I think I was eight. Maybe seven. It was my birthday, and a family friend who'd taken a mentor role with me stopped by to give me a small gift. I don't remember what was in inside, but I can so perfectly and vividly recall that it was wrapped in the full, CMYK color of Sunday comics section, and it blew my freaking mind.
I've been keeping notebooks, sketchbooks, and journals pretty much as far back as kindergarten and with daily regularity since my late teens. I've got notebooks for important purposes—a hardcover 5 x 8.25" Moleskine notebook for my bullet journal planner, a big journal for freewriting answers to tough questions when I'm looking for insight, several sizes of notebooks for personal study and random thoughts, a notebook for haiku, and several practice sketchbooks. Notebooks are so commonplace in my life that honestly, I'm more likely to leave my left foot at home.
Occasionally, though, I like to shake the dust off of my mind for a fresh perspective by changing my writing context. This is when I most often turn a tiny notebook that takes a single sheet of paper, one minute, and no tools to make but my hands. Read on for instructions!
Search “bullet journal” in Instagram or Pinterest and you’ll see a cornucopia of tricked-out notebooks. The Esteemed Society of Crafters on the Internet has truly created a thing of beauty. But if you’re one of the “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That” (ANGTFT) set, don’t be fooled by the washi tape, calligraphy, and rococo calendar ornaments: a minimalist bullet journal is, hands down, the most efficient and robust planning tool in your productivity kit.
I don't remember when it happened, but one day I decided to become a journaler. No history, no discipline. I just took a simple notebook and filled it up with my thoughts, dreams and goals. A basic notepad was nice, but after a while something like that became so personal it was only natural to upgrade such a personal item.
In the sheer scope and magnitude of Youtube, I going to assume that we will one day see every conceivable thing that exists in the world. Because, we all know, that if it is weird enough for someone to try, there is someone around with a camera ready to film it. So, we can file this under, "what the hell is going on here?" But there's this guy with a Youtube channel whose entire purposes seems to be to constantly and painstakingly recreate a knife out of very different, very bizarre materials.
I recently came across a great quote originating on Twitter by Stephen Fry concerning the debate on the analog-digital dethronement sequence: "Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators."
I'm a man neck-deep in digital technology (one prime example: I mostly draw digitally in Photoshop on a Cintiq tablet, which uses "brushes" coded to act like anything from watercolor to oil paints to graphite) and I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Fry. The more my surroundings convert to lines of code, sandwiched between a backlit screen and a power source, the more I want to balance it all out with things I can touch, taste, and smell.
Correspondence is one of those areas: I email and text a lot, but recently I've started to turn to my old friends at the U.S. Postal Service to send my most important messages, for the simple fact that nothing says "I care" more than a handwritten note. (Check out our post on the still-existing power of the handwritten letter for more on the subject.)
The only thing is, if I'm going to take the time to write someone a letter, I'm going to go the extra mile and forego the cheap printer paper. So, along with a good pencil or fountain pen, the number one item I need for this task is some good, high-quality stationery that looks like it came from...well, me. Read on for some of my favorite suppliers!
As if pens and Post-Its weren't enough, the smartphone era has provided a plethora of memory aids. Apps designed to store, sort, and spit out information whenever we want it seem to have rendered redundant the need for a good memory.
But I'm of the mind that tools work best when they augment our skills and strengths, and that when we start to allow machines to fully replace human work, we ourselves begin to atrophy. Since having begun the assembling my memorization toolkit and putting it to use in the last year, I've found that I think more clearly, remember things better, and rely on my physical and digital tools much less. (Not to mention, I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel awesome to perfectly recall a 12-digit number after less than 10 minutes' worth of work.)
We've covered one of those big tools, the memory palace, in a guide here at Man Made DIY. One of the main techniques incorporated in the article, specifically used to memorize numbers, is called the Major System; it's such a powerful in itself that it's worth its own guide.
So, let's dig in to how you can custom-tailor your own major system to help you remember long strings of numbers!
When was the last time that you wrote a meaningful handwritten letter to your spouse, parents, siblings or friends? Do you remember the last time you received a handwritten letter from someone significant in your life? The odds are, you’re much more likely to remember the answer to the latter of those two questions because it felt like a special occasion. Ever since the mid-1990s when “you’ve got mail” became a familiar tagline, handwritten letters have fallen by the waste side - being replaced with emails, texts, and tweets. For so many reasons, putting down the phone and picking up the pen can be substantially more impactful.
I spent some time last week making a few DIY journals, and it made me think a bit about why I always have a stack of them filling my shelf. After looking through a few in the pile, I decided yes, they're definitely worth the effort. Here are a few reasons why.
Oh my, the art of writing. Handwritten notes are always the classiest way to correspond, but here are a few people that take it up a notch with some of the most amazing hand drawn type you'll ever see.
Did you know you can make your own sketch and shop journals with just the materials you have on your shelf? Now you can scrap those yellow pads for something a lot more classy.
If there's a category of things I constantly have too many of, it's books. Stacks on stacks on stacks. I have to purposefully keep myself from entering used book stores since I know I already have literal piles of books at home begging to be read, not to mention stacks of books I've already read that I don't intend to hold on to. If you're past the book lamp or clock, here are 7 next-level DIY projects for those books ready to be recycled.
This video blew me away. It's a two minute super-wrap-up showing you everything that goes into making a book from scratch, and then there are longer videos guiding you through each step in the whole process. Now when we say "from scratch" we mean entirely from scratch. If this guy needs a brush to use when binding his pages, he chops off some horse hairs and shapes a twig to tie with sinew from a deer he shot in order to make a brush. It's nuts.
If you're looking for a project to keep your hands busy while watching "Elf" on repeat and stuffing your face with candy canes, check out this DIY paper [rein]deer head. It's a cruelty free way to get that modern rustic cabin vibe to bring some seasonal cheer, or just to add some visual interest to any masculine space.
Wrapping a gift isn't hard, unless you overcomplicate things. We say keep things simple and straightforward: avoid accessories, too many ribbon colors, and anything involving glitter or the word "raffia." We advocate a simple package, wrapped cleanly and correctly, with a little DIY customization to show you care.
A generation or two back, everything we read was printed with individual letters, hand picked and positioned in a tray by a patient and highly experienced printer. You've definitely seen many things printed by letterpress, but perhaps never understood or really appreciated the skill and effort it took to place row upon row of small letter blocks and hand ink the plates for pressing.