Let’s face it. Organizing the writing life is probably not your strong point. You’ve probably Google calendared and Day Planned your life within an inch of itself and yet that book or project is not done.
There’s a reason for that. You haven’t found your “thing” yet.
By thing I mean you system, your process, how things are getting done – other than at the last minute.
A year ago, I found out about this thing called Bullet Journal. If you’ve seen this before on social media, you’ve probably seen the colorful art projects of some very talented people. Seriously, their journals are beautiful. And when you’ve seen them, you probably thought that that system wasn’t for you.
What you didn’t see was the original way of doing things, the get-er-done lists and system of keeping track of your life that gets lost in pen type and marker color.
Let’s take this bullet journal thing down to the studs.
Bullet journaling is a system that incorporates lists, appointments, trackers, and notes all in one notebook. It’s like putting your brain on a page and keeping track of it. It can incorporate your Google calendar that you love so much and your grocery list. It can be a place where you keep track of your novel or where you’ve sent out work for publication.
Yes, bullet journaling is all this. And what’s great is all you need is a pen and a notebook. That’s it. The pen you use and the notebook you want is up to you. The best part of this system is that it’s individual to the user. What you need is what you’ll create in this journal.
For a quick primer, go to bulletjournal.com. For ideas on how to use bullet journaling for writing, keep reading.
Keep a writing to-do list.
Rapid logging is going to be helpful for this. I know if I’m working on a long project, like a novel, there are quick notes that I want to make to myself to make sure I do. Things like, make sure that this character’s eyes stay the same color or revise the scene where the monster eats the princess. For me, those things are as important as a grocery list. Once they are on paper, they exist in the world and they must be acknowledged.
You can also organize a longer project using a Rapid Logging list.
A brain dump is awesome
So, what about those ideas that you have in the middle of the meeting? Or that plot twist that’s so good you don’t want to lose it? The Brain Dump section is brilliant. It’s literally what the names says it is, a place to dump things from your brain. Its items that don’t really belong any other place in your journal so you dump them there.
This page can be as organized as you want or as messy as you need it to be. It’s whatever you need.
Future Log/ Monthly Log
Think of the future and monthly logs as the actual calendar part of this system. It has dates and next to those dates are things you need to keep track of like when your book needs to be sent out to your agent or when you need the draft of that story done for a revision.
And yes…if you need to remember birthdays you can do that too.
I find the habit tracker probably the most useful thing. It’s literally how I keep track of habits I want to create or excel at, like, I don’t know, writing. If my goal is to write for 45 minutes a day, it’s on my tracker and I check it off when I’ve done the thing.
You can also create a habit tracker for your writing process. For example, if you write one chapter in the morning and revise in the evening, that can be on your tracker.
Other habits to track – reading, researching, journaling, submitting, and exercising. Yes, you can chug coffee all day and not think that would impact you somehow.
Books I Want to Read List
This one is simple. It’s a list of books you want to read. Yes, we have books on our nightstand or Kindle, but when you write them down and really focus on why you are reading what you’re reading – research, entertainment, curiosity, etc, then you are using the book list as a focused activity rather than listing your personal library.
But can you journal in this thing?
Yes, you can use it to journal. If you’re into Morning Pages, this is a great spot to write everything in.
You can also write notes from writing workshops as well. It all goes in the same spot.
The next thing you’re thinking is probably whether you should have a separate bullet journal for your writing vs your life. It depends. I personally like everything together so I can avoid conflicts. It also helps me protect my writing time.
Hope this helps you organize your writing life. Happy bullet journaling.
Icess is a writer, professor, and blogger. She is a graduate of Goddard College's MFA program. Her work has been published in Rabble Lit, Minerva Rising Literary Journal, and the Feminine Collective's anthology Love Notes from Humanity. Her nonfiction has appeared in Dear Hope, NBCNews.com, HuffPost and the Guardian. She is a recipient of the Owl of Minerva Award, a VONA/Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation alum, and is also a Kimbilio Fellow. She's currently working on her first novel.