Bullet Journal For Writers: An Organized Writer’s Journal

Writers are dreamers.

In our heads, so many possibilities are unfolding, continuously birthing new worlds and universes too big for our minds to contain that we need to write it down on paper.

The only problem is that it’s happening too quickly for us to keep track. We follow one idea after the other, each idea seems just as grand as the last one. We begin to drown in the details, plots, characters, places, and every possible building block for so many worlds that the threads slip out of our grasp just as quickly as we imagine them.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

What happens to all those threads you picked at? Do you leave them behind and forget about them? The bullet journal can help with keeping track of all those details.

Do I have your attention?

If you’re a writer, I’m sure I do.

Simply put, the bullet journal has many tools that can help you keep track of all the details. Better yet, you can keep all the information in just one notebook.

Can you imagine? With just a turn of the page, you can see all your progress, all your ideas, at a glance. In just one notebook, you can organize everything you need for worldbuilding. How awesome would that be for keeping track and brainstorming?

If you’re interested in all that, then read on. I’ve gone around and compiled all the useful information and tools that could be invaluable for a writer like you.

The Bullet Journal Background

Ryder Carroll, the creator of the bullet journal, began developing this system back in high school where he was finding it hard to keep up with school work.

Diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder(ADD), he struggled to keep his things in order, often needing to carry multiple notebooks, papers, and notes just to keep track. You can imagine the kind of clutter and inconvenience this caused him. Not only that, he found himself with very serious anxiety and stress.

Eventually, with the bullet journal, he no longer had to carry copious amounts of things, being able to relegate it all into one notebook, but he also found it to have a therapeutic effect. It lessened his anxiety and stress and became a practice of mindfulness for him.

The bullet journal system itself is focused on productivity, but its analog system allows people to focus on different things other than their screens. It’s flexible, in that you can mix and match the components to what you need, and you can decide on any which way to structure your notebook.

The ability to personalize it and disconnect from technology is probably the reason so many people have come to resonate with it. 

The Bujo community, or the bullet journal community, has added so many things to the system that it has evolved into something else. Also, two schools of thought have begun to emerge from the community: the maximalists and the minimalists.

The minimalists mostly do the original system, tweak it just enough to suit their needs. They need fewer supplies and time to set up their own notebooks.

The minimalists have come to use the bullet as a creative outlet as much as it is a planner system. These are the kinds of spreads that usually go viral in social media. They’re willing to invest the time into making those beautiful spreads because it enhances the effects of disconnecting and mindfulness for them… plus it’s nice to look at.

The Bujo Basics For A Writer

First off, to use the bullet journal you’ll need a brief explanation of how to start one. I’ll explain each part and how to use them as simply as I can.

To make things clear, I’ll be using the word collection to describe each of these parts. It basically means sections when speaking in bullet journal lingo.

The parts of a bullet journal are:

  • Signifier Key
  • Index
  • Future Log
  • Monthly Log
  • Weekly Log
  • Daily Log

Signifier Key

First of all, you’ll need a signifier key.

This usually comes at the start of the end of the journal. It depends on your preferences. Just be sure that you know where to find it because this will be where you’ll put what each symbol means.

In the bullet journal system, you use symbols to mark what you need to do for each log or entry. A few examples for the basic symbols of the original system is as follows:

• = Tasks

– = Notes

○ = Events

> = Migrate to next day or period of time

< = Migrate to future log

 ̶t̶a̶s̶k̶ ̶c̶a̶n̶c̶e̶l̶l̶e̶d̶

* = Priority

! = Inspiration

You would put these on the left side of an entry to better organize each entry and avoid confusion.

You can mix and match these, but you don’t have to stick to the standard key. You can make your own, making it easier to remember.

Index

This collection will come in particularly useful for you.

The index will act as your table of contents. You typically place this at the start of each notebook to make things easier to find.

Here, you’ll log in all the collections you’ll be making for your notebook to make it easier to find.

It’s simple enough to make. All you need to do is to take a few blank pages at the beginning of your notebook, depending on how much you think you’ll be using and label them “Index”.

That’s it!

As a writer, you’ll be making plenty of collections in your bullet journal to aid you in keeping track of your writing.

