Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it. ~Julia Child
This past year I’ve spent time reading much on Julia Child – just wanted to learn more about her and how she accomplished all that she did. I came across the above quote in one of the books and scribbled it down because that’s the secret about following your passion.
The other secret, though, is contained in the books that share her methods on how she became such a great cook. She took notes. Field notes, if you will. Repeating a recipe umpteen times with notes on what worked and what didn’t – her observations – and (I imagine) thoughts on what to try next.
Simply jotting down observations deepens your interest in literally any subject you find you’re passionate about.
But where to start?
My ability to record life in words really started back in the 8th grade (some of you already know this story). In 7th grade, I was friends with Diane – another tall girl who towered over everyone else in the school. There were three of us who actually could see each other literally standing out in the crowd walking through the halls between classes. The other tall girl, though, was a grade or two ahead of us. Just sticking up like we did made us into a unique, unspoken group.
But the summer after 7th grade, Diane’s father was transferred to Japan for his work. We wrote each other letters. And somewhere along the way, we started a friendly competition to make the next letter longer than the last, until we reached 300-400 pages of regular notebook paper. Many of the teachers asked to see what I was always scribbling about. I reluctantly showed them, and they wisely all pretty much ignored it – though a couple of them told me I had to at least keep my grades up to keep writing during class. Fair enough. They knew the value of simply writing.
What those reams of pages filled with the nonsense of Junior High did, though, was form the habit of documenting life. And that’s the best way to keep field notes; make it a habit.
The notes I keep now
I have tons of interests – many of which have stemmed from just paying attention and the result of being a life-long learner. I keep lots of notes on lots of things, but the main focus for me now is kept on my other blog, Geyser Watch. I keep tremendously interested in my passion for the Geysers of Yellowstone through the notes I keep. That blog still has much growth to come to it, but on the opening day of the winter season, I decided to keep a notebook of the Geyser Times as well as the weather and other observations that weren’t certain enough to post to Geyser Times that I noticed. I wanted to better know if a particular geyser wasn’t logged because it didn’t erupt or because the weather was so bad, it couldn’t be seen. And I wanted to easily see the notes added in by others.
I wanted to put these observations online back then, but I knew myself well enough to know that I needed to form the habit first – to make sure I could add it into my morning routine. That time also gave me better insight as to what needed including and what could drop by the wayside. That habit shifted from the notebook to online and now gets updated daily on the Daily Geyser Notes page.
So how do you start keeping field notes?
- Find something you’re passionate about.
- Find a place for your thoughts and observations to land. (notebook, computer, ipad, whatever works)
- Make it a habit. Daily at first, until it’s fully integrated into your routines. (routines are just habits linked together)
It feels a bit silly at first, until that collection starts to build page by page, observation by observation. Make it a habit and you’ll not only develop good field notes but you’ll keep your passion for the subject strong. Once you do this for any area of interest, it easily translates to other interests.
Back in Colorado again and since I’m home I can finally share what I’ve done to keep my One Little Word: JOY in front of me daily. In January, Ali Edwards had a prompt that asked us to make a list of intentions for our words. Some people assigned an intention to a specific month. But having done this for a few years now, I know that’s not how my words work with me. They just ‘show up’ when needed. So, some days one of these intentions is a focus, and other days, it might be a combination of two or three.
To better let intentions rise to the occasions at hand, I needed them to stay in front of me. I printed them out on regular Walmart brand cardstock, punched holes with a punch that makes tiny holes, and strung them together on a piece of twine. Voila! An Intention Garland to add to the mirror of my vanity which is in my ‘studio’ simply because it fits nowhere else in the house. I actually like starting my day surrounded by all the crafting/creating I do. And the garland helps to tie in this somewhat odd piece of furniture in there.
This intention garland was finished in January, and while I planned to share this sooner, life shifted and I guess now is when it needs to be shared. (Trust was a word I had a few years back that made huge shifts in how I approach things)
One Little Word is a class and a way of gently shifting life to something better. By choosing a word to guide you for the year, and finding ways to keep it in front of you helps to deeply integrate it into your soul and the way you choose to live your life.
You can still decide to take on a word for the rest of the year – and can still jump in on the class if you want. The prompts for the past months are there for you to access now. Maybe like this garland had to wait to be shared, your word for the rest of this year may not have found you until now. Trust that there’s a reason for it.
I’ve had a lot of fun playing around with the frame style I used for my photo layout for Day in the Life. And it prompted me to make quite a few of them. They should be in the shop hopefully sometime this weekend – but before they go in, I have a freebie of the one I used for DITL…and a question or two.
