writing

Indxd - A Memo Book User's Digital Archive

As a person who fills two or more Field Notes/Doane memo books per month, being able to go back and look at what I wrote down is important to me. But, by the time I need to revisit an idea, it's often three or four books back. Until now I've had only one little way to keep track of what's in each of my memo books (more on that next week).

Enter Indxd. Indxd (pronouced Indexed) is an amazing tool from Dave Rea that creates, "a simple, searchable, sortable index of the topics" in all the notebooks you want to keep track of.

The process is amazingly simple.

Add a new book by giving it a name, and if you choose, a start and end date. I use the Field Notes inside cover as the template for the information I put in all of my notebooks, so I always include a start and end date.

From there, you are taken to a simple entry screen where you put in the topic, an optional page number, and hit add. I go through the book and pull any broad ideas, quote attributions, and short phrases I might want to reference in the future. I turn those into "topics" for Indxd to track.

After indexing the contents, it's just a simple Search or browse through the Topics tab to find which book I need to pull from my Field Notes Archival Wooden Box and I've got the page number where I need to look for more information.

For me, Indxd is the perfect system for indexing my notebooks. It's light and simple to add information to, allows for as much or as little organization as I want, backs up all my data, and is quick and easy when I need to find what I'm looking for. I have a running task as part of my Sunday review to add any new completed notebooks to Indxd and, I'm in the process of adding all 25 of the notebooks I filled in 2014.

If you're looking for a way to keep a digital log of the contents of your memo books, but don't want to go through the hassle of scanning them, look no further than Indxd.

A Letter Writer's Dream

April is National Card and Letter Writing Month and I couldn't be more excited. Colore finally managed to find a Post Office in Austin that had the special From Me to You so now we are all set to send out letters.

Even though there is a month dedicated to writing letters, I tend to send out a handful of cards and letters each month. After giving up Facebook in 2012, I wanted a way to keep in touch with a select group of people, and with my love of pens and paper, letter writing made the most sense. It's so nice to get a surprised text message from a friend when they get a letter, and sometimes they even write me back!

I've got a big stack of blank cards and paper and envelopes that I cannot wait to fill. If you'd like to get a card or letter from me, or want to send me one, email me at info@brucelayman.com or message me your address and I'll make sure to get one headed your way.

Happy Writing!

How I Write a Pen Review

Chris Bowler said it best in his Tools & Toys article, On Mindfullness and Quality "...quality items not only endure, but they also endear." I've had an unspoken set of rules for the items I choose to spend money on, and subsequently review. Chris accurately put into words the three things I had been using to determine whether I buy something, how much I use it, and what value it brings to my life. Those three rules: Efficacy, Longevity, Quality.

Efficacy is the capacity or power to produce a desired effect. This is probably the most direct way you can calculate an item's value to your life. Do you reach for this item every time because you know it's going to perform and get the job done exactly the way you want? It boils down to how good is this thing at being a thing?

Longevity is the simplest of these to understand. Is this item made to last? This can be measured a few ways. Materials play a big part in how long something can last. I'm pretty sure my aluminum Karas Kustoms pens are bombproof, and my Saddleback leather wallet will supposedly outlast my lifetime, so the fact that I won't have to spend money to replace because they've broken is a nice feeling.

Quality is probably the hardest thing to measure. You often know it when you see it, and you sure as hell know it when it isn't there. Quality is the feel when you hold it, or when you dig into how a product was designed and produced. Filson bags or Field Notes notebooks are on different ends of the spectrum, but pick each one up and you'll get a feel for what quality means.

Though not all quality goods possess the qualities of efficacy and longevity, it's in the overlap with one or both of those features that magic happens. Those are the products that are worth spending the most time and attention finding, and then spending your money on.

My pen reviews aren't really like a lot of others. You won't find me breaking down the weight and size of the barrel, the engraving on the nib, or the virtues of a cartridge or converter system. There are a lot of reviews from great bloggers like The Pen Addict or Ed Jelly that will help you determine whether or not you should buy a pen. Those are always the first place I go when deciding what my next pen purchase will be too.