Once you log something into your index, there might be continuations of that section somewhere else further down the notebook. To keep track of this, just write the name of the collection and the page number after it. For the subsequent pages that continue the collection, put in a comma and write the page number of where it is.

It should look like this:

Worldbuilding p34, p56 -60

You’ll want to learn “Threading” and take advantage of it as much as you can, as well. Threading is basically a technique you use for keeping track of pages to make it easier to navigate through your notebook.

If you want to use it based on the example above, just turn to page 34 and write a ~ symbol. After the ~ write page 56.

It’ll look like this:

P34 ~ p56

This will mean that after page 34, the continuation is on page 56. This makes it so you don’t have to go back to the index to find the next page.

Future Log

The future log will come after the index.

Here’s where you’ll be putting everything you have to keep track of during the year. It’s as simple as splitting a blank page into three equal parts by drawing a horizontal line and labeling it with the corresponding month.

This is valuable to anyone who uses the bullet journal because it gives them the ability to get a clear overview of their year.

For a writer using a bullet journal, this will make it easier to integrate writing into your everyday activities, as you will be able to factor in writing into your lifestyle.

There are many methods to the future log that you might want to check out. It might help, so you can check it out here.

Monthly Log

The monthly log functions like a future log, except it is specific to a month. You’ll have a clearer view of everything that you need to do for the month, and you’ll be able to log in some of the more important things to do here.

To make this, simply take two blank pages and label it the monthly log.

On the first page, number the rows the same amount of days for the corresponding month and write the first letter of each day that it falls on beside it. The space beside it is where you’ll log anything important that happened during the day.

The second page will simply be where you’ll place all the tasks that need to be done for the month.

Weekly/Daily Log

I personally combine these two, while some pick what is more useful to them depending on their needs.

As a writer, you’ll probably need a daily log more, to keep your writing habits in check.

To make a daily log, simply turn to a blank page, label it daily log, write the date, then write whatever happened then under it.

That’s it.

It’s a very simple process, but you’ll see later how this can be invaluable to you.

Supplies For A Bullet Journaling Writer

For a minimalist, you probably just need a reliable pen and notebook.

You might need a more expensive notebook if you’re using a more expensive pen, anything about 80 gsm would be great. Gsm refers to the thickness of paper, and it has an effect on whether the ink goes through or messes up the page.

Between lined, dotted, and blank paper, I would suggest either lined or dotted so you can make use of them as guides.

For the maximalist, you’d need to go for 90 gsm or above, depending on your needs. I would also suggest blank paper so the lines or dots won’t affect the art you’ll be making. Just use a ruler if you want clean lines.

Benefits For Writers

The bullet journal as a whole has many advantages for anyone who uses it. I already mentioned some above, but I want to highlight its benefits that are specifically for the writer.

Below are some that will be especially beneficial to writers of any genre:

  • Time Management
  • Organized
  • Tools For Brainstorming
  • Self-Care
  • Less Distractions

Time Management

As with any planner system, one of its main purposes is time management. It’s no different for bullet journal, but the system does add in a few more features that are helpful.

One of these is the overview it gives the user when planning for a period of time. With an overview for a specific amount of time, like from the future log and monthly log, you’ll be able to prioritize certain activities and build your schedule accordingly.

For writers, this will allow you to build a writing schedule where you can fully focus on writing. After, with all the excuses we come up with, by setting up a set time to work on your story we can reduce the time wasted.

The migration process also provides you an advantage of clearing up space in your schedule. For Ryder Carroll, the migration process also serves as a reflection time, allowing you to discern what tasks and events are truly worth the time and energy invested in it. This lets you focus on the “why do it” over the “what to do”.

This will make it easier to free up time for your actual writing, and reserve energy for something worth doing.

Organized

With so many ideas, details, and information flowing out of our minds, it becomes very difficult to store and keep track of them all.

You’ll find yourself splitting up everything you want to keep note of, leaving it in your digital planner, a notebook you happened to have, or just a piece of scrap paper you picked up.

With the bullet journal, you’ll be able to keep them all in one notebook, easily accessible and organized based on the tracker, collections, and spreads you’ll keep.

