3 Steps to Start a Writing Journal 

Hullo, world!

It’s so nice to be sitting at my desk, basking in the sun and writing this post. It’s a beautiful Sunday morning and I hope that you are having a wonderful day, too. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how process and the heart is what matters, not the end product. Too often we focus on what we get out of something, not what we are doing. Which, I think, is really sad. There’s a lot to be learnt from how we do things. There’s joy in baking waffles or flipping pancakes for brunch. There’s joy in reading, not in finishing a book. (Maybe both, but still.) 

And today, I want to focus on the process of writing–and introduce a tool that has helped me with being mindful of how I write…

May I present to you, the Writing Journal!!

You’ve probably heard me mention how I’m a hybrid writer (hand-writing & typing sort) but what’s interesting is how I lean more to the hand-writing side when it comes to brainstorming. Sure, I do have folders after folders in Google docs on my various WIPs. But the baseline, or kernels of my ideas, I try to grow by hand. Writing by hand, I realised, helps me not forget. It’s a more organic process for me (which is also shown by research) and overall, I fully advocate writing journals. 

And, without further ado, I will break down how (and why) I keep a writing journal–and how you can, too. 

1. Get a notebook

The first step is, very obviously, to get a notebook. The type of notebook you get will dictate the use (a little bit), but most of the time a normal notebook will work. Personally, I like using notebooks without ring-binders. (FYI, I think ring-bound notebooks are a nemesis to the whole world.) I use A5 notebooks and B5 notebooks, both from Japan (but I think Muji might carry them if there’s a local Muji around the place you live) which opens flat when I’m writing. The point isn’t to get the same notebook like mine, though. As long as you love the design and there’s practicality in the notebook, you can use it for a writing journal! 

2. WIP-wise v. Schedule-wise

After you’ve gotten yourself a notebook, decide on the two types of writing journal you’ll use for–WIP-wise or Schedule-wise. 

WIP-wise journals are solely used for brainstorming, restructuring, outlining, conducting character studies, etc. I’ve found there’s no one way to do a WIP journal since the WIP pretty much directs what you’ll need to write. 

Schedule-wise journals, on the other hand, look a lot like bullet journals. If you’re familiar with the concept, bullet journals are a system where you can quickly jot down tasks and ideas in a planner-type notebook. 

In both types of journals, I create a blank page for a title, another for an index (so you’ll be able to find things easily), and number the pages after that. 

3. 54321, Campaigns, & Daily Logs

What goes into a writing journal, ultimately, depends on you. But at the same time, here are the three basics things that help me in my writing journals:

  1. The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, method

I explained this in detail in last year’s goal-planning post. (See the Plan section.) This is the long-mid-short-term goal setting method that works well for me.

  1. Campaigns

These are also in the same post above, but basically what I do is to come up with writing campaigns (write every day, host a writing retreat for myself, etc.)

  1. Daily Logs

This is the aforementioned bujo-ing method(?) I use on a daily basis. I write down one to three things to do concerning my writing (e.g. write chapter 13, re-read chapter 13, etc.). This is also the place where I quick-log my thoughts (“Writing went well! Happy with what I’ve written!”) concerning that day’s writing, or make notes to myself for tomorrow’s writing session. 

Overall, a writing journal is very flexible. You can put a lot of information into it, or just the bare minimum. Either way, the act of writing helps you become more conscious of your process. (Not to mention you’ll have a hard copy to refer back to later on.)

In the end, what matters is how you do it, not what you do. When writing can feel like jumping through loops, take a step back—breathe–and write down what you feel about your writing. Write down what you’d actually like to do in writing. Write down why you write. 

And, in the end, that’s what counts. 

Thank you for reading! What did you think about the post? Do you think you’d like to keep a writing journal now? Or, do you already keep journals? Are you a hybrid writer like me? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

2 thoughts on “3 Steps to Start a Writing Journal 

  1. This was such a fun post, SJ! I love hearing about all things journal/notebook related, and that daily log idea sounds like a great idea 🙂 I usually keep a journal for each WIP for brainstorming and editing notes, but I’m hoping to try and do some more writing by hand.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] Write down your thoughts about that writing session. This also does not have to be long. It can be one sentence, like, “I’m happy with what I wrote!” or “I feel like I want to write more.” I keep my thoughts, progress, and goals in my writing journal, which you can read more about here: 3 Steps to Start a Writing Journal […]

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