If you’ve met me IRL, you’ve probably noticed I have a notebook either in my shirt pocket or in my hand (or a stack of index cards tucked away somewhere). All of them make awkward appearances when I hear a good quote, someone has a question I need to look up, if I was trying to record a student’s robot time trials, or if the spirit moved me.

I’ve long been a doodler since my time in Mrs. Hinson’s 3rd Grade class where we learned that sketching helped with creativity (I might have made that up… but it stuck). When I got to Wofford College, my mentor Larry McGehee kept that alive by talking about his doodling process during staff meetings and other such nonsense. That was inspiring to me at the time, but his tips and tricks on the doodling life hack helped me survive countless staff meetings as a teacher myself as well as Board meetings and team meetings and all the meetings we have to go to when we decide to throw ourselves into grown-up world.

I’m at the point in my life now where I don’t have to attend so many mandatory meetings and for that gift I feel blessed (looking back, I do feel some regret for how immature/bored/inattentive/distracting I was during teacher staff meetings… I’m sorry Dear Administrators, but I do feel that I added spice to our gatherings by throwing out bombs to get everyone riled up and awake such as whether cursive was really necessary in Middle School). But with that gift comes a clear place of loss in my creative process. I have to make time to doodle now. It’s weird how you spend years thinking “Oh great, another meeting… it’s Doodling Time!” and then you find yourself secretly giddy because you know you’ll have 4 extra minutes to sneak in some surreptitious doodling while your toddler finishes their breakfast. But here I am.

So I’ve been thinking a good deal about my paper notebooks and my doodling and my journaling and all those Instagram posts that I heart on a daily basis displaying some young person’s admirable bullet journal or Panda Diary or a Mom’s Moleskine Menagerie (wow, that’s a great name… Moleskine can run with it… I’m just the idea guy). I’ve spent too many hours thinking over this issue and watching YouTube videos comparing GoodNotes and Notability on the iPad Pro while jogging off the extra weight I gained sitting in meetings and doodling and reading blog posts that compare paper journaling to “digital” journaling.

The issue is complicated by the fact that I’m typing this on an iPad and I do love this form factor and device. The iPad Pro really has become my main computer when I’m not chained to a laptop working on a piece of code or having to review artwork in Adobe Illustrator for a brand client (but the iPad is getting there!). I’ve always been the “digital” guy or “techy teacher” or the preacher that preaches with an iPad (I’ve also preached from a Blackberry, a Palm T5 (loved that thing), and a Palm m100 over the years), or the consultant who has all the fun tech toys. So when I show up with a paper notebook, it’s a little jarring to some people and frequently leads to a conversation about my note booking style or journaling preferences or the types of pens I prefer. I’ve bonded with many clients over the benefits of a Pilot G2 Extra Fine 0.5mm refill cartridge compared to the competition.

But year after year I go back to my paper notebooks when it’s time to put the days to bed on another year. This year is going to be no different it seems. I’m an old man stuck in his ways, what can I say? “I’ve got my drip pan, ready for my nap” as Lightning McQueen says at the ends of Cars 3 (again, I have a toddler). But there is magic in opening a new journal and getting ready for the year while looking back at all the collected thoughts, doodles, dreams, failures, completions, incompletions, interceptions, and incantations from the previous trip around our closest star. It’s really magical in a self-serving and privileged way to pull down a notebook from ten or fifteen years ago and do the same. There is probably some magic in doing the same with a backup file in Dropbox of a PDF exported from GoodNotes in 2013, but magic, like notebook and pen preferences, is subjective.

So my prayer for me and for you in 2019 is… Blow up your tv, throw away your Twitter, go to the country, find you a home, eat a lot of peaches, try and find Jesus on your own… and do some doodling.

Published by Sam Harrelson

I'm the head of Harrelson, where we work with churches, nonprofits, and businesses on marketing strategy and consulting. This has been my personal blog about marketing, tech, religion, art, history, scifi, family, and life in general since 2006.

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