Pen reviews for me are about how they fit into my life. With each pen, I'm looking at those three factors, efficacy, longevity, and quality. For the most part, the pens that I buy fill a particular need and there isn't a ton of overlap. I said it in my Vanishing Point review, pens are meant to be used. If I'm going to spend, more than $150 on a pen, I want to know that I'm going to use it, and not just on occasion.

I care about how smoothly a pen writes in a Rhodia, or if a pen can handle being carried in my pocket next to a Benchmade, or if the refills a pen takes can give me the finest blue black line imaginable in my Field Notes. Those are the things you will find in my pen reviews.

That's not to say I don't buy some pens for just plain fun. I collect various Lamy Safari and Al-Star pens because I love the colors they come in, and it's a blast to them with inks of a similar color from my growing collection. Plus, it's always nice to have a reliable pen when someone asks to try a fountain pen for the first time.

At the end of the day, how well a pen meets those three criteria determines how much it is going to be used and how much value it brings to me. The more value a pen brings, the more favorable the review, and the more often I write with it, because, isn't that what pens are for?

Mindfulness to Intention

mindfulness, intention, lettering, brush calligraphy

My 2014 started on a couch; a wet nose in my face, a faint champagne headache, and a word bouncing around my head.

After letting my friend's dog out and waiting for his family to rouse from their new year's hangovers, we sat in the living room of a rented house and watched 'The Today Show.' Somewhere between Matt Lauer and the other starters and Hoda and Kathy Lee's wine-soaked antics, some guy (whose name and religious affiliation escapes me) was on to talk about choosing a single word to help define how you live your life in 2014. It sounded silly at first. One word to dictate how you behave for a whole year? No way.

But, I kept thinking about it. After spending 2013 floundering in an attempt to figure out what the hell to do with my life (no real luck there), I wanted a way to focus on what I was doing and why. A number of my favorite writers, Patrick Rhone, Leo Babauta, and The Minimalists, write about being mindful. It seemed that mindfulness was the perfect word to shape my 2014.

I'm not entirely sure how to judge how mindful I was in 2014. I don't know if it's something you can truly measure. I fell short of being mindful quite a bit (I cannot tell you how many hours I lost to Threes! which you should check out). But in some instances , I made it out okay. I committed to training for, and ran my first half-marathon. I job hunted in a new city, a process that was an emotional roller coaster. I moved my life to Austin, Tx, but I brought along my lovely girlfriend, Colore' Grace.

I was more mindful with my time and my passions in 2014. I took a class with the amazing Lauren Essl of Blue Eye Brown Eye to follow a rekindled passion from childhood. I then took a second class to grow that skill and build some amazing friendships. I devoted my time to improving my calligraphy and lettering, and shared some of that on my Instagram account and my blog. Slowly, very slowly, I started sharing some of the writing that I fill my Field Notes with every day.

All of these new habits, I carried with me into 2015. With the new year though, I didn't just want to be mindful of what I am doing, I wanted to have a purpose. Despite it's newly minted status as the buzzword du jour, I wanted to live 2015 with intention. Instead of simply being aware or mindful of how I spend my time/attention/money, I want to do things with a purpose.

At this point, I'm two and a half months into living 2015 with intention. I'm spending more of my time doing the things I love with the people I care about, and I'm making the most of the time that isn't entirely mine (my commute for example). I've been reading more, listening to an insane number of podcasts, and lettering and shooting photos with Colore more than ever. There is no better way I could think of to spend my time.

Perhaps the biggest impact in intentional living has come from adopting the habit of meditation. I started using the amazing Headspace to guide the process. Those 10-15 minutes every day help immensely. It is helping me learn to settle my mind and be more calm reacting to change and the ups and downs of life. I'll write more about the meditation habit once I've been doing it for longer, but as of this moment, I have a 72 day streak and I have no plans on breaking it.

On a daily basis, I'm filling memo books and my Hobonici Techo with my thoughts and ideas. I'll be using those to report on my progress, and I'll be checking in here every month. What do you do to help keep your intentions top of mind?