I am obsessed with the bullet journal at the moment. I first came across the concept while doing my PhD and it was indispensable for helping me finish my thesis.
Now it’s helping me finish my stories. Let’s see how the bullet journal can make you a better writer.
What is a bullet journal?
Ryder Carroll designed the basic system to be an analogue system for the digital age. It is a flexible and customisable system of organisation.
Your bullet journal can be anything you want.
Bullet journalling has taken off in a big way in recent years. Many of the examples you can find online are beautiful but highly complex. People use them as a calendar, a journal, a planner, a sketchbook, a meal tracker. The list is basically endless.
At its heart the bullet journal is a series of to do lists you review on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. More information on how to start a bullet journal is available at the bullet journal website or over at tinyrayofsunshine.
How the bullet journal can make you a better writer
The bullet journal can make you a better writer by forcing you to get your ass organised.
If one of your goals is to publish a novel before the end of the year, put that in your future log. Then break that task down into monthly goals. If you write 20,000 words of the novel you could be done in three months. Make one of your dailies be “write 700 words” to reach the monthly goal.
You could add a word count tracker to see if you’re actually hitting that goal. Your journal might have pages dedicated to notes on your character or setting. Lists of steps to take if you’re self-publishing, like get it edited or find a cover designer. If you want to go the traditional route, you could keep lists of agents or publishers you’ve sent the manuscript to.
What you track in your journal is up to you.
5 spread ideas every writer needs
The bullet journal is customisable, which can make it a little daunting to start one, especially when many of the examples online are so ornate.
Here are a few spreads I recommend every writer include in their bullet journal.
1. A list of books to read
Every writer should have a healthy reading habit. Having a spread in your bullet journal will help you keep track of what you want to read and what you’ve read. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll constantly forget which books you keep meaning to read. A bullet journal spread can stop that happening.
2. A posting schedule
If you have a blog or social media presence (and let’s face it, you probably should have) you need a schedule for writing related posts. Keep track of what you’re posting and when.
3. A list of writing ideas and prompts
Make sure you never run out of ideas by keeping them close to you. Write down everything you can think of; random dialogue, settings, character traits, quotes from other writers, fragments of sentences. Anything and everything could be a prompt and it might just pull you out of trouble when you’re stuck.
4. A word count tracker
I maintain that tracking output is one of the most important things any writer can do. If you don’t keep track then you don’t know how much you’re writing and that makes it impossible to plan. Stick a word count tracker in your bullet journal if you don’t already have one.
5. A habit tracker
We writers can be kind of terrible at taking care of ourselves, especially when we’re elbow deep in a story. Use a habit tracker in your bullet journal to make sure you’re drinking plenty, eating at regular intervals, taking necessary medications etc.. It’ll help your writing in the long run.
How my bullet journal made me a better writer
The bullet journal system has helped me most by giving my a system if organisation that I can tweak to work for me. By constantly reviewing tasks and eliminating irrelevant items I stay focused on what’s important. The rapid logging system takes up a tiny amount of my day, leaving more room to actually get things done. And the bullet system itself makes it easy to see what you’ve completed which gives me a sense of accomplishment.
I keep a pretty minimalistic set up, at least compared to some other bullet journalists. I use the official LEUCHTTERM1917 bullet journal with a Sigma Micron black pen. Occasionally I’ll use either red or green pens (Bic intensity at the moment) for particular spreads and a Papelote pen strap to keep everything together.
If you’re struggling to be productive as a writer give the bullet journal a try. And if you’re a bullet journal veteran, try incorporating some of the spread ideas.
How has having a bullet journal helped you as a writer? What spreads have you found most helpful?
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