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!

2022 Goals & Aspirations

Hullo, world!

(And Happy belated New Year!)

As you might already know, I’m the kind of person who generally enjoys goal-setting. *tries to hide my stack of journals and planners in a closet* Last year, I did a similar thing where I shared a bit about my goal-setting process. Reading back, I do have to admit I still follow a somewhat rigorous goal-setting method, but I’m learning to simplify more. If last year taught me anything, it’s the need to focus on the heart of things, not the result. 

So for this year, I’m going to take a step back, relax, and perchance pour myself tea as I walk myself–and you, dear SJ readers, through my 2022 Goals & Aspirations

Reading 

Depth. Since my terrible reading year in 2020, I’ve become more sensitive to the kind of books I read. With the start of university last fall, I’ve had to read books I don’t necessarily a) enjoy b) agree with c) or would pick up, period, but it’s led me to realise I should not be only reading books I like. Which inevitably led me to re-examine my reading life. (Some of you will recall my Rethinking Reading Ethics post.) 

Well, I’ve been developing my reading ethics since then, and have updated it to groups of somewhat organised reading lists. So far, I’ve been able to keep it within ten categories (I know, it still sounds like a lot) that I’m happy about. Of course, I’m thinking I might change it up as I go on, but for now, they are as the following:

  1. Theology/Philosophy (a long-due list of apologetics books & c.)
  2. Academics (mandatory readings I can’t escape from)
  3. C. S. Lewis (all of his works I haven’t read yet)
  4. Classics/Dark Academia (def. One of my favourite lists)
  5. Political Science/History (similar to academics, but more for fun)
  6. Haruki Murakami (almost all of his works, idk?)
  7. Re-Read (books I desperately want to re-read but haven’t)
  8. Omnibus/PHC (still trying to finish this one…)
  9. Japanese Nonfiction & Literature (somehow I can read them faster than English works??)
  10. Others (anything else that doesn’t fit but suits my fancy, or have been recommended to me)

Also, I’m trying to impose a ten-book library limit on myself which is not working so well… And you know, it’s probably the library’s fault for letting me take out up to fifty books in the first place. (ˉ ˘ ˉ; ) 

Writing

WIPs 

Focus. I’m not as hell-bent on getting traditionally published young anymore for several reasons, one of which is that I’ve realised it’s okay not to have “made it”. Publishing isn’t my only goal when it comes to writing, and the biggest reason I write is for fun. I love writing. I’ll probably keep plodding away at words, slower than I’ve been doing in the past, yet definitely for sure. 

From last year’s experience of project-hopping, I know I cannot multitask. (Which, by the way, is no brainer, but still! I thought I was that one in a million!!) So for the year 2022, I’m going to focus–I’ll be working on one WIP at a time, and will stay at it. I tend to have “seasons” for all my WIPs, so I’ll be sticking to that in a roughly two-or-three month cycle.

Example:

SeasonWIP
Dec~Jan, (maybe) MarchOsthauptstadt
Feb, NovElijacomb
March~May, (maybe) Nov?Woodstone Abbey
May~JuneJuliet (revision)

There are a few WIPs out there that I’m still debating about working on. I have terrible lapses during the summer, and *whispers* I might be travelling for my best friend’s wedding, so I’m going to keep it open. And even if I do work on another WIP, it’ll be only one, and something that’s in progress. For now, though, I’m going to keep it to these four. 

Another fun thing I’ve started is a writing journal. No, it’s not a tautology, in case you’re wondering. I love my bullet journals & planners to pieces, and I thought, “Why not start a journal for my WIPs?” Reading DeSalvo’s The Art of Slow Writing has made me realise how much writing is heart and process. So far, I’ve had encouraging days and less than encouraging days, but the good thing is that I can more easily reflect on where I’ve been–and where I’m trying to go. ⸜( ´ ꒳ ` )⸝

A glimpse of what my writing journal looks like

Blog

I kind of debated whether or not to include this section in this post. Alwith, given how things went last year when university started, I think it’s relevant. 

In the previous years since I started my blog, I never doubted it. Okay, that sounds kind of strange, but when I started blogging, I never really thought about quitting or taking a break (a long one) or how long I’d actually do it. It just…came to me as another aspect of life. 

Through last year’s experience and looking back on my senior year in high school, however, I think it’s better if I established a more lax schedule around my blogging. Please don’t get me wrong. I love blogging, and now that I am thinking about this, I don’t think I ever want to stop. But I know that once university starts again, I will have weeks when I’m flooded with assignments and/or exam preps and won’t have the energy to get to blogging. 

So, for now, I’m going to stick to the roughly once a week routine. You’ll probably still see an Author Health post at the beginning of the month, Writing Life in the second week, Reading in the third, and Afternoon tea at the end of the month. But, I’m not going to be too rigid in the structure of my blog. They’ll serve as guidelines, but I hope SJ Barnard will be a place you can step back with a cup of tea to relax. And I’ll continue writing to that end. (୨୧ᵕ̤ᴗᵕ̤)

That’s it for today! 

Thank you for reading the post. How was your New Year? Do you have any goals for the year 2022? What are some of your aspirations for this year? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

Osthauptstadt

The Go-To Stats:

Status: Draft 0.5

Word Count: 58K

Genre: Dystopian

Audience: YA

Feat: Childhood friends, Virus, Showa-vibes

THE STORY

THE EX-FELDWEBEL
When Ayano Watase hands in her resignation letter to the Osthauptstadt militia, she’s not expecting to go back to normal. After all, she’d lived through hell and back as she climbed the ranks of a sweep squad commander battling the Fever with her childhood friend, Souta. Nothing could change that.
Yet what she finds at the park apartments of Torberg where her cousin-once-removed lives change everything she thought about the Fever. About the world.
THE HAUPTFELDWEBEL
Souta Nonomiya’s life seemingly continues on after Ayano resigns. But as he steadily climbs the ranks Ayano gave up on, he begins to see cracks in the Stadt he had been ignoring. As a policy change reconstructs the Stadt militia, his path once again crosses with the girl who rescued him many years ago.

CHARACTER COLLAGES

STORY EXCERPT