The Planner Planning Planners

Since this fall, I have been obsessed with designer planners, planning stuff, and planning videos. It started with budget planning, and then moved on to watching videos showing how fellow writers set up and use a bullet journal. Finding myself not having enough current patience or artistic ability to make a bullet journal work, I then went in search of what else was out there. Could there be a planner that would nudge more towards making my own bullet journal that I would actually use, some day? Could I use a planner to encourage myself to write more?

Selling designer planners is big business. Largely catering to women, and often run by women, it would be easy to look at these designer books and see oh-so-much fluff. There is fluff–pretty stickers and girly designs that remind me of my love of Lisa Frank notebooks from the 90s–but there’s also a lot of substance and practicality as well. Many of these women are professionals, juggling full-time jobs along with husband and families, some are homeschool moms, trying to align school times with other family events, and some are thinkers, writers and artsy people who want to be creative in how they plan and organize their lives. And some are all of those combined.

Most people who are not into planning as a hobby would probably be shocked at the prices of some of the daily, yearly, and monthly planners out there–I know I was. As I learned more, though, I found that often these products involve an enormous amount of work put into the design and also choosing quality binding products and paper. A designer planner is akin to a quality art product or material, and those do not come cheap, either. Quality is also important as many of these planners are used throughout the year, carried in bags or thrown onto carseats, and need to hold up well to wear and tear.

This article, I just want to do a rundown of my thoughts on the more popular planners out there, and also the Youtubers on this subject that I’ve started to follow and why.

First of all, although bullet journaling is not for me right now, it is a very cheap option. All you need is a grid or dot grid notebook, and the pens and layouts of your choice. If you’re interested in trying it out, Walmart has dot grid notebooks for about $10. Mine is now going to be used as a regular notebook – it’s a fuchsia Pen + Gear brand and even comes with a little plastic stencil ruler and a pen holder which other more expensive brands of planners and notebooks do not always include. Pen + Gear also has other types of notebooks/planners for cheap, so you can try them out first, i.e., traveler’s notebook system (see below).

As I started watching planning videos online, I kept hearing about Erin Condren this and Erin Condren that. Who is this person? Well, her company designs colorful products of good quality, and her monthly and weekly planners are must haves for a lot of planner collectors. The prices of some of these designer planners are definitely daunting, often $50-$100 when you count in shipping cost, plus if you decide to buy any stickers, bookmarks, or pens that go along with your new planner. I wasn’t really sure I’d use an EC planner well enough to justify the cost. But then I found out about traveler’s notebooks.

Although there is an actual company called Traveler’s Notebook, or just Traveler’s, the term refers to a cover that houses several folios or notebooks, usually securing them with a stretchy cords or bands. Being a lefty, I like the idea of having a planner or notebook where there’s no coils, binder rings or discs to get in the way of writing or to get twisted or bent when thrown into a bag, so trying a TN definitely intrigued me. Happily, I found that Erin Condren makes a traveler’s notebook set of planners called her PetitePlanner Folio System. After splurging, I have been trying it out for a couple of weeks and really, really like it, especially her planning folios with pages for each day. The paper is very good quality, a fact I realized after finding some other notebook inserts cheap at a craft store. This is what I’ve learned about the planning world: You can have quality or you can have cheap. There’s some middle ground at Walmart stores like it, but the shelves are often in disarray, and they may only stock, say, bullet journals, as long as it’s a trendy thing. For buying a nice planner at a store, Michael’s or Hobby Lobby would be a better choice.

Another popular planner that is on the less expensive side is the Happy Planner. These days you can find them in a lot of stores. The planners use a disc-bound system, so you can easily switch around pages, or create your own planner, or take a whole planner apart and rearrange it. The array of spreadsheets, covers, and discs is mind boggling, and if I was a fan of the disc system, I probably would have gone with an HP, but I just wasn’t sure how it would hold up on the go. Other popular, more expensive planners are: Golden Coil, Planner Perfect (uses the TN system), and Hobonichi. If you’re into personalized leather covers for whatever notebook, folio, binder, etc., you’re into, there’s Foxy Fix.