The tracker available to you will be invaluable, you’ll be able to track almost anything you want, and be able to analyze your writing patterns to make sure you can adjust your schedule to what works.

For example, if you want to track your sleep to carve out time you can use to write, all you have to do is insert a sleep log into your notebook. You’ll be able to take note of the specific times that you sleep and manage it to fit a writing schedule that is convenient for you.

Aside from the sleep log, we’ll explore a lot more trackers, collections, and tools, that can help you below. Be sure to chem them out.

Tools For Brainstorming

One of the hardest things in writing is brainstorming. This is the birthplace of our worlds, the source of all that will inhabit our universe.

It’s not an exaggeration to also say it’s one of the most important processes of writing.

Given the flexibility of the bullet journal, you can incorporate tools that will greatly help you in formulating your plot, building your world, and fleshing out your characters.

This will also improve the flow of your story, by letting you approach different ideas from a different perspective. It will let you identify which paths character would be likely to take based on his traits.

Furthermore, you’ll be able to insert all those small details that make the world just a step closer to reality.

These tools will be further discussed below. They are called the brain dump and the mind map.

Another feature where the bullet journal can help you is its analog nature. The benefits of writing things by hand has been long known, but given the conveniences technology gives us, we tend to avoid this altogether.

However, the handwriting still gives us more time to process the information we write down. It gives us a better handle and momentum when exploring an idea, which in turn results into a more fleshed out story.

Check this out for more on the benefits of handwriting.

Self-Care

This is a great benefit for anyone using the bullet journal, writers are no different.

The whole aim for using the bullet journal for writing is that we are able to integrate it into our lives as a whole. And when doing this, we should also watch out for things that may get us burned out or out of the writing mindset.

This means we also need to make room for the development of good habits, habits that improve us as a whole that we might see it’s effects on our writing process.

We need to make sure that we make time for the different hobbies we enjoy doing aside from writing.

All these culminates into a version of ourselves that is more balanced, positive and creative. I personally believe that writers don’t need to be drunk and depressed to write a beautiful story. I believe that great stories can also come from places of great positivity and balance, this will certainly help you achieve that.

Less Distractions

Are you still with me?

You’re probably reading this on your phone and you’ve probably already received notifications from an app or a text from your friends.

What’s that? You don’t have friends? You’re about to turn you PlayStation or switch on, aren’t you?

Well, those are just a few things that can distract you when you work using technology. You sit down, ready to reach deep down and pour your soul out on the blank page on the screen but then you realize you’ve been scrolling down your Instagram feed for the past hour.

Having an analog system will help you with that.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be exclusively analog. I’m not blind to the wonders of technology, however a healthy balance is also needed for this.

Maybe some of your writing process can be done with a pen and paper, while the rest can be finished with the digital counterpart.

What’s important is your ability to focus and build momentum towards something.

Collection, Log, And Tracker Ideas For Writers

There are so many things you can incorporate into your bullet journal thanks to its flexible nature. These spreads are what I found from all over that might be of help to you. I hope you can check them out.

  • WIP Progress Tracker
  • Goal Tracker
  • Writing Prompt Log
  • Word Count Log
  • To-Do List
  • Detail Trackers
  • Brain Dumps
  • Mind Maps

WIP Progress Tracker

WIP’s, or work in progress’, are the bane of the writer’s existence. These are the things that keep piling up without being finished, and never will be.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you’re familiar with Brandon Sanderson, you can visit his site here. You’ll see at the right-hand side, he has a set of progress bars to track the status of his works.

You can have the same set up in your bullet journal, reminding you to finish what you started.

If you follow Neil Gaiman, you’ll know that one of the habits he encourages is that we finish all our works, in any way we can. This will mean it might have a different form than what we might have had in mind, but as long as you finish it, you’ll have something tangible you can come back to.

Goal Tracker

To really improve in anything, we have to set goals and do what we can to achieve it. This may mean having small goals to start, gradually piling up into something big.

By having a goal tracker, you’ll be able to track your progress, celebrate small victories, and be accountable if you fail to achieve some.

You’ll be able to analyze your patterns by going back to your daily logs and see the reason why you might have failed and actually do something about it. And vice versa, you’ll be able to see what worked and stick to it.

