The Vomit Book

Inspired by Sunita’s post, and having sat on the idea of doing my own productivity post, I decided to take up the challenge. Today I’m just going to talk about the most important piece of my productivity regimen.

The Vomit Book

My productivity keeper is a notebook. Not a simple one because why use a 20c spiral notebook I can get at Walmart during back-to-school month when I can get an expensive, hard-to-find notebook such as TOPS Journal Notetaking Planner (TOP63827)? It’s a version of the Cornell notetaking system.

Why do I call it my vomit book? Because I vomit the contents of my brain all over it. The single most productive thing I do is vomit my brain all over the pages of my notebook. I cannot describe how mentally jumbled I get and what a short period of time it takes, and I cannot overstate how much more productive I become once I’ve spent an hour (or 2 or 3) vomiting my jumbled thoughts.

I have depression and anxiety, and I am ADHD and bipolar. My mother was pretty regulated, so she became my coping mechanism growing up without drugs. I am not nearly that regulated (or more likely, what was important to her is not important to me). But the coping mechanisms I developed during my childhood and adolescence, thanks to my mom, got me limping through early adulthood before I found better living through chemistry.

I say this only to illustrate the most extreme of my vomiting: One day, I was so jumbled, I wrote “angry” over and over and over again. Two pages front and back. That was necessary so I could begin to put into words what I was angry about. That journaling session lasted nearly 4 hours, but it was 4 hours well spent.

I don’t vomit every day. I do it when my brain is too full, which could be every day or it could be every week or it could be six months from now.

I do use it for lists. In that period when I was so angry I had to write down my morning routine in a list (though it never changes): get up, shower, brush teeth, get breakfast, take meds. During that time, I also struggled with the everyday things like…making a doctor’s appointment.

I had to write down the list: pick up phone, dial the number, ask for an appointment, check the calendar, commit to the appointment. I tried twice to make the appointment, hung up when I got voice mail because the expected thing hadn’t happened, and THEN I changed my list: pick up phone, dial the number, select the right key to go to voice mail, leave a message. And yes, I had to write the message down and read it.

I realize now this was anxiety, for which I am now medicated. But that vomit book got me through some rough times. The rough times might change, but the vomit book is there for when I need to puke up a new pen’s worth of ink.

5 thoughts on “The Vomit Book

  • March 4, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    This is fascinating. I can totally see how writing more or less based on what your brain is doing at any given time can be a great help. People say write every day, but it actually does matter *what* you write, at least it does for me, and sometimes I really have to clear my head before I can get to the good writing.

    What you’re doing sounds a bit like Morning Pages for ADHD/anxiety people. Do a torrent when you need it, nothing when you don’t. I liked morning pages to help me clear my head and learn what I’d been suppressing, repressing, and obsessing about. But after a year and a half or so, I was SO BORED by the sound of my voice talking about myself.

    But yours is a way to use them for those of us who have other useful practices and don’t need to brain-dump every day.

    • March 4, 2019 at 2:52 pm

      Yes, Morning Pages would not be helpful to me because some mornings are just ho-hum, and I like having ho-hum days. I get more done. There is no rhyme or pattern to my brain dump. It comes on, and I must do that no matter what else I have cooking (kids notwithstanding).

      I haven’t had to do it as much since I went on anxiety meds.

  • March 4, 2019 at 10:36 pm

    I was just going to mention “morning pages.” In one of my classes, we are going through the book The Artist’s Way, and we’re supposed to write 3 morning pages every single day. Ugh. I already have a pretty regular hour Alli g habit, but being REQUIRED to journal everyday has taken away my interest in a big way. I also LOATHE the Artist’s Way. I can turn on my creativity whenever I feel like it/ha e the energy and time. I don’t need to rescue it. Also, I find the writing preachy and annoyingly privileged. I like your “vomit pages” way better!

    • March 4, 2019 at 10:38 pm

      Geez. I need to remember to spellcheck before hitting send. Journaling. LOL.

    • March 5, 2019 at 10:28 am

      Being required to journal every day would drive me insane. When I have nothing to say, I don’t say anything (which is why this blog has been so silent for so long).

      I have not read the Artist’s Way.

      Lastly, I would love to have all those fancy notebooks and leatherbound diaries and suchlike, but I like what I have and I have tried to find a better system, but stream-of-consciousness journaling and detailed to-do lists are the way I best work.


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