If you’re interested in planners and planning, I highly recommend watching some videos about it first. There are a ton of planning channels on YouTube, and many of the content creators give really in-depth reviews of all of the planning products, plus explain how they use them or how they could be used. They are almost all on Instagram as well. Here’s the ones I follow and why:

The Pixie Planner: She has very thorough flip-throughs and pen tests of just about every popular designer planner out there. If you’re deciding to buy a planner, her videos are helpful and informative. I started following her channel because she did a great review of The Budget Mom’s Live Rich Planner, which I was considering purchasing before it went out of stock.

Amanda’s Favorites: Amanda has the most comprehensive collection of planner review videos that I’ve seen so far. She comments a lot on the kinds of paper, the weight of it, the feel of it, etc., and even if she doesn’t always show how to use some spreads, she talks about it or gives ideas while flipping through pages. She also includes pen tests and critiques on add-ons like dashboards or bookmarks that are to be used with the planners.

Annie Smith: For great videos on how to actually plan and use a planner, especially a traveler’s notebook system like Planner Perfect, Annie’s channel is super helpful. Many people struggle to use a planner because they don’t have a list of appointments every day, but a planner is so much more than that, and Annie gives a lot of practical advice by showing how she uses her planner for her daily life.

Key Lime Ink: I haven’t been following this channel for very long yet, but her videos on planner paper sizes are great resource. Her videos have a different take on planners and notebooks, as she uses them more for serious journaling and artwork. This is why paper and paper quality are so often important for these designer planners. Many women use them as scrapbooks, memory books, and art books, and for that, one needs paper that’s going to hold up well and withstand many kinds of ink and sometimes paints.

This year so far I have found using a planner does keep me more on task, but I’ve had to really make the effort to get into the habit of using it everyday. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably bought pretty planners at some point in your life and used them for awhile, but then forgot about them. It helps that I currently have a lot of things going on in my life for which I have to plan. It also helps that I’ve become more focused on budgeting, and thus planning, and it’s amazing how easy it is to plan for upcoming events, costs, and purchases now.

The TN planning style is definitely for me, so I will likely continue with it. I may or may not stick with Erin Condren’s Petite Planners–I like them, but I might want to eventually make my own spreads or try a smaller size than A5, and it bugs me that the covers don’t come with any pockets or a pen holder. The paper quality and designs are great, though. I may get an EC coiled or softbound planner for next year just to have as a desk reference. The Hobonichi system is intriguing also, as the pages are somewhat laid out, but there’s room to make one’s own spreads, and it might be a great option if I do decide to do full on bullet journaling at some point, or just get back into daily free writing–some of my best story ideas have come from that. These are all in competition, though, with whatever The Budget Mom comes up with for her new sizes and designs for her Live Rich Planner for next year. I’m already loving her Budget by Paycheck workbook, and now seeing so many reviews of other planners, it’s now easy to tell that because she’s coming from a finance angle, her designs have a unique side to them that others don’t. Speaking of finance, Dave Ramsey should make a budget planner. I think people would really go for it.

As you see, I am already becoming an addict to this planning hobby. Like a lot of planners, I am considering: Hey, how can I use all of them? And, don’t I need ten more stickers on this page? More flowers? More cartoon characters? Bookmarks, pen loops, markers, page holders, dashboards? Planning is an interesting world. I like that it’s scrapbooking one’s life without being an actual scrapbook, and it’s fun to check out how other people plan and are using their planners, much like watching an artist work on a painting.

Life As a Story Addict (Part 2)

Last time I went through some of the pitfalls and downsides to a story addiction, especially a fiction addiction. Addictions of all sorts basically come down to this: Something else takes over our lives and gets in the way of our relationships to God, family, friends, and neighbors; gets in the way of our financial goals; gets in the way of how we spend our time; in the way of our health, physical, spiritual, and mental; and lastly, gets in the way of being the best person we were born to be. Me addicted to caffeine or staying up all night to watch six hour-long episodes of a drama I just have to finish, is not the best me. It’s a me that’s hyper, tired, cranky, and down due to lack of sunlight and sleep.

