Camille Xu, a sophomore at Leesville Road High School, is well aware of the importance of cultivating her interests outside of schoolwork; her passion of choice is bullet journaling.
Bullet journaling is an organizational system created by designer Ryder Carroll. In his own words, a bullet journal is meant “to help you track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.”
“Bullet journaling is similar to a planner or agenda,” Xu said. She explained that the biggest difference between a bullet journal and a traditional planner is the amount of personalization that goes into it.
“Bullet journaling is a really personal hobby,” Xu said. “You can tailor it to your own personal needs.”
Instead of buying a planner at a store or printing one out ahead of time, Xu creates her own through a series of “spreads.” Spreads are a page or group of pages that relate to a certain topic; they are often a visual representation of a period of time, like a month or a week. Technically, spreads can be anything.
“It can be a notes spread where you write down all of your thoughts or it can even be a reading log where you track the books you’ve read in a certain period of time,” Xu said. “A lot of times you use calligraphy and different drawings or doodles to formulate your spreads.”
Xu began bullet journaling over two years ago because of her burgeoning interest in calligraphy.
“After I discovered calligraphy and started practicing with [it], I found a YouTuber, Amanda Rachel Lee, who does bullet journaling. She inspired me… her bullet journals were really aesthetically pleasing and I thought it would be a great way to integrate my calligraphy skills with my creativity,” Xu said.
Xu loved bullet journaling as soon as she began; the fun and productive activity quickly became one of her go-tos during her free time.
Xu approached bullet journaling methodically; she did not start creating her own spreads until a few months passed and she was more confident in her abilities.
“When I first began I would copy Amanda Rachel Lee’s spreads because I was so new to bullet journaling that I couldn’t think of my own spreads or doodles. Now, I create my own spreads based on my preferences,” Xu said.
Though people can set up bullet journals in a variety of ways, Xu arranges hers from the beginning to the end of each year. “It’s easier for me to set it up that way because in the beginning… I plan out the year… I write down resolutions, a ‘future log’ where I write down people’s birthdays or events, and a year-in-pictures where I choose and print pictures that represent each month,” Xu said.
“I usually try and bullet journal during any time off from school like during the weekends or winter break – any type of break that I get,” Xu said.
Xu bullet journals in stolen moments or deliberate time off, even though her passion is still strong; her workload makes it harder for her to keep up with a bullet journal than in years past. Despite her best efforts, Xu does not often have time outside of schoolwork to immerse herself in the hobby.
“It typically takes me a long time because I sketch everything out in pencil first and then I go over it in fineliner which is a type of marker that is really thin and precise. And then I go over it in regular markers or brush pens to color it all in,” Xu said.
Xu’s perfectionism slows the already meticulous process; she takes the precaution of drawing in pencil first before using a more permanent medium to reduce any mistakes she makes. Xu’s multiple steps and varied writing instruments are predilections not necessary in a bullet journal.
“I think it takes longer because of the elaborate spreads that I do. Like everything else, everything in bullet journaling is to your own preference. You don’t have to do the spreads like I do… I do it because it’s just visually more appealing,” Xu said.
She thinks bullet journaling is one of her most relaxing and satisfying hobbies. The fun activity encourages creativity without overthinking or stress.
“After I finish a spread, I feel really satisfied because it looks visually appealing and I’m proud of myself for completing it. But, while I’m doing it it makes my mind feel really relaxed because I don’t have to think too hard about what I’m doing,” Xu said.
Xu intends to keep bullet journaling throughout high school but is unsure whether she will continue beyond that. Right now, she focuses on getting through school, using bullet journaling as the perfect balance to the rigor and stress school can cause.
“I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to try it because it’s fun and helps you stay organized. For someone who doesn’t really like conventional planners, it helps you write down your thoughts in a productive way,” Xu said.