, or I didn't get THE photo and I'd just write down what I wanted to remember anyway.

I always go back to writing, it seems.

This year, I am trying something new. Especially because I have realized that, the longer I blog, the less I write in my journal. They may seem like the same thing, but they are not. My blog entries are more polished, structured, and thematic than my journal entries. My journal entries are more personal and private, less about writing well and more about figuring out stuff. They are both important, but I've neglected the journaling part.

This year, I'm doing an experiment. I am challenging myself to not miss a single day of writing. To write everyday. But, in the same spirit as the PAD: simple and straightforward. I am going back to the idea of a printed diary, only it's got limited space. Space for about three or four sentences, just enough to capture one or two specific things per day. I got this idea from a patron at the library, who told me about a set of books she'd inherited from the family farm. There was one for each year---dozens of them---small books with space for writing just a few facts about the day. Her great-great grandfather had written in them, little details like how much milk they got from the cows, or how much grain they harvested, but also things like "attended Uncle David's funeral" or "cousin Mary's baby born today."

It's probably silly on my part---that portion of my personality dedicated to keeping a record. But this idea makes me excited. I'm keeping my WED notebook right next to my bed, and imagine myself writing in it each night before bed. Just the one or two details from the day.

Of course, I am nothing like a Very Important Scrapbooker. But. I thought I'd share this idea, and the file I used for making my WED notebook. Just in case anyone else wants to join me. There's still the weekend to print it, and to get it bound---mine is waiting to be taken to the copy store for a spiral binding. I printed it double sided, so I can just flip the page each week. Simple, straightforward, and fast!

Here's the PDF:Download 2010 write every day calendar

And a little promise to update my WED progress on my blog, and maybe offer some writing suggestions, or insights, or whatever.

Happy writing!