Addictions vary widely in how harmful they can be, however. A severe drug or alcohol addiction can immediately impact a person’s behavior and thinking, while something like too much caffeine, for most people takes a much larger dose and longer time period to show evidence of harm. The great thing about being human is that we have a lot of control in the choices we make in our lives. We can choose to change an addiction from something negatively affecting us, to a positive pursuit. When it comes to story, for example, a young woman who spends her youth with her nose stuck in romance novels may one day be a best selling romance novelist. She still has that passion, but has turned into something she masters, not the other way around. This is why I call this blog A Life of Story, rather than An Addiction to Story. A passion for good stories leads to good things.

The biggest benefit of loving stories is that stories are largely the way humans connect. Though they may not say it, many people are delighted to have listeners and readers of the stories they want to tell. They are anxious to share, whether it’s the old man telling that big fish story one more time, or the mom pealing with laughter over the funny thing her toddler said. For teller and listener, this is a learning and bonding experience. Everyone has at least one great story to tell, as they say, but once one starts listening to people, really listening, one finds they are telling that story or parts of that story almost 24-7. That story is them in some way.

So many story addicts are also writers. This is great, they are attempting to turn their addiction into a good thing. Some are more successful than others, but nearly all simply find peace in writing down the stories they want to tell, often even if no one wants to read them. It’s a bonus if someone does want to read them, and the general public thus has reams and reams of stories both online and off to read, and often for free to boot.

Reading or watching stories, whether fiction or non, are also a great way for people to “travel” in their minds without actually physically traveling. It’s also a way to communication without actually directly interacting with the creators of the stories. We don’t think about it often, but it’s really quite an interesting phenomenon that I can read Crime and Punishment many years after Dostoevsky’s death and still be connecting with him and his thoughts. Some people may want to go see China, for example, and may never have enough money or opportunity to do so, but they can read stories about China, watch movies set in China or made by the Chinese film industry, and if they’re really adventurous they can make China a part of their own story by taking up Chinese cooking or dancing, or language skills. In my own love of Korean dramas and a previous addiction to Bollywood movies, I’ve picked up quite a few phrases in both Hindi and Korean. Stories area great way to learn knew skills or introduce oneself to a potential career or job.

Lastly, stories can be helpful in our spiritual lives. Most of the world’s religions have a creation or origin story to tell, and that directly impacts how a person sees the world. For me as Christian, I know that God created me, that he is a righteous and holy God who demands perfection, but also a loving God, who, when humanity failed to remain perfect, sacrificed himself, his own Son Jesus Christ as a payment for that sin. Instead of trashing the world entirely, God instead decided to save it by great pain and sacrifice on his part. I don’t begin to understand it, but I believe that it’s true because the Bible, tells this story of sin and redemption over and over and over again. This is God’s big fish story, and for believers in him, the greatest story ever told. Story addiction often causes me to sit down and read the Bible. I just want to read the story of Job or Esther or Daniel one more time. Jesus himself spoke in parables, fictional stories with a heavenly meaning or lesson. Our God is a great lover of stories, too, and it’s amazing that we can connect with him in that way, whether by reading the Bible or listening to it read in church. These stories tell us we’re not alone in our sin and weaknesses, that even the best of people, like the apostle Peter, still mess up, but that God is always there to give us a helping hand. Plus, he encourages us to not let the addictions rule us, to not give the devil a foothold, but to always hold firm to the truth. And the Truth is the greatest story ever told! I just think that’s pretty awesome for Christians to consider.

Prayer and living with purpose are the best ways to fight any addiction, or at least to turn it into a beneficial passion. We need a plan of action and spiritual support in that plan. In some cases we are simply too affected by the story or drug or whatever it is and our plan of action has to be to drop it entirely. I had to give up Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series at book 3 because all I was doing was reading, reading reading those books and it was exhausting and hard to focus on everything else in my life. I think story addiction is a kind of addiction that can be made into a passion and a pursuit rather than a monster ruling over me. Along with prayer, my plan of action as I get older is threefold: 1. Limit my consumption of fictional stories, either limit the time spent or be more discerning with the content. 2. Work on my own stories more. I love storytelling and have so many stories I want to tell, and sometimes my desire to read other people’s stories gets in the way of this. 3. Spend more time with people. Okay, this seems like it would counteract step 2, but all the steps work towards the same goal, staying away from addiction, and connecting with people is one of the best ways to do that. Step 2 is a little tricky, because I could very well become addicted to my own fictional stories, so that time, too, should be and must be limited. Oh, I should add a step 4: Always tell myself the truth. As in, it’s ten o’clock, put the book down, it’ll be there for you to read again tomorrow after you get plenty of sleep.

