Logging Your Process

This is an excerpt from my forthcoming guide to overcoming self-censorship.

pencil-tabletMost writers have bad days when it seems that they aren’t anywhere close to where they want to be with writing. Some have bad months or even years. Some habitually fight where they are in the process, by lamenting their slow progress or inability to write regularly. Knowing and accepting exactly where you are in the process is one way to avoid this downward spiral. It relieves you of worry over your progress or lack thereof. It allows you to have lousy writing days and good ones, months without focus and months of prolific writing fun.

Here’s a quick and easy way to keep track of where you are with your writing: Keep a log of your process. You’ll be amazed at how this simple practice, over time, can free you to accept exactly where you are. Your log can become like a series of quick snapshots that helps you focus on how you’re feeling about your writing, and this is important because you’re going to have strong feelings about it, especially as you confront and move through hurdles. You can structure your log any way you like. You can use it to examine your feelings about your writing practice, or to make sense of a particular writing exercise or project. Here’s an example:

Today … here’s what I did and how I feel about it

  • 5/9/10 … Journal, dream work. Not as in touch right now as I want to be. Feeling logy.
  • 5/10/10 … Wrote yet another beginning for my story. That makes nine of ‘em. I can’t get past the opening image. Grrrrr.
  • 5/11/10 … Didn’t work on the story at all today and was hard on myself. Resolved to stop trying to have a plan and to follow my heart instead.

Keeping a log like this can help you acknowledge the ups and downs inherent to the writing life—some days are better than others. It will also make you aware of how much effort you put into your writing; this can be especially helpful if you tend to underestimate your effort. You might want to keep a special notebook or make a space in your journal for your process log as a reminder to check in with yourself on how your writing is going. Try to take a few minutes after each writing session to fill in your log. A couple of lines or a brief paragraph per entry can be enough to remind you, when you look back over your log, of where you’ve come from and how you’ve grown.

  • My friend Roxanne told me that this exercise helped her take up journal writing again. Once she started to log her writing, she kept on writing!
  • My friend Lisa Rizzo also had good luck with this exercise. She wrote a post about it called “What Is ‘Real’ Writing?

Have you kept logs of your writing process or projects? How have they worked for you?


  1. EC Writer says:

    This is spot-on advice. Very practical, useful, and nurturing (which I think of as the key distinction between your blog entries and other Wise Words to the Writer on the Internet). Yes, I keep logs of my writing process and project. For process, I note the ups and downs and side trips in my journal and can now even track them in my head. It helps immensely. It has helped me realize that there IS a process, with cycles that I flow in and out of. When I’m in a cycle that is less productive or inspired, I’m now able to recognize it as a cycle that I will come out of.

    For my current project, my first novel, I periodically review everything I’ve recently written—free writes, journal musings about character or setting—and catalog it so I can see where it fits into the novel. Cataloging in this way reveals just how much I’ve done over the course of a month or few weeks. Especially with a large project, the progress can feel very slow. Cataloging helps me realize how much I’ve accomplished.

    Excellent advice for any writer in this post!

    • Thanks for sharing your process! It’s good to hear how reviewing and cataloging your work helps you stay on track and celebrate your accomplishments. I really like the idea of keeping, not just a log, but a catalog for a big project. I’m going to incorporate that practice into a project I’ve recently started.