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Bullet Journaling For Writers by Claire Hennessy

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Article by Claire Hennessy ©.
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I don’t JUST want to talk about ‘bullet journaling’, or ‘BuJo’/’BuJoing’ as it is sometimes called (you are allowed get slightly queasy at this, yes). But it’s the elephant in the room when we discuss modern-day journaling, the hipster millennial thing to be doing these days (alongside opting for avocado toast over a mortgage), so let’s acknowledge it.

BULLET JOURNALING! It’s the cool hip groovy ‘down with the kids’ thing to be doing. It may or may not involve mindful colouring. Basically, it’s a way of turning any notebook – though some prefer fancy ones – into a combination of diary and organiser, a way of tracking multiple aspects of your life in one.

More information can be found at the Bullet Journal website, as well as the following links:

The key aspects of bullet journaling are: bullet-point lists (shocker) as well as using a personalised index and ongoing ‘big picture’ lists (a ‘future log’ for everything coming up and monthly task lists), with an emphasis on the psychological benefits of writing things down rather than slotting them into a digital calendar. Beyond this, you can do what you like – and writers in particular might benefit from having a notebook (beautified or otherwise) that monitors their productivity as well as provides them with a clear system for note-making.

The popularity of bullet journaling also reminds us of the ongoing need for writers to keep track of their progress, material and inspiration in some way – whether digital or analogue. It’s worth remembering that this new trend harks back to older traditions – writers may benefit from creating scrapbooks for their characters or plot or world, for example.

It’s also important to recall that creativity is by necessity a messy art, so those using bullet journals to track a creative project may want to avoid Instagram for a while. Sometimes visual beauty makes us more likely to return to a project, but other times it can intimidate us, and make us feel as though only ‘perfect’ words are allowed be committed to paper.

If bullet journaling is not for you, think about other methods of journaling – the most straightforward is (obviously) a personal journal, where you might jot down your thoughts about life and/or your current creative project. But it’s worth considering the benefits of slight variations on this theme – for example, using a journal as a reflective practitioner, to deliberately concentrate on your writing practice and what’s been achieved and what you hope to achieve in the future.

  • You can use a journal to keep track of word count targets achieved, or to muse on how the writing is going. One of my favourite suggested exercises for novelists who have set themselves a daily word count target is that for any day they don’t meet their target fiction-wise, they must instead hit that target with an explanation for why they didn’t and what got in the way.
  • You can give yourself deliberate prompts: ‘Today I achieved…’, ‘Tomorrow I will…’, ‘In the future I would like to…’
  • You can use it as a storage method for free-writes that will probably not make it into a finished book, at least not in their entirety, but serve to help you see characters or the story more clearly. (You can also keep a list of free-write prompts: e.g. ‘She wonders if…’, ‘He knows he’ll never tell…’)
  • You can make a list of the titles that inspired you to write this particular project – as tangential as they might seem. In fact, the more tangential the better – it helps you to remember how diverse (and personal) writerly influences are.
  • You can draw or staple in ideas for book covers, etc.
  • You can keep character background notes or setting details jotted down for yourself, or create a timeline of events for yourself.

Regardless of how you use a paper journal, there may be elements of the ‘bullet journal’ model worth borrowing – the self-created index can be particularly useful, as well as the idea of self-created pages (versus diary-standard, which can leave many blank pages).

And despite the focus on analogue versus tech, it is certainly the case that many of us have already migrated certain aspects of our lives to our smartphones and are quite happy to continue with that. Let’s recognise that even as we acknowledge that ‘old-school’ journaling is beneficial for many writers – whether it’s used for personal reflection, novel notes, daily planning, or a combination of all.

A final note: Flying Tiger really is your friend for a first journal, especially if you’re just trying things out. You can find really decent patterned notebooks, coloured pens, and glittery stickers for under a fiver – fancier options (if so desired) can come later.

(c) Claire Hennessy

About Like Other Girls:

Here’s what Lauren knows: she’s not like other girls. She also knows it’s problematic to say that – what’s wrong with girls? She’s even fancied some in the past. But if you were stuck in St Agnes, her posh all-girls school, you’d feel like that too. Here everyone’s expected to be Perfect Young Ladies, it’s even a song in the painfully awful musical they’re putting on this year. And obviously said musical is directed by Lauren’s arch nemesis.

Under it all though, Lauren’s heart is bruised. Her boyfriend thinks she’s crazy and her best friend has issues of her own… so when Lauren realises she’s facing every teenage girl’s worst nightmare, she has nowhere to turn. Maybe she should just give in to everything. Be like other girls. That’s all so much easier … right?

Like Other Girls was shortlisted for the 2017 Irish Book Awards.

Order your copy online here.

 


Claire Hennessy is a writer, editor, reviewer & tea-drinker based in Dublin. Her most recent YA novel, Like Other Girls, is published by Hot Key Books; she also has a short story in The Broken Spiral, an anthology in aid of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. She teaches creative writing and is course programmer for the Big Smoke Writing Factory (www.bigsmokewritingfactory.com).
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