Life as a Story Addict (part 1)

Ever had the experience of spending half of your day running around town, trying rental place after rental place, or library after bookstore looking for a certain movie or book that you just HAD to see or read now? How about skipping work or school to catch the latest release? How about being so lost in a good book, you don’t hear the doorbell or the pot on the stove boiling over? Stories are addicting, more so for some than others, and it is an addiction I have struggled with my whole life.

Stories are generally how humanity operates. It’s part of our basic operating system as people and how we get from point A to point B. Story telling is involved in cooking and recipes, project planning, package delivery, budgeting, insurance, and so on and so forth. Not only that, though, storytelling is a part our souls, a way we express our thoughts, and a way we relate to the people around and also to our Creator.

There is a big difference, however, between the everyday stories we need to hear and tell, and those that come out of our imagination, the fictions we make up. Modern life is awash in fictional stories to become immersed in, from TV shows to movies to novels to manga, and to even headline news. These days we also have near-instant access to any piece we want to read or show we want to watch, as long as we’re able to pay. For an addict like myself, these stories are too often instant fixes that I have to employ a lot of willpower to resist or I may not be able to pay my bills or put food on my table.

I’ll get to the good stuff later on, but I wanted to contemplate the bad first, or the dark side of story addiction. For a good story, I’ll do a lot. For even the promise of a good story, i.e., the blurb on the back of cover, I will plunk down my hard-earned money to end up all to often being disappointed. Sometimes, and I shudder, it is the opposite, where the story is great and there are five more seasons or twelve more books to go and I am tempted to buy and watch or read all of them in one fell swoop.

Spending money on addiction is child’s play. We’ve all done it, whether it’s on coffee, alcohol, new bags, new clothes, cars, and what have you. It’s a very basic part of an addiction, but it’s not really what makes an addiction so, so awful. The awful part about a story addiction is that one begins to replace one’s real life for a fictional one. Not true! You may say. Maybe not for you, but I have done ridiculous and despicable things all under the sway of a compelling story.

How did this addiction begin? I learned to read early and quickly started tearing through books of dubious moral quality. As I got older, this only increased and was a continual push and pull between and my parents. We like to think that books or movies don’t really affect us that much, but they can affect us in ways we barely understand. Let me explain the spell at work here:

A basic example can easily be found in the news, which is so often exaggerated from any side, political or not, to be considered if not outright fiction, very close to it. The people reading and watching stories from say, the Left side of politics have a world view drawn from what they consume. Same for the Right. It’s one of those “plank in the eye” examples, because everyone on one side just knows that the other side has been somewhat brainwashed in what they believe to be true. And that is often true. What the accusers fail to see, though, is how they themselves are under a similar spell, how they themselves are not thinking for themselves or questioning either. We are all to some degree seeing clothes on an emperor that he’s just not wearing. Some people see purple spandex, some a business suit, but it’s all a spell woven together by the media.

How did and does the spell work for me? As a teenager I not only had my nose in a book constantly, which was bad enough, but got seriously–seriously–addicted to watching movies, where I just had to watch them all the time. Where I would offer to walk on foot the ten blocks to the convenience store to rent a movie I just had to see and that I thought my family just had to see. During an ice storm. By the end of college, I was so enamored with Hollywood, their stories, and the actors, that I often considered what they had to say as people as vitally important. They were authorities to me, and a definite idol in my life. A common view they all shared was negativity and disdain towards God, his son Jesus, and his followers. A constant drum beat that I did not agree with, but nevertheless continued consuming at breakneck speed. I am old enough now that Hollywood’s stories have little hold on me anymore as I have developed a lot more discernment in what I watch. They are once again just stories or movies, but I’m sorry now that I spent so much time watching them and giving so, so much of my money away to those people.

