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Journaling for Creativity.

Titles, project plans and outlines

This post forms part of a serialisation eventually building into a complete reference on Journaling for Creativity and the writer's notebook. One that will demonstrate how to journal in order to improve creativity and effectiveness of artists, writers or anyone needing to be creative.

Introduction Contents Types of Entry Titles, Project Plans and Outlines


Journaling for creativity: Types of entry: Title and overview This week’s journaling for creativity post is the first post in the section: Types of journal entry. It is being started with the project plan, or outline entry, because it is probably the most important entry in a writer’s creative journal. This is the entry that provides the statement and focus for which everything else that you do or journal about eventually feeds towards.

Any large writing or art project needs to have a concept, a goal, a destination. There must be something that you are driving towards, something that you are driving yourself to achieve. If you do not have a unifying goal for your activities, then it is unlikely that your project will be completed because every new distraction will divert you further and further away from your initial purpose.

The outline entry needs to be the first thing in your journal, right at the front where you see it every day and it needs to consist of these two parts;

Title or working statement

Project overview


Title or working statement

Using bold, easily read lettering place your title or working title across the top of the first page. If you don’t yet have a title, use a working statement that succinctly sums up your project in no more than two lines, for example; “My novel about Azgard’s destruction by the ice giants.”

This is your daily mantra, your reminder to those submerged parts of your mind that they need to be working on this project. It will also restrain you from slipping towards other interesting distractions.

Neat idea: I have seen concept art book covers used for this, which must give a very satisfying feeling when you see it each day.


Project overview

This is a top level overview, displaying the flow of the project and the major tasks that need to be done or written. You will almost certainly have a more detailed overview elsewhere, whether this is in a separate folder, notebook, computer or displayed across the walls of your room as shown in this post on the Open Culture site: How Famous Writers — From J.K. Rowling to William Faulkner — Visually Outlined Their Novels

However, you still need a compact overview in the front of the journal you carry with you, your mobile journal, as this will keep you aware of the different parts of the project, how they fit together, where you are and what needs your attention next.

It is inconceivable that the project overview in your mobile journal will remain the same throughout the time it takes to complete the project, so resist the urge to laminate it as you will probably be replacing it often.

For the overview, VISUAL IS BETTER! Use flow charts, time lines, mind maps, graphics etc. The more visual it is, the more you will engage your creative-mind in something it would otherwise have no interest in and would therefore reject. Think about the last time you were in the creative flow, were you aware of time and daily necessities? No, that’s because the creative-mind doesn’t care for these. So you need to make your overview visual and interesting to your inner creative, if you wish for him/her to be involved and not be distracted by every diversion that presents itself.

Fold out pages can make outlines more functional but don’t be tempted to try and use it to replace a detailed and comprehensive version elsewhere.

For many of today’s authors, their project doesn’t stop at an outline of the story, they may also be considering marketing and platform building activities, all of which require their own “other activities overview” in the journal.




In next week’s journaling for creativity post, we will be looking at the personal conversation entry; which is not to be confused with the journal entry where we record snippets of interesting conversation.

Photo credit: Crapbeard-composite, by Opello.

"Titles, project plans and outlines" by Andy Shackcloth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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