The Diary Method for Keeping Up with Writing Projects
A Simple Hack for Knowing Where to Begin Again
It’s been a whirlwind of late and you finally sit down to work on a writing project that has been on the back burner for a while. Eager to jump back in, you open the document and stare at the page. Where on earth do you even begin? What were you doing most recently? Did you complete the first section, or did you feel like there was still more to be done? In the third section, wasn't there someone you wanted to cite? Didn’t you have a breakthrough idea for the paper’s significance that you wanted to put in the conclusion?
You go to work trying to figure out the answers to these questions and slowly it starts coming back to you. Ah, yes, that’s where you were going with that idea. Now you’re just beginning to get your groove on and you can feel the wheels starting to churn when….
Your calendar tells you it’s time for a meeting. You have spent the last 60 minutes of writing time just trying to figure out where to jump in and now it’s time to put it aside again. Le sigh.
One of the advantages of the daily writing method is that the regular pace of working on a project keeps your brain engaged with it so you don’t lose precious time remembering what you were doing in a writing session long ago. The more time and space between writing sessions, the more effort it takes to even remember what we were working on last in the project or what the major argument is for that matter. But, daily writing doesn’t work for everyone and the rest of us need a strategy to manage fading memories and interrupted work flows.
The Diary Method
Let’s talk about the diary method for keeping up with your writing project. The diary method is a simple but effective way to stay on top of your ideas and remember where to start each writing session.
I keep a diary for each writing project that I’m working on. In my case, this is just a Google doc with the most recent entry at the top. A small notebook would also work. I make a few notes at the end of each writing session about what I accomplished during that session and what I intend to do next with the project. I answer these questions in my project diary:
What did I do in this session?
What I discovered?
What do I need to do next?
The diary entry takes me about 5 minutes or less to complete and ensures that I have a record of where I am in the project. It makes it much easier for me to jump back into each writing session by eliminating the guesswork. I also keep track of any new ideas so that I have an easy to reference list for keeping those ideas fresh. This prevents those bright lights from slipping into the night while they await my return to the page. I simply read the most recent entry at the start of the following writing session to determine where to start.
My absent-minded professor brain cannot be trusted to retain all writing ideas that drift through. Remembering what I did last isn’t its forte either. The diary method is my trusted research assistant that needs to be thanked far more profusely in my acknowledgements.
I’d love to hear from YOU! Comment below if you have tips for fellow travelers on how to keep up with your writing projects. Sharing is caring.