It gets worse. There were times in the past that movies had such a hold on me that I would pick the movie over the people in my life. A good friend traveled from out of town to see me, but when she came to my house, she found out that instead of waiting to see her and catch up with her, I had instead gone to a movie. A stupid movie. And I knew full well she was coming over. Another time I was with friends and felt such a compulsion to see this superhero movie one more time in the theater, that I left the bar we were at, borrowed my friend’s car, went to see the movie all by myself, and then came back later to return the car, and only to return the car. When I say that stories, and in particular, movies cast a spell on me, I’m not kidding. Nowadays it’s easy to see the signs, but still a struggle for me to resist the pull to watch, watch, watch.

An exciting story–not necessarily a good story–can be a drug. Take the Twilight series, for example. It was impossible for me to put that book down, it was that interesting to me to find out what happens next. And it’s a story I barely think about now and will never read again, but while reading it, I just had to keep reading, I couldn’t stop. There were plenty of other things I wanted to do, daresay needed to do, in my life at the time, but I could not stop reading. If you are a reader, you’ve probably read a book at some point that is like playing an arcade game–you just can’t stop turning pages, just like you can’t stop putting more coins into the machine. And while that’s a credit to the storyteller, for the addict replacing their actual life by living in this story, it’s just one more day lost. One more day they could have spent with family or friends, or outside enjoying the weather, or planning for the future. Or even finally getting that story that they wanted to write written. The cool thing is, often with really good quality stories, they actually send you back into reality. You want to take a break from them, to contemplate the themes and concepts and consider how they match up to real life. I’m finding this while reading Crime and Punishment again. I can’t sit and read it all day, though it is great writing and a great story. The Classics are all like this, good stories and writing, but you don’t feel like you’re on crack or something while reading, and there’s a life in them, for lack of a better word, that stories like my own Trolls for Dust or Twilight cannot hold a candle to.

It is my belief that fiction story addiction is actually worse than being a dreamer. Dreamers may have their heads in the clouds half the time, but at least they are dreaming up their own dreams and their own stories. Fiction story addicts are spending their time in someone else’s world, someone else’s viewpoint. And if that someone else is a devil, while you’ve just given him a foothold, a great foothold into your life.

Really, I thought this article would be funnier, but I’ve finding it very sobering. So addicted to a story am I, that I will listen to the worst gossip, the most ridiculous conspiracy theories (you’re thinking of Q, but Q is actually far from ridiculous), and the most blatant liars, just to find out the ending of the story. Met this guy once who had every form of vileness spilling out of his mouth about ninety percent of the time, but he told good stories, and I would sit and listen to him while the people around me blanched from the terrible things he was saying. And all the time I knew that, but I just couldn’t let the story go. I didn’t believe his stories were true, but others may have thought that I did believe them. Nowadays I know to back away if I become so enthralled in another’s story telling that I am listening to things that gouge my conscience.

So, what’s the good side of all of this? The good side, in my opinion, is that story addicts, and in particular fiction story addicts, will listen. They’ll give you a listen, they’ll hear and consider your side. They’ll read your story. It may be all crap, but they will at least give you a chance. Right now I’m reading a story that I like, but the writing, although not terrible, is just not my style. But the story is good, so I’ll continue reading it.

To put this in an even more positive perspective, there are quite often times when the truth really is stranger than fiction, and someone, someone needs to believe you, or at the very least hear you out. That person might very well be a story addict. In an age where a media spell covers the land in lies, it may be story addicts that actually latch onto the truth and share it. But it’s not as if they are thinking outside of the box; no, they are following their story addiction. Like the Kennedy Assassination, for example. Every few years, I just want to read and watch stuff by Jim Garrison, the attorney who investigated the events, and watch movies like Oliver Stone’s JFK and just really wallow in the whole conspiracy. Over the years I’ve read and watched so many different theories about what happened, and the biggest take from it all is simply that the official story must not and cannot be true. That’s kind of as far as a story addict can go. The addiction is about consuming stories, not using them as a benefit for oneself or other people.

