Writer’s Bullet Journal: How to Create a Comprehensive Writing Log

TL;DR

Like many, my bullet journal includes trackers. As a writer, accountability prompts tracking my daily writing word count. The Law of Unintended Consequences killed the would-be joy of that initial word-count-only log. I returned to the drawing board, tweaking and enhancing, creating a more comprehensive writing process log. This article details the what and why of the tweaked log’s components.

Estimated Reading Time: 3:40 minutes

#WritersLife Problem: a Word-Count-Only Log Feeds Wheaties to Poindexter

Keeping a word count log promotes self-discipline. Empty day slots shout a story, but not the full story. On days I create neither sentence nor paragraph, I may instead tackle editing, research, or proofing chores. But the empty day slots awakened Poindexter, my Inner Critic. Hey, he’s a rough dude, insisting I “prove” I’m NOT the chump he claims. Memory offered only hazy recall, positioning Poindexter to annihilate my spirit. Resolved: shut that <expletive> down!

The Cure: An Enhanced Daily Writing Process Log in my Bullet Journal

Think, writers! Drafting may be the core of writing, but its BFFs demand equal attention. I refer to editing, proofing, researching, image procurement and optimization (hi, bloggers 👋🏽), not to mention assorted related administrative chores. A flat word-count-only listing ignores these intricately related tasks, setting the stage for Poindexter to inflict damage (“Chump, you ain’t even disciplined enough to write every day. Told ya you’re a fraud!”) The best way to neuter Poindexter: deprive him of food. In this instance, that translates into creating a log more reflective of the multiple tasks comprising an honest writing work day.

The Tool: Hobonichi’s Vertical Monthly Pages = Writing Log Perfection

The vertical monthly pages of the A5 Hobonichi Cousin Avec form my weapon of choice. Each month’s vertical column spans ten 3.7mm grid blocks, perfect for functional planning, e.g. the anticipated checklist-style log:

  1. D / drafting
  2. E / editing
  3. P / proofing
  4. R / researching
  5. A / admin
  6. B / book-in-progress
  7. — blank — (for #OneBookJuly2017, I’m trying “6 word story” in this slot)
  8. } small columns =
  9. } 3 blocks to hold the
  10. } standard word-count-only entries

Because the two books comprising the Cousin Avec run from January through June, and July through December, I opted to copy my June entries into the second book. They appear along the bottom of a vertical monthly page.

Now when Poindexter demands "proof" I wrote on xyz day, I can shove the facts into his sorry face!

Now when Poindexter demands “proof” I wrote on xyz day, I can shove the facts into his sorry face!

The June image confirms: the slot for the actual word-count-only sits empty on seven days. Yet I actually indulged some aspect of the writing process on all but three of those days. I applied shading to each of those three didn’t-wear-my-writing-hat days, so they stand out. The three-days-missed surpass a goal milestone: I allow myself five writing-free days per month.

As regards the opening days of July—the extended holiday weekend—I indulged two projects: rearranging our living room to accommodate a slim desk, dedicated to planning/review sessions; and, moving my Editorial Calendar to a Kokuyo Scheduler Diary 2017 Month book. Those notes appear on the Cousin’s related Daily pages.

Aside: Standard events populate the Cousin’s regular month-view calendars. I tried a Jibun Techo for the second calendar, believing it was the only other book offering a 3.7-4mm grid within each date block. Another search proved me wrong. The Kokuyo gives me precisely what I craved → just the months WITH the grid within each block. And like all Kokuyo products, the paper induces smiles of intense satisfaction. I repurposed the Jibun/A5-Slim for notes relating to clients; the book’s too delightfully powerful for collect-cobwebs treatment.

If I maintained only a sterile listing of daily word counts, negativity would flow from the visual “proof” of my failure to meet my goal on seven days in June. But the comprehensive version ensures nuanced truth: I did not draft new articles/chapters on seven days, but I did indeed indulge the writing process on four of those “empty” days. Result: what could yield a disheartening review instead transforms into an atta girl! scenario!

Benefits of a Bullet Journal‘s Comprehensive Writing Process Log

In addition to telling Poindexter to go to <cough> the Land of Eternal Intense Heat, the Enhanced Log provides clues about writing process rhythms, empowering me to decipher patterns. Days of intense productivity sometimes dovetail into near nothingness. I’m guessing that’s a human reaction to actual or near burn-out. After all, running a race typically requires a few subsequent days of rest so muscles can regroup.

Rather than fight the predictable/natural, I embrace it by adjusting my workflow. The “down days” now see me researching, editing, and proofing. The lion’s share of the work—cementing thoughts to paper—is done, affording the luxury of focused “other” intrinsically related work. When drafting proves taxing I welcome respite, indulging what I call gentler productivity sessions. What I want to do still gets done; I simply approach my scheduling in a more intelligent and efficient manner.

Call to Action

Experience schooled me: when it still honors productivity goals, embrace the natural. Do you maintain a mechanism to discern your personal rhythms? If not, how can you create one? Some form of tracking offers the methodology, but the parameters of that mechanism must be formulated by you for you. Other writers may find this particular tracker helpful, but keep in mind: creation focused on me, not thee—respecting both my foibles and strengths. Develop a definitive way to conquer or work-around your weaknesses. Set the stage to embrace your strengths, for proper celebration. And, do what you must to neuter your Poindexter.

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Til later 😎👋🏽