Hi all! First off: Does anyone actually say fad anymore?! Is it “craze” now, or “phenom?” I don’t even know. “Period of sudden and transient popularity and prominence in contemporary media” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite like “fad.” Can I say fad?
I’m gonna say fad.
So, we’ve all seen it. The beautiful bullet journal spreads. The fantastically complex paper planners. The endless traveler’s notebook brands and knockoffs (even I make them, in my Etsy shop). And, of course, everyone trying and failing to properly pronounce “Leuchtturm1917.” Studying with paper is popular, too. Entire Instagram and Tumblr pages are devoted to being “studygrams” or “studyblrs,” and vloggers describe their extremely in-depth processes of learning foreign languages, complete with gorgeous fountain-pen-written notes. And let’s not forget that entire online subcommunities are devoted to paper journaling, art journals, fountain pens, and stationery hauls. You can even get digital programs for paper planning on your smartphone or tablet.
It’s certainly popular and prominent in social media. It’s come up suddenly. But is it a fad?
Personally, I have always journaled on paper, have always had a paper-based planner, and generally took my school notes in a physical notebook. I’ve always kept a sketchbook in an actual sketchbook, rather than sketching digitally. And call me old-fashioned, but I’m a bit crazy about pens and notebooks.
I don’t actually think anything is really new about bullet journaling, paper planning, and art journals – I think what’s new is that we have the literal and figurative bandwidth to devote entire Instagrams to it. And because of that bandwidth, some very innovative people – like the creators of the Traveler’s Notebook, the designers of Happy Planner, and Ryder Carroll and his Bullet Journal Method – have jumped on the sudden popularity and have capitalized on it. Which, of course, in turn creates products for the YouTubers and Instagrammers to review and use and show off, and the ouroboros of social media and sales is complete.
When I was growing up, it was scrapbooking. Mostly this was done by older ladies – okay, I thought of them as older; they were maybe forty or fifty and up, in my day. I, being the pretentiously rebellious kid I was, made scrapbooks about things like anime art and punk culture. But they were scrapbooks nonetheless. I came up with complex systems to paper plan, and tried numerous notebooks. And I have kept a paper journal for as long as I could write, and longer than I remember. (I read and wrote pretty early.)
I don’t mean to disparage or disrespect bullet journalers or paper planners – quite the opposite: I think it’s fantastic, and bullet journaling has made me way more productive than I ever was in the past. And the proliferation of journaling and art journals on social media has encouraged me to journal more and even share some of my notebook collections. I don’t mean any offense when I say that it isn’t new. I just mean to point out, acutally, to those who criticize it as a fad, that paper planning has been around ever since the first person made the first paper to-do-list. And it’s not going anywhere.
The popularity, form, and nomenclature will ebb and flow. But paper planning has been with us a long, long, time. And it’s not going anywhere.