How Bullet Journaling Can Make You a Better Writer
Bullet journaling, when used to its maximum potential, can be a busy writer’s best friend. It can help set, track, and meet writing goals. Organize all the bits and pieces of your work in progress. Keep on top of your marketing efforts, your querying process and everything in between.
What Is Bullet Journaling?
Maybe you’ve seen the terms, “bullet journaling” or “bujo” around on social media, or have seen the beautiful spreads with bright colors and gorgeous illustrations. It’s a wildly popular organizational method for a person’s day-to-day life and future goals. And it’s a customizable mix of a daily journal, a diary, appointment tracker, to-do list, and so much more.
All sorts of people use bullet journals to keep their lives organized, and they can be so useful for writers. Plan novels, practice self care, map your publishing journey, and anything else you need.
What Are the Benefits of Bullet Journaling?
- Customizable to your needs and budget.
- It’s very easy and can be tailored to your aesthetic.
- It prompts organization.
- It inspires productivity.
- It promotes intentional living.
- Teaches time management.
- Allows for tracking self-care and mental health.
- Is a different kind of creative outlet than writing.
Equipment You’ll Need
- A good notebook. A lot of people use Moleskins, but any notebook will do. Dotted page journals are great for getting even lines without overwhelming the design with blue lines. Consider size, page thickness and overall sturdiness when choosing.
- Pens. Fine tip is a good way to go, because they are more precise for lines and space conservation.
- Midliners. They’re a lot like highlighters, but more color options and not as neon. They add a little pizazz.
- Craft supplies. Washi tape. Stickers. Stencils. Fancy paper. Anything you’d like to use to decorate your bullet journal in your personal style.
How to Set Up Your Bullet Journal
Now we’ll go over the basics of setting up your bullet journal.
Number your pages and create an index
This is pretty straightforward. Go through your blank pages and number them. Then create an index page. As you add collections, you’ll be able to note down which page they are. That way in the future when your bullet journal is full, you’ll be able to look up what you want and find that page, quickly.
Create your planning logs
There are three different types:
- Future log. Your year at a glance, or preferred length of time.
- Monthly log. This is usually a little more detailed than your future log, so you can see what’s coming up.
- Daily log. Your day-to-day to-do and diary. Organize how you want it.
These are truly what makes your bullet journal customizable. You can make lists such as your TBR list, movies you want to see, your bucket list, character names you want to use, scenes you want to include in your WIP, shiny words, words to avoid, and more. Tracking logs, like mood trackers, word count, exercise, submissions, and anything else you’d like to keep tabs on. Notes and mind maps, your goals and plans, marketing efforts, and publishing houses you’d like to query to. Themes you’d like to include in your WIP and how you’ll include them, or even character archetypes you want to use.
The most important thing to remember when choosing your collections, is that this is your bullet journal. So you can choose what and what not to include depending on your preferences or needs.
How to Use Your Bullet Journal for Writing
You know how to set up your bullet journal, and now it’s time to learn how to use it as a tool for writing.
Adding daily tasks and goals
Accountability is a great motivator. It’s incredibly easy to skip writing for a day if no one knows that your goal was to write, which is why writing it down to make it concrete, even just to yourself, can enforce a feeling of accountability. But try not to leave it at just “write.” Make the goal specific, actionable and attainable. It can be a goal of “write 1,000 words” or “edit 15 pages” or even something like “do two 20-minute writing sprints today.” And remember, if you meet your goal, you can keep going for the day!
Long term goals and planning
Making long term goals is incredibly important because it gives you direction. You can choose goals like “write every other day” or even “finish my WIP’s first draft by the end of the year.” The key is to break these big goals down into smaller ones that you can complete in steps. Which is why a bullet journal’s capability for long term planning and short term management is such a benefit.
Planning and tracking your WIP
Whether you want to plan a full novel, a short story, or even something like NaNoWriMo, a bullet journal can help you plan and track your progress. Collections can help you track all the moving parts of your WIP such as your plot outline, major and minor characters, chapter and scene breakdowns, settings, series breakdown, themes, research notes, problems you know you need to fix, brain dump ideas, feedback notes, title ideas, useful resources, playlists, faceclaim models/actors, writing prompts and quotes, motivation, and anything you need to keep in order.
How to Use Your Bullet Journal for Your Author Career
You’ve finished your manuscript. Now it’s time for the next step!
There are a lot of steps to getting your book published, and your bullet journal is a great way to keep track and stay organized.
Editing. Your bullet journal is a good place to note down editors you may want to work with, their prices and timelines, and tracking their progress. Conversely, it’s a way to keep track of your own edits, such as scenes you need to work on, words to take out, and more.
Submissions tracking. Create your collections for things such as a list of potential publishers/agents, creating your synopsis, your query letter, and author bio. Then you can create a spread to track which publishers/agents you’ve submitted to, the date you did, when you sent a follow up query and what you heard back from them.
Feedback tracking. If you receive feedback from your querying, you can collect it into your bullet journal and see if there are patterns to it so you know what to work on. This also keeps it all in one area, so you can reference it in the future.
Marketing. Track your social media platforms, topics, and posts you want to put up, your analytics, and other marketing efforts you make so you can learn what works and what doesn’t!
Self Care for Writers
Not only are bullet journals great for helping to meet writing goals and keeping up with submissions and marketing tactics, it’s also a wonderful tool for self care. As writers, it’s incredibly easy to get immersed in your work, or fall into the downward spiral of negative thoughts — which leads to neglecting yourself. It’s important to maintain a healthy mind and body, because an imbalance will take its toll. The following are some collections you can use to practice self care.
Meal planner. Eating habits are one of the first things to slip when you have a looming deadline, or get into the frenzy of NaNoWriMo. A bullet journal will help you track what you’ve eaten, as well as plan healthy meals and treats so that you eat more nutritiously and stop skipping meals or snacking.
Exercise log. Another aspect of a writer’s health that tends to be neglected is exercise. It’s too easy to tell ourselves we need to write, not go to the gym! However, it’s important to make time for exercise, because sitting for long periods of inactivity isn’t healthy. Our physical health is tied intricately to our mental health. Create a log in your bullet journal that’s as simple as checking off each day that you exercised, or more intensive with noting down when, what you did, calories burned, and anything else you want to keep track of.
Gratitude log. The first two examples were focused on physical health but as noted above, physical health is tied into mental health. So true is the reverse, which is why it’s important to take care of our minds as well. Our creativity comes from our minds! A great way to do this is to make a gratitude log. Do it as often as you like, but spend some time daily, weekly, or monthly writing down what you’re thankful for, or what made you happy. Taking the time to reflect on these things boosts positivity, which boosts your mental health and your creativity.
Have you ever used a bullet journal? Has it helped you in your writing process? Let me know in the comments!
Written by Ariel Lee
As the assistant backbone to those in the writing industry Ariel has worked with both traditional and indie published authors in multiple genres editing companies and more to keep them on track and on task for the all the moving parts that go into being a thriving member of the writing community. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Ripon College and is always up-leveling her skills. She's also a big nerd and loves to play Dungeons & Dragons and is obsessed with Jurassic Park. She believes we should all look up to the strong female characters presented in the movie like the T-Rex.