Identifying patterns in our daily lives is one of the most important benefits of having a bullet journal. This will help you become more consistent and develop the habit of moving forward each day.

Writing Prompt Log

This is simply a log where you’ll be able to store writing prompts that you might have thought up or seen.

This will be particularly useful when trying to break writer’s block, or when you’re trying to brainstorm.

Word Count Log

If you like logging your word count after each writing session then you’ll love this tracker.

This is a simple tracker that you can use to track your word count, each session all you have to do is log in the date and how many words you were able to write.

Aside from keeping track of how fast or productive you were, you can also try to find patterns based on your daily log on what factors were present when you are able to write more than usual.

Were you writing in a different place than usual? Or maybe you had a good night’s rest? You’ll be handle to discern this and try to replicate the results.

To-Do List

You’ll be noticing a pattern just about now. These collections might be things that you are already using, but with the added function of being able to incorporate it more efficiently into your day. They are all in one notebook, easily accessible to be able to run them by one another.

This to-do list is just that, a to-do list. However, the contents will become more narrowed down because you’ll have more information to run on before doing something. You’ll be able to ask: “is what I’m doing actually going to move me forward?” and act accordingly, just a previously stated.

Plot Detail Tracker/Log

For this tracker, you’ll be able log in all the details pertaining to a certain aspect of your story.

Say you have a character you want to flesh out, you can make a collection solely for that character and log in all the details you come up with. This will allow you to gain that precious overview of the character and balance him out.

The same can be done for the plot, setting, and whatever else you can think of.

You’ll probably want to set them up separately, just for the sake of organization.

Brain Dumps

Now, this is something I think every writer can use.

The Brain Dump is a simple tool used to declutter your brain.

Sometimes when you get that flash of brilliance, or when inspiration falls on you, you get overwhelmed by the rush of ideas that it’s easy to let some of them slip away.

When that happens grab your notebook and just list down all the ideas until there’s nothing left.

After writing them all down, you’ll be able to sort them out.

This is great in that you’ll have a lot more ideas than your usual brainstorming session. You’ll have more creative ways that you can approach the story, and build it so that it can have more depth.

If you want to learn more about the Brain Dump, please check my article here.

Mind Maps

A mind map is also a simple tool. It takes advantage of how the brain works, using imagery, color, and keywords to form connections you would never have thought of.

The mind map can stand on its own, but sometimes I like pairing it with the brain dump.

The mind map works by grabbing your notebook and drawing the image of the subject you want to explore in the center. You then think up keywords that are directly related to the image and write it down around it, connecting them to the main image by drawing a line to it.

This should now look like a tree. Add another layer of branches by thinking up keywords related to the first set of keywords and connect to them using a line as well.

The advantage of this is you’ll be able to see things in a different perspective, and you’ll also be able to form connections to the idea you would have never thought of.

It should look something like this.

Tip For Writers Using The Bullet Journal

  • Have Fun With
  • Be Goal-Oriented
  • Try Printables and Stickers

Have Fun With It

The point of all this is to be able to balance your personal life with your writing. The bullet journal isn’t supposed to increase stress, it should reduce it.

So remember to have fun with it. Doodle on your notebook, leave a spread for jokes, or maybe a good quote. Celebrate small victories and be sure not to take it too seriously.

Be Goal-Oriented

In order to move forward you have to aim for something. Have a realistic goal set always and work to reach it. Once you do, celebrate.

As much as possible, create a positive environment for yourself.

Try Printables And Stickers

If you want to have a nice notebook without artistic talent or time, printables and stickers will be your best bet.

These are items you can buy online, that are made by professional artists that you can print or order and stick to your notebook. They usually let you use a collection with having to set it up yourself. Some of these collections even follow a theme you may like.

scribblerplanet

Jm here! I run the Scribbler Planet website. If you're new to bullet journals and journaling, I think I can help you out. I've always had problems with keeping on track with what I'm doing, so when I heard bullet journaling could help I tried my hand at it. Here we are about a year later and I'm glad to say it significantly helped. Here's hoping I can help you do the same!

Recent Content