It was the sheer openness that initially attracted me to the JIYU, around a year ago. First off, I’m a sucker for neutral palettes with a dash of warmth, so the JIYU had me at “hello”, by which I mean “grey ink printed on off-white, creamy Tomoe River paper”. But the minimalism didn’t end there: opening a sample that Emil brought home for me to look at, I was struck by the spacious layout that expands the days of the week across two pages, starting with Monday and grouping Saturday and Sunday together on the right, with a generous helping of completely empty space in the middle. Lightweight boxes, barely-there lines and minimal dots don’t tell you precisely where to write information so much as gently suggest it. “It’s possible you could put a to-do list here, but I won’t assume”, it seems to say. Without the usual grids, solid borders and labels, the planner really lives up to its name: freedom.
In short, I was intimidated. It’s the same feeling that makes me skip the first page of every sketchbook I crack open. Will I really use this well? The first drawing is too much pressure. I don’t know what to put here. Underneath every variation, the same dread: What if I ruin it? You can’t go wrong—just jump! Yeah, people tell me that about cold pools, too, and I still end up going in one limb at a time, wincing. Of course, when I decided to try the JIYU system for this year, there was no easing into the waters. Because 2020 pushed me in.
For a while after the first stay-at-home order was issued for Los Angeles, I kept up my long habit of treating each week in my planner like a color-coordinated collage. Neat, deliberate writing. Plenty of time devoted to choosing just the right stickers, stamping one letter at a time the names of books read, movies watched, friends hung out with. As the days descended into stress, chaos and ennui, it felt important to steadfastly maintain these rituals. But somewhere along the way, I lost the energy for it. I, who usually stuffed two or three inserts in my TN, slimmed it down ruthlessly, removed the charms on the strap, took out everything except the JIYU. I stopped reaching for my sticker book and washi tape tin. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy these things anymore, it was just that enjoyment itself became muted, constrained by time and anxiety. My onetime travel and art companion buckled down to focus on secretarial duties: simply a place to write tasks.
But I have to say that the JIYU, with its unassuming, flexible layout, accommodated every change with grace. Here’s what my planner looks like nowadays: I keep my daily tasks and check marks on the left, a stamp log of which comic pages I’ve inked on the right. Tasks that have a longer timeline for completion go in the furthest column on the right. The free space is less consistent: depending on where my mind is each week, sometimes it houses notes from phone calls with my editors or doctors, bits of articles, poetry, horoscopes, or, often nothing at all. Compared to the JIYU I used in the first half of the year, my goals page now is less broadly ambitious, and more specific, targeted, achievable, forgiving.
Maybe the biggest change is how I fill in the monthly spread. In an effort to combat the blurring together of days, I started doodling in each square for memory-keeping. I’d always admired the spreads of friends and strangers who do this in their journals, but despite (or maybe because of) the fact that I draw for work, in the past I thought it’d be too time-consuming, that I’d be too precious with it. But it really only takes a little time to set down a bit of totally personalized ink memory that future you will be glad to have.
My three cents of advice if you want to try this:
1) Do it in ink, so you’re not tempted to fiddle endlessly.
2) You never regret remembering good food.
3) Keep it, if not simple, then essential. Out of a bouquet of flowers, choose a stem or two. Don’t draw the whole ham, but the slice you ate. As a concrete example, there was a day in September that I wanted to remember going to the dog park. But rather than the many good boyos we saw, I drew the billowing cloud of smoke that we saw in the distance over the mountains, which we stood around discussing with the other dog owners for a little while, in tones worried and grim yet determined, wishing safety to firefighters, people’s homes, each other. Also, I’m not great at drawing animals lol.
It occurs to me now that there is one more thing that might have drawn me to the JIYU, if unconsciously. I’ve noticed that planners respond to each other over time. In one I’ll use as many stickers as possible; in the next I’ll try to restrain myself. In one book I’ll compose pages with the intent to share, in the next I become secretive, covering everything up with scrap paper and tape. In 2018, I went for a structured and consistent style to encourage discipline and habit-forming. In 2019, I used a totally blank notebook, drawing the lines and custom layouts myself in different colored pencil shades and configurations every week. I wanted to control everything about my planner and its aesthetic as I progressed towards the plans I’d made. This year, I watched many of those plans unravel or go dormant. I picked up the JIYU at a time when it was no longer always possible to keep up the same rhythms in journalling, work, the passing of days, even when I desperately wanted to. But that was okay. Is okay. Because everything changes, and we adapt, almost in spite of ourselves and the world.
Whether you’re approaching 2021 with caution or by energetically plunging ahead, I hope you find refuge in your analogue tools and habits, old or new. Refuge is needed, because life’s difficulties don’t end with a calendar year. Many events of 2020 remain to be properly addressed and tended to with care in the future, and many consequences of past years will continue to reverberate and touch our lives. There is no such thing as wiping the slate clean. Still, I wish you the complex and layered enjoyment possible in this transitional time: the quiet potential, the hopeful trepidation and complete freedom of a new year, so like untouched snow, or a cloud on the horizon, or a blank yet inviting page.
Text and photos by: A.C.
Where you can find A.C. : Instagram @blueludebar
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