We are still on the road, enjoying our final few days before arriving at our destination in California.
This time has been glorious…not without hiccups and mishaps, mind you, but still…glorious. Moving more slowly, applying the idea that we’ll be back, so it’s okay if we opt to lounge about rather than go-see-do-conquer, has been absolutely the right way to do this transition.We have big plans to spend eight weeks in August and September doing this in Alaska and we have been thinking of this as a bit of a practice run as far as speed and balance are concerned.
We’ve actually done far less than is usual for us between assignments, but both of us are feeling as though we are significantly more connected to what we are experiencing than we’ve been during other transition times. Don’t get me wrong- we always have a great time, but this time has felt more sustainable (there’s that word again!) than past transitions.
I’ve been thinking a bit about last week’s post and wondered if you guys might be interested in my “toolkit” on the road, how I hang onto that “creative fodder” until I get settled in our next location and can start sifting through it and molding it into something complete. I am going to try to keep this pretty short and bullet-pointed, so let me know in the comments if you’d like more information about any of what I mention here, or perhaps if you’d like me to create a more in-depth guide or workbook for The Curiosity Cabinet…I love talking about this stuff, so I need very little encouragement!
So…my “toolkit” for the road:
- My Journal (Moleskine Art Plus): I am an avid journaler and while I don’t necessarily write in it every day, it’s my go-to for any thoughts or scribblings about my life as a whole. This is where feelings and goals and random bits and pieces go. I would say that 90% of my journaling in general is simply stream-of-consciousness, writing whatever is in my head at the time. I’m not strict about my journal in any way. If I want to just jot down bullet points, or copy in a quote I like, or flip to the back cover and hurriedly write down a book recommendation or the email address of someone I just met, it all flies. I also tend to glue or tape the occasional photo or postcard in. At a minimum when I’m traveling or on the road, I do a quick 8-minute practice that I love where I give myself a time limit and quickly write down things that I noticed/remembered/etc during that day (there is a structure to it that I won’t dive into here, but it’s aimed at “noticing what you notice”). This allows me to get enough down to jog a memory when I come back to it later and gets me past the obvious stuff and into the more subtle, the stuff I’m more likely to lose my hold on over time.
- Moleskine Cahiers notebooks: I use these in two ways- the larger ones (the 5x8 size) I tuck in whatever bag has my writing stuff in it and I pull them out to scribble out drafts or a start to a writing piece. These are not precious in any way, so I write with whatever pen I have on hand, scratch out stuff I don’t like, and often leave things unfinished and half-baked. I don’t write at my computer when we’re on the road and I have come to really appreciate the way my brain works when I write things out by hand. What ends up in these notebooks is 80% trash, but I get a lot of good nuggets out of the trash and they just tend to be a good place for me to dump onto the page without worrying too much about how it relates to the final product. The smaller pocket sized cahier notebooks I keep somewhere on my person for fast, scratch paper notes- a fleeting idea I don’t want to lose, the name of a bird we saw and someone knew the name of, etc. Over time, this has largely been replaced by the notes app on my phone when I’m in the U.S. but not entirely. They are utterly disposable and are generally a total mess by the time I’m through with them and they become fire-starter. (I also like plain Scout Books for this purpose).
- My “Work” Notebook: Guys, I really like notebooks. Seriously, they’re my favorite. I have a “work” notebook that is another Moleskine, this time the extra-large (7x9, I think) “Professional” notebook. I like the numbered pages and the page layout and I use it to brainstorm ideas. I tend to use colored Sharpie pens, but this is another super messy notebook and can include everything from lists and bullet points to mind-maps. I just like having a place to jot takeaways from podcasts, ideas for blog posts and other writing pieces, places I want to submit images or writing, etc. It’s also where I will “brain dump” my to-do list and add the random notes I’ve scribbled into a pocket notebook or the notes app on my phone. I like having everything in one place and I find the process of writing by hand accesses my brain in a different sort of way. Plus, I just don’t want to pull my laptop out when I’m somewhere beautiful enjoying myself- it switches my mentality from brainstorming and idea mode to “productivity mode” and I’m guarding the space around this generative creative time pretty vehemently.
- My Phone: Our phones are useful for so much more than talking and social media! I love my notes app and use it a ton all of the time, but there are other ways my phone comes in handy when I’m trying to grab ideas and raw material so I don’t lose it. Screenshots, y’all! Love ‘em. I take screenshots of things like my gps location and trail names (or town names or a set of off-the-beaten path campsite coordinates that I don’t want to forget, etc), or images that I find inspiring and would like to explore with my camera. I tend to gather a TON of screenshots and then every few weeks, I go through them and either toss them or add them to Evernote. Same with photos. I use my phone’s camera SO much. Sometimes because for some reason I don’t have my “big camera” or I don’t want to pull it out, but even more for reference shots. Trail head signs, the menu at a restaurant, an interesting piece of info at a visitors center or roadside sign…pretty much anything I want to remember. Again, I gather, gather, gather and then when we land, I’ll go through them and either toss them altogether or organize them into Evernote. I have also increasingly started using voice memos…it’s been an interesting way to get an idea out and is something I may continue doing more of over time.
- Zip File: I actually have no idea if that’s what this thing is called. It’s a big (fits a manila file folder) clear plastic envelope that accordions slightly and has a plastic zip thingy (the official term) at the top. But this is where I stick all of the random ephemera. A brochure or map that I want to reference later, a sticker or postcard that is interesting and sparked an idea…whatever. It’s also where I’ll stick any notebooks that fill up so they all end up in one place. Increasingly I take photos of things instead of keeping the physical object, but not always.
I know this all so basic, but my “system” is so established at this point that I know exactly what to reach for when inspiration strikes from the hammock. Once we get where we’re going and are settled in and I get “back to work” I will go through and add a lot of these bits and pieces to Evernote and mark the things I want to take action on. It’s amazing which ideas end up falling flat when I revisit them later, and which ones seemed to have grown real teeth while I let them sit.
So…that’s my “toolkit”…what do you guys use? How do you capture ideas during long flights or while running errands or while sipping umbrella drinks on a beach? Give me some new things to try, you guys!