Next week I’ll consider more the actual workings of story addiction and some of the ways in which it does spur people to action in a positive way and also how the love of story connects to my faith as a Christian. As pathetic as some of my memories above are, a love of story tempered and put in its proper place can actually be quite a jewel in one’s life, just like an exquisite wine adds flavor to the meals of those not enslaved to alcohol addiction.

Jamaica Inn: Bleak

Since reading Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier a summer or two ago and falling in love with her writing style, it has become my mission to read every novel of hers I can. So far, after reading Rebecca, Frenchman’s Creek, My Cousin Rachel, and Jamaica Inn, it is Frenchman’s Creek that is my favorite. Though I don’t condone the adultery implied, the tale is a gorgeous adventure for anyone who longs to escape ordinary life, if just for a bit.

As for Jamaica Inn, the tale starts out bleak and doesn’t improve much from there. Mary Yellan, whose mother has just died, goes to live with her aunt in the moors, though she knows little about the older woman’s life there. Immediately, Mary is swept up into an impossible situation that she may not escape: Her uncle Joss Merlyn is a very dangerous man, bent fully to the life of a criminal life. When she meets his younger, kinder brother, she must decide if she can trust him or not, though everyone tells her the Merlyn family has always been bad. Set in the moors and the coast of Cornwall, Du Maurier placed her tale in a time when murderers and thieves were barely kept in check by the governing authorities. For much of the story, it feels like the entire world is bleak and bad and that Mary will never escape from it.

I also took the time to watch the Acorn 2014 miniseries of Jamaica Inn starring Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey) as Mary and Matthew McNulty (The Paradise) as Jem Merlyn. The adaptation was faithfully bleak, and like the book, lost my interest partway through. There just wasn’t enough rays of sunshine or enough plotwise going on to secure my interest. It took awhile for me to finish both the book and the miniseries, and though the tale ends happier than it began, it’s definitely not Du Maurier’s best work. Mary is a treat of a character, a strong woman without the author going overboard about that. The portrayal of the aunt in the miniseries didn’t fit the one in the book. The book described Aunt Patience as childlike and Joanne Whalley seemed neither afraid of her husband, nor long-suffering, thus taking away Mary’s main motivation in the book. But for her aunt, there’s no doubt she would have quite the county forthwith. McNulty was a good Jem, but Sean Harris as his older brother Joss seemed miscast. A larger, brooding, more dark-haired man would have suited better, in my opinion.

The romance in both book and miniseries was adequate, but not swoonworthy. The whole tale suffered from a real lack of adventure despite Mary being thrown in with criminals. Parts of the ending were bizarre and came out of nowhere, and would have made more sense if the mythology hinted at was threaded throughout the book, and if Mary were more religious, which she’s not. Bleakness and despair does not a good story make on its own, and it’s to her credit that as a character Mary survives what the author puts her through. At the end it’s as if she, too, is glad to be done with the story. The miniseries kind of botched the ending, and I think the error was that it was too faithful to the book. Here, a bit more Hollywood drama in both action and takes, would have improved it all around. Jamaica Inn is bleak, and neither book nor miniseries is a must-devour story.

2020 Vision

It’s kind of cool that this year is 2020, which is also what we use to describe perfect or clear vision 20/20. Will this coming year live up to that name and bring clarity with it? Only time will tell, but it’s interesting that so many people are waking up to new and also old, ideas on health, nutrition, finance, business, politics, history, and so on. It’s a time for truth–well, at least some truths–to come back into the mainstream. The search for truth is also a search for purpose and so many of us see each new year as a new chapter to try again at being who we want to be and to meet the goals we want to meet, whether it’s losing weight, eating right, saving more money, and preparing for the future.

The past couple of months I’ve been a bit obsessed with checking out planners for the new year. After much debate, I settled on a $10 planner from Walmart that says 2020 in flowers on it, and also decided to keep using an small notebook I have for on the go. After checking out some high end planners that are very cute, my desire to get my finances under control won out–a good thing for my pocketbook.

