Using notebooks for decades, I think I know the one thing or another on how to take notes, and what works for me and what not. In recent years, the craze for the bullet-journal method came up. Everywhere in the social media and blogs these beautifully crafted notebooks surfaced, and some people have nothing to do all day long than artistically doing their journals.
Everything you can imagine is documented in trackers, to-do lists, plans, future and past logs, and more. The good old diary met the calendar, met the to-do list, met the trackers, and the logged books. Everybody is optimising and streamlining her- or himself for better performance, for more productivity. Optimise yourself to death. The question is: What for?
I will be honest: I tried this bullet-journal method, and it does not work for me the way they promised it. I tried hard, journal’d everything I could think of, tried to organise my creativity to be more streamlined and productive. But it didn’t work out. I am still living in a (creative) mess. I am still not streamlined, organised, and optimised for productivity. Am I a loser?
At one point, I simply gave up and came back to my ‘old method’ of note-taking: simply writing the ideas into a simple notebook. This has done me good for more than thirty years and still does today. No special system, no trackers, no planners, no nothing. Just a simple notebook and a pen. Without giving a thought on how to optimise, organise, or structure everything, in order to be more ‘productive’. When the pressure of doing perfect notes was gone, suddenly, the ideas started to appear again. And I simply write them down.
Mind you — the bullet-journal method per se is not bad. For some, it is a major and important part to get their life organised. It is certainly helpful for a vast amount of people. A positive aspect is that many of the Smombie generation (Smombie = Smartphone + Zombie) take the time to do something creative and human (thinking, writing, drawing, planning, jotting down ideas), and not sitting in front of their phones, passively consuming what others feed them. They start to creatively jot down everything in and about their lives. Fine.
But then: who will read all this? When you are no longer there, who will then read and enjoy your progress in your habits in the past? Where are the people that appreciate your optimised and logged life when you are gone? Who will read with excitement that your youngest one had diarrhoea on a certain day, and you could do the Yoga workout because of that? And who cares how bad you felt on that day, because you didn’t drink two litres of water, as planned, but only one and a half? And who will be interested that I did the Double Lift thirty times in a row during that or that week, years ago?
The reason for this rant is not the bullet-journal method, but what people make out of it, and there are similarities to what is happening in magic (and for sure in other areas as well). I am always very careful when it gets to the point when something is over-emphasised. When people go to extremes.
The accent in the Social media clearly is on how good, original, clever, beautiful, artistic, well thought out, and advanced people are doing their journals. All this is permanently posted on hundreds of thousands of blogs, Instagram and Twitter accounts. Google ‘bullet journal’ and you will be overwhelmed by the sheer number of search results.
In the end, it is a craze for an empty notebook which is not sold as what it is (an empty notebook, may it be with blank, lined, or dotted pages), but a gimmick that can do wonders and has the capability to change your life. A whole industry evolved, and even the writing utilities industry profits from the trend. Very similar to some copywriting magic dealers used to praise the new ‘revolutionary’ gimmick that will change the way you do magic. Very similar to some of the ‘by-products’ that are sold. What would you do with your precious trick coin set without the fitting leather pouch for only $70.00 to house and transport them? Simply put them into the pocket?
Sure — there are people who have the ability to take an empty notebook and change their life, change the way they organise things and themselves. But then, it is not the notebooks that do these changes, but the people who write into it. The same in magic. Not the gimmicks, new techniques or moves are the most important thing. It is the person, and it is what she or he makes out of the stuff at hand. The leather pouch and the precision coin set don’t better your magic, if you are a not competent in sleight-of-hand. It won’t make you a better performer. I have seen brilliant performers do miracles with buttons, instead of coins. The moves and the magic fooled me completely. There were no gimmicks. it was the performer doing his magic, it was the ability. It was artful craft.
So we are back to the basics: learn the craft thoroughly before you get involved too heavily into all these wonderful gimmicks and gadgets in magic.
Ninety percent of it is crap, anyway.