The files in the freebie are set to fit a half sheet of letter paper (5.5″ x 8.5″) and come with a layered psd file as well as a png format that should work in PS/PSE as well as other photo editing software that supports .png files.Personally, I use the layers as clipping masks. If you’ve not learned how to use these yet, it’s definitely a skill to add to your scrapping skillset. I’m not a software expert (usually end up finding out I do things the hard way), but just do a search on Clipping Mask Tutorial and you’ll find lots of resources out there.
For those of you who paper scrap, would you want a printable pdf file as well? One for the frame and the sections?
And do the frames need to be thicker for paper scrapping?
The download is here and will be added shortly to the Freebie Section of the site.
Ali Edwards is prompting us to document one day each month a little more thorough than we normally do. For some that means actually taking notes as you go through your day. I already do that – it’s my ‘Ta Da! Ta Done!” list – I have a ‘focus this week on’ list but I really concentrate on what I accomplish. Each thing I add pulls me along to do more and make that list grow.
So on January 30, I took extra notes in a document on my computer rather than my normal notebook which I knew would encourage me to keep closer tabs on all that happened that day. Since much of it was work related, I’m choosing not to share everything here. But I love that I have a detailed document of a typical work day for me at this time of my life. I created a document in In Design the same size as the Field Journaling paper (6.25 x 8.5) and left a margin of 3/4″ to accommodate the holes for the 3-ring binder. I was amazed that I had to drop the font down to 9 pts to get it all in on one sheet.
To accompany it, I’m again keeping it simple to fit in the album, so I created a framework, and inserted photos into it. This will be printed on half of an 8.5 x 11 print – and either slipped into a half sheet page protector or just glued to a piece of cardstock cut to fit the binder. I like the simplicity of this. It took me longer to work on the photos than to compile the whole thing.
One thing I’ve noticed since taking the extra detailed notes is where my days fall apart sometimes simply because I’ve not built a routine for that shifting time. The mornings from when I get up until about 10:00 am are good. I’ve built habits and strung them together to become routines that make the mornings so very productive. So, a goal for February for me is to continue working on habits that get me through from that natural shift I seem to do regularly until about 3:00 in the afternoon when I start to wrap it up and focus on housework and dinner where the evening habits and routines also work really well. I’m really looking forward to doing this Day in the Life series at the end of each month as a gauge to see how I do with that – and how I can maintain workflow habits and routines when traveling as well.
BTW – You can snag the frame and clipping layers for free here.
This post also shared on Ali Edwards’ January DITL Link Share.
Yesterday morning started off with the internet being down for a bit. I ended up spending that time going through old digital layouts. Then in the evening, I went through the layouts again. That, combined with the extra documentation done for A Day in the Life came together to give some insight on how I came to develop a Field Journaling style that resonates deeply with me.
I’ve tried to find my ‘right way’ to document life for much of my life. So over the years there was a lot of starting and stopping. Some years got documented well, others…not so much. But usually throughout, I had a camera in my hand at the very least. In 2004, I stumbled onto Digital Scrapbooking and was floored by all the eye candy and the fact that these people were documenting their lives in a serious way that didn’t include glue or scissors – and had a quick ‘undo’ button. I loved it. I dove in head first. Not long after, one of my layouts was published in Simple Scrapbooks:
A couple more of my submissions to Simple Scrapbooks were accepted as well (man, I miss that magazine – the only one I always looked forward to showing up in the mailbox).
It’s funny that the layout above, The Tipping Point, started out with THREE pages of journaling. Even I didn’t want to read that much about how I felt about those amazing days in spring when the aspen trees leaf out. I condensed. Half as much again. and again…until the words on the layout expressed all that needed to be said. And behind this layout in the album are the three pages of original ramblings.
It took a few years to really get down the balance between just enough words to tell the story and just enough photos to illustrate it. Some of the pages I created really would have been better suited to a small Project Life card size. But I was stuck in an square (8×8 or 12×12) world. This let me understand better why I love the Field Journal paper – just enough for a short and concise story with just enough room on the other side for photos. The small stories will go in on their own to shake up the size. I liked this one from 2008, but dismissed as not being much because it wasn’t the ‘right size.’ But I love this gentle acknowledgement of the first snow – this will be reprinted and go into the Phenology Notebook.
In years past, I took quite a few stabs at trying to do daily documentation. But what I was doing was trying to encompass the whole day rather than keep notes and pull out stories from it. I lumped it all together. I hadn’t developed the ability yet to pull out the stories. Yet these read like letters – with a lot of phenology and nature observations included. And I like that, too.
