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My Writing Journal – How I Start off the New Year

Tips and tricks for keeping a journal by Zara West

~ Start with a Journal ~

The beginning of a new year is always a good time to review what one has accomplished and to look forward to what might be one’s goals for the new year. A journal is a great place to start.

Tips and tricks for keeping a journal by Zara WestMy Journal

There are many different ways to do this. Since I am a long time journaler, I like to begin the year by starting a new journal (made of recycled paper, of course) and listing my goals and plans at the front.

Throughout the year, I use the journal to jot notes about my current writing projects and accomplishments, my ad campaigns, and character and plot development for my current writing projects.

Making My Journal Useful

Journaling tricks and tips by Zara WestUsing a trick I learned from bullet journaling, I number the pages so I can create an index at the back. To create the index, I start on the last page and work backwards. That way I can quickly find the information I need.


Another trick I use is to fold over the upper right-hand corner for each new writing project. I color-code the tab to make it easy to find. I also use sticky notes to mark the place I am at in the journal.

Dating everything and recording everything in time Tips and tricks for keeping a journal by Zara Westorder is also important. Not only does this show me what progress I am making, but later if I am having trouble finding a data file or remembering when I did something I can check my journal.

I Don’t Care How My Journal Looks

What I don’t do is try to make the journal pretty. Time is limited, and I want to spend as much of it as I can on writing. For me, the important thing is to get the information recorded in whatever way I can.

So while I occasionally mark a page with highlight markers, I do not add drawings or fancy colors unless I am sketching something to help me picture something in my writing such as a building, an interior, or a map.

I don’t worry about my handwriting. As long as it is legible, that’s all that matters. I cross out, insert, and don’t care if I am not writing on the lines. It is my journal, and no one else needs to see it.

Tips and tricks for keeping a journal by Zara WestAdvantages of a Handwritten Journal

Now, you are probably wondering why, with all the digital organizers out there, anyone would resort to handwritten notes? I do so for two reasons:

  1. It is much faster to scribble something down on the pad next to my computer or flip through the pages when I am in middle of writing than it is to open a new document, save it, and then find it again.
  2. At the end of December I can look back and have a cohesive picture of my writing year. I can see my struggles and my successes. From there I can easily transfer any important information or knowledge to my computer files or use it to plan my next year’s writing. To make it easy, I often just take a photograph of an important page or drawing and save that as a jpg file.

    Learn More 

To find more about my journaling see: Zara West’s Writing Journal

I also offer Bullet Journal Workshops for Readers and Writers. I do not have one currently scheduled, but if you are interested, contact me and I can set one up. For an individual, the cost is $15 for a two-week totally online workshop. You will learn how to set up and organize your journal and make it uniquely your own.

Do you keep a journal? Is it handwritten or digital?

Do you have any tips for keeping a journal?

I love to hear from my readers and fellow writers.


  1. Lainee Cole says:

    I love this idea Zara. I have a number of “nothing books” as we used to call them – blank journals just waiting for something to fill the pages. I think I will give it a try!

  2. Zara West says:

    A journal can be kept in any kind of notebook. I tend to collect cute little notebooks myself. I actually have several “journals” besides my writing one. I keep a reading journal and a daily to-do 15 minute block journal which keeps me on task throughout the day. I will blog about how I use these shortly.

    • Lainee Cole says:

      I have a bunch of little notebooks too, but I haven’t put them to much use. I like the idea of a reading journal because I can never remember what I’ve read and what I haven’t read! And I have to-do lists but they are on loose scraps of paper. Looking forward to learning more!

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