The process log

I thought today I might write about a strategy that has been very beneficial for me in terms of writing, or really, almost any endeavor: the process log. It’s not that far afield from journaling, which I already find so helpful. But a process log is a bit more focused than journaling. I suppose it’s a akin to a daily log that some people keep, which is a record of what they actually accomplished during the day. If I am working on a novel, a process log is where I jot down what I’ve done that day to develop the novel.

Sometimes, I note what is working and/or what isn’t. It’s very metacognitive, I suppose, if you like that kind of word. The process log sometimes works as a self-coaching process, where I unpack what I’m doing, kvetch if needed, and consider possible changes. But my log doesn’t always have to be that elaborate, just a record of what I did, such as “revised chapter 4, brainstormed chapter 5.”

This approach gives me comfort because when I don’t keep some kind of notes (and I don’t always do so), a week later I struggle to recall what, if anything, I actually did because there is not always a direct path between time spent writing and producing a final product. I was writing, I was thinking, I was creating, but more than that I can’t say. The trees get lost in the forest, I suppose.

As I said, I don’t always remember to use a process log, but I’ve always valued it when I do. As I have a bit more time to work this summer, I have several process logs underway, one per project or goal, which, by the way, is another perk of the process log because it helps me get back up to speed when I shift between projects.

As I peek at some fellow writers’ blog posts, I definitely see elements of process logs in those posts, which is probably one of the reasons I so enjoy the blog community. It’s nice to have some company as we coach ourselves along.


Today I have the urge to work on a blog post first thing, a kind of morning page, perhaps, a la Julia Cameron. It could become a new writing routine that also honors my goal to post on the blog daily (or almost daily :)).

Before beginning, I reviewed my growing list of possible blog topics, and I glumly realized that many should have been tackled when the idea was fresh. It makes me flash back to my teen years, or even my pre-teens, when I would get struck by what I was sure were great ideas, often before I fell asleep for the night. What I almost never did, and stop me if this sounds familiar to you, was write any of them down. I loved to be seized by inspiration. I just couldn’t seem to capture my thoughts in the moment.

Granted, there were usually a few obstacles in my way, such as the absence of a notebook nearby or other system to capture the idea. Or worse, I was always hampered by the awareness that ideas are far more perfect in my head than on paper (or screen, as the case may be).

Over time… too much time… I developed systems to capture ideas, which helped a little. What helped more was to write regardless of inspiration. I will sometimes have those heady moments of writing on fire, the ideas flowing to the page so quickly I start to understand what people used to mean by a muse, or when writers struggled to take full credit for what they have done, feeling more as if they were mere go-betweens between some divine source and the words on the page. (Note: I take more than full credit for all the things I get wrong, sigh.) But those moments of writing-on-fire arise from writing routines, not from inspiration, at least for me.

Still, it feels as if I have some time right now (knock on wood) to launch new projects and start new writing routines. Capturing my ideas when they arise is not a new goal; I have indulged more than I should in various digital gizmos and paper products to make it possible. But what if I strive to make it a habit?

I suppose I have a few other goals for my blogging life. I want to find ways to be more specific, to provide telling details, as part of each piece. While that is a wise goal for writing in general, it is even more challenging when I feel a general discomfort on how much is safe to post on the internet. At any rate, it will be a goal to keep in mind.

That, and to remind myself to be brief. Starting now.