This was a start of an attempt at December Daily in 2009. I liked it, but the need I felt to change up kits and use more than just one for the whole month derailed me on this. I needed the framework in place to just plunk in photos and words. It was a good experiment, though, and something to consider revisiting.
And now, after two days of extra documentation of the life I lead, I’m coming to the conclusion that the Field Journaling method is still the answer for me. It might be for you as well.
1. Take notes. Lots of notes. The amount I did the past couple of days really wasn’t a whole lot more than I normally do. Write it all down. You won’t use it all. But write it all down anyway. You never know – you might use it in the future or someone else might be interested and prompt the telling of a story you didn’t think was much of anything.
2. Look through the notes to find the stories. There are real jewels in there, but taking the notes gives you the eyes to find them. This system works for science and for memory keeping. Find the stories. Write the stories.
3. Match them up with photos, or take your own ‘stock’ ones – ones not directly tied to the actual event. Did you cook or bake? You can create a photo to illustrate the story you wrote. It’s ok to do that. It’s just a part of telling the story. Have fun making it a photo shoot. Or make it quick and simple. Just make it work.
4. Enter them into your Field Journal/Scrapbook as formal creations – layouts – journal entries – the final product…or something closer to a final product.
5. Rinse and Repeat.
Tomorrow Ali Edwards will start a monthly project of A Day in the Life where once a month she’ll do more detailed observations of life.
I’m completely in on this. I looked a bit more closely at her templates and it struck me that, “By golly! Those are field notes.” I do this daily as it is, though perhaps not quite all that well in the past week or two. I really need to get better at simply remembering to take photos that show all I’m doing – to get better and finding and composing those types of shots – one of my photography goals this year. This is one of my all-time favorites of an everyday moment of Rhad snuggling with Mike – a daily ritual for the two of them.
And I have a confession: I’ve fallen off the field note taking wagon. Why? I wasn’t sure, so I took a closer look. It’s the ‘home’ I have for them – my trusty notebook. Since I’m not off and traveling or just out and about, that notebook isn’t working as well. It feels in the way on my desk. Clutter. I’ve also been keeping field notes on Yellowstone happenings and LOVE how that’s developed (more on that later).
Cathy Zielske does ‘week in review cards’ that uses the vertical slash mark to divide the sentences – and there’s that style again on Ali Edwards’ notes. I like it. I want to do that, too.
SO – knowing I like it best when changes happen within a framework of tidiness, I’m opening the door to various methods of keeping field notes. Computer or iPad or notebook – doesn’t matter, as long as they make it into the Field Journal at the end of the day or the end of the week. From those, I can pull the stories I want to tell more fully that go into the alphabetical listings. And for that, I need to do a better job of taking photos which will be my main goal tomorrow.
If you haven’t spent a day documenting your everyday life, tomorrow is a great day to try it out and test the field journaling waters. Maybe make scrapbook pages like Ali’s doing, or use it in some other way. If nothing else it’s a way to bring mindfulness to what you choose to do with the 24 hours you have tomorrow.
New in the shop this week is a nature calendar/phenology notebook set. Before offering this, I had to make sure that 365 pages would fit in the binders. Plus, I’ve been meaning to set up my own physical phenology journal for awhile now. They do fit, but it’s a bit tight, and since I’ll also be including a yearly yard bird list as well as some other compilations/layouts (moth photos, etc), I needed just a bit more wiggle room – ok, a lot more wiggle room – so I’m starting out with two binders – both painted with a base coat of Martha Stewart’s Gray Wolf paint.
I love painting these chipboard binders simply because I can keep on experimenting with techniques that I like to decorate them. If I don’t like how it came out, I just add another layer of paint. I expect these to shift and change their looks over time, but this set will be with us for a LONG time (unless we move, then they’ll likely stay with the house), so I want more of a classic base – neutral – nothing really trendy.
But I did have some fun with my silhouette and a plastic binder cover I found at Office Max – perfect weight to create my own stencil and used a silver ink pad with a paint brush to fill it in. I’ve GOT to do more of these…
For the dates on the sheets of field journaling paper, I used my grandmother’s old typewriter and pounded out the dates one by one (and took a photo with my phone). I did that around Christmas simply because I couldn’t find any date stamps anywhere that were really just a plain classic look. Of course, now, there have been a ton of releases of stamps that would have worked thanks to the popularity of Project Life. But an old typewriter works as a classic method, so I’m sticking with that.
Keeping a phenology notebook helps you figure out the calendar the nature around you uses. I deeply believe knowing this calendar is the source of deep-rooted comfort to our souls. It helps us to look ahead, and to be patient. It helps us get in tune with nature’s pace.