Since new years are for trying new things, I thought I would splurge on a budget planner and for some reason I settled on a complicated one from The Budget Mom. The Budget by Paycheck Workbook is a tome, a hefty, doorstop tome, but if it keeps me fiddling with numbers instead of perusing shops and books on the internet, then I win. Also, it’s really not that complicated, but seems so at first. My favorite part is the calendars. The visual of seeing what days I need to pay bills or spend on certain things is great! It’s so simple, but writing it down really helps me focus and remember. It was a little pricey, but I think it’ll be worth it in the end. And I like her spunk and way of explaining things.

Another new planning tool I’m trying out in 2020 is a bullet journal. Never really knew what these were before and just started looking them up one day. Well, I am not very artistically talented, so my journal will likely not have any cool pictures and trackers, but why not give it a try and see if it helps motivate me in my writing? Plus, it is fun to at least try and be creative in a way other than writing stories. Again, I turned to Walmart to start and found a dot journal for $10. If I like bullet journaling, maybe I’ll move up to a Moleskin or Leuchtterm.

Finally, I have a regular journal from Barnes and Noble and made of leather. Since I am as terrible at keeping up with journals as I am at keeping up with planners, again, I’m trying something new: Journaling as if I’m writing to those I love. Hoping this motivates me to put down more than: Woke up, had coffee, went to work, read this book, watched this movie.

My vision for this year is to actually have a consistent vision for the year, and goals that come with that, especially for both writing and finances. Already writing things down more helps me pay better attention and remember those cool story ideas that flicker past and normally just disappear. Tracking both areas of my life will help motivate me towards results, not just getting by. Better planning will help be better use the gifts and blessings God has given to me. What’s your vision for 2020? Is it clear?

Raskol

This week I’m reading Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky for the third time. Read it the first time in French and Russian Lit in college. Never had I ever read any of those authors before, and I was blown away. We also had to read parts of Les Miserables, which I loved also, but have never, ever managed to finish. The first two times reading C&P I read the translation by Constance Garnett. This time I’m reading the one by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. It’s a crackling, fresh translation, but then, any translation would be or would appear to be, because the story has a snap about it, drenched in a pathos that is somehow never wallowed in. This is the Dostoevsky writing I like, in C&P and The Idiot. Although I made it through them, I couldn’t stand Notes from Underground or The Brothers Karamazov.

Raskolnikov is relatable in the sense that from time to time we all struggle with this necessity and nuisance of having to have work and earn our daily bread. Most people, though, don’t resort to plotting murder and think of ourselves as secret kings or Napoleons above the law in order to get out of it. Incidentally, I’d forgotten Raskol’s first name was Rodion. Ugh. I’m glad he’s referred to by his last name most of the time and that it sounds like rascal. Despite being a murderer, I’ve always kind of liked him as a character. Now that I’m older, though, we’ll see if my opinion is the same.

This is a book in which character after character is given the opportunity to do the right thing, and they continually choose the opposite, at least at the beginning of the story. They do at least begin to do the right thing, but spiral downward, a very human trait. I don’t even remember whether Raskol turns himself in or not at the end, but am excited to find out. It’s also making me want to read both The Idiot and Little Dorritt again, which is by Dickens, but also about people in debt. If you’re looking for good, long stories to read this winter, check out the classics. So many are so, so good.

More Movie Reviews

The fun of reading and watching stories for me often is reviewing and analyzing them, it’s not just about the enjoyment of watching and reading. Thus, I am always eager to have a new opportunity to do reviews. Lately, I’ve been writing some reviews of ancient films for my friends at tardy critic.com

If you like my writing and want to read more of my stuff, check out their site. A movie gets reviewed once it’s ten years old, or even twenty or thirty, far away from all of the hype and fanfare of when it first came out in theaters. So far I’ve written reviews of 10 Things I Hate about You, Confessions of a Shopaholic, and Sherlock Holmes.

Happy reading! Also, who is totally watching Trains, Planes, and Automobiles and Pieces of April for Thanksgiving this year?