I simply watch the world around and me, wait for the first flowers, thoroughly enjoying the two-note song of the Black Capped Chickadee and document it all – because I find joy and comfort there. I bet you will, too.
So how exactly am I using those monthly tabs? As ‘The Daily Record’ – just a quick rundown on the highlights of the day – sometimes talking more in depth, but pretty much a list of what we did. I have a more mundane list in my field notes (including things like “Laundry – Dusted – made a salad for dinner”). My field notes are a way to be more mindful about how I spend my day – my ‘Ta Da! It’s Done” list. The Daily Record is more of the highlights of that, but still brief.
In it I use the traditional method of where to put name (make up an artist signature for this – it’s really fun to practice if you’re a pen/writing geek like me), the date and location (and I see I need to put in the day of the week). In traditional field journals, you also add in any routes you take to places where you document observations. I’ll add that when I do that. But for now, mid winter, it ends up mostly just saying ‘At Home’ for the location.
Because I’m not writing much here, I also use the traditional method of drawing a line between the writing for each date. Before drawing that line, though, I wait until the next morning so I can grab the high and low temps from our weather station.
I may get to this every day (ideally) but I also look at it realistically and know I won’t hit it some days. I’m ok with that. When that happens (and it will happen), I’ll make a note of it so nobody wonders what happened. I’ll also go through here with the pages numbered. Each one will have The Daily Record at the top. When appropriate, photos illustrating what I talk about will make their way in – either like this, two glued back to back or glued to a Project Life Card or piece of cardstock.
Even though I’m going for a much more simple (and less expensive) approach, I fully plan to add in scrapbooking goodness when the mood strikes. If the fancy strikes, I’ll also take stories from here and create mini-albums or digital (scrap)books or wherever my creative urges take me. Bottom line, though, I like all the info in one location (or two – working on a phenology album as well right now).
Simple, easy, and quick once you get the hang of this system. Ask questions in the comments if things aren’t clear or need a bit more explanation.
I had covered my chipboard album with the paper as shown in the last post, but it wasn’t making my heart sing. So I took it off and painted the binder (still have the inside back to do) and now I love the direction it’s taken. And the story I added tells why:
I added in the Distress Ink pad because I can tell now that Pumice Stone (aka Taupe) is going to be my ‘go to’ ink color for this journal. I used it to stamp the title and used the pen to write out the journaling. This story is under the “C” tab because of the one-word title I’m using. This is just one of those random thoughts I have that isn’t necessarily tied to a time line/chronological story, so it goes in the alphabetized section of this field journal. This is where lots of little stories will land. Most of the time, the one sided lined paper can hold stories of about 200-250 words which is usually plenty for a story. But I’m fine with using a second sheet as well if needed.
Then I add in the cross-reference – add in the title and the date it was entered on the “C” tab page:
…as well as on the January title page – since that’s when I wrote it.
The cross referencing is done because I use my journal as a reference – when we did this or that. Pulling out a 12×12 album is more than I want to do. I’ve also added in my Bird list(s) under B – I have a house list, a county list and a year list which at the moment all look the same. But I know that will change. I also need to add in my Books Read in 2013 list as well as a few other lists I keep. Each of those goes in the alphabetized section.
Traditional Field Journals also usually have what they refer to as “species accounts” – sections of the field journals to document areas of focus. I’m taking that idea and will have a special section just for my One Little Word class assignments and reflections as well as a section for my Move More Eat Well 2.0 class I’m also taking this year. Keeping different sections will also allow easy expansion into another binder if I fill up the 2″ binder rings on this one.
Next up – I’ll share how I’m using the monthly tabbed sections to do chronological documentation of life.
I dig out this poem each year – it came from one of my Grandma Lyndall’s poetry books I now have. It was the inspiration for me in 2006 to simply choose to ‘Do Better’ – no other resolution. Just the one. That became my mantra for the year. And I’ve been following a phrase or One Little Word each year since then because just one resolution like this is more effective than a list.
As I read through this poem again this year, and I get ready to hand in my torn and blotted year for one all unspotted, I like to think that no matter what, torn and blotted means it was used. I hope well used. This new year will carry the word Joy for me. Lots to this one already.
I’ve also already signed up for Ali Edwards’ One Little Word class for 2013. I see that she has 9 pocket page protectors on the supply list. I wasn’t quite sure how this would work for the size I’m choosing this year for my stories, but yesterday (or was it the day before? No regular schedule wreaks havoc with keeping the days straight). It came while working on this small story of December:
I’m ready to turn in 2012 – well and thoroughly used – and am ready to start in on documenting 2013. Happy New Year!