Let’s be honest, the world of writing and entrepreneurship can be lonely, confusing, and sometimes downright difficult and scary.
It’s hard to stay motivated and inspired all the time, no matter how experienced you are.
Writing and entrepreneurship each have their unique challenges.
On the one hand, as a writer, you need to master the craft not only of writing, but the type of writing you do.
And on the other hand, as an entrepreneur, you need the skills to build and grow your business, such as marketing, getting clients, and managing finances.
It’s easy to get caught up in one and ignore the other. But to build a business and be successful, writers and entrepreneurs have to combine these two mindsets and skill sets.
Imagine asking two strangers to get married. And then expecting them to be compatible, uplift each other, and be successful. (No pressure.)
The reality would likely be very different.
For many, merging writing and entrepreneurship is like this marriage of two strangers—it’s tricky to marry the two worlds. You’re usually good at one and lousy at the other. And yet, fitting them together is essential to your success.
So what can you do?
Since ancient times, maritime captains have kept logbooks. Each journal contains detailed accounts of every aspect of the vessel, crew, and journey. It provides essential information for problem-solving in the event of difficulty or disaster. Plus, it is a treasure chest of resources for future trips and generations.
You’re a captain, too, steering the ship of your writing business to a destination you’ve envisioned.
Logbooks have faithfully served countless captains past and present. Plus, they’ve made meaningful contributions to the development of vessels and the way we travel.
A captain’s logbook is a worthwhile companion for you, too.
In other words, I’m suggesting you keep your own version of a captain’s logbook—a business journal.
A business journal is not the same as other types of journals you may keep for a brain dump, self-reflection, or free writing.
It has a specific purpose.
Like a logbook, it helps you maintain a holistic focus on all aspects of your skills and business. It tethers them so you don’t get lost in one and neglect the others. The result is that you’ll keep moving in the direction of your vision and goals.
Keeping a business journal lets you merge the worlds of writing and entrepreneurship. It helps them to get along and enrich each other so you can achieve the life or business goals you planned.
Think of your writing as your ship; it’s the vessel taking you to your destination. How you manage and operate your ship and adapt to the conditions around you is the way you run your business. It will determine how (and if) you get there.
A captain’s logbook contains essential sections that need to be recorded. Think of it as the vital statistics (and then some) of the journey. Capturing all these details is what makes a logbook such an effective document.
The same applies to your journal. To help you make the most of your journal, here are some guidelines. You may choose to leave some of these sections out or add in others. It’s up to you to adapt it according to your needs and your business.
When a ship sets sail from the harbor, the captain’s sights are set on the final destination.
All captains have a route planned with navigation points to guide them on their journey. Even the brave explorers who were sailing new routes and exploring for the first time planned ahead. They may have adjusted their course, but they had a plan to work from.
You’re in the same boat (pun totally intended). Your vision for your business is your destination and your goals are your navigation points to keep you traveling in the right direction.
Keep your vision and goals in your journal so you can refer to them easily. Check in regularly to see if your work aligns with them and make sure they’re still relevant. From here, you’ll see your progress and if you need to adjust your course.
A captain adjusts their sails according to the weather and the winds. They may hoist the sails, adjust the position, or drop them. Knowing where the sails should be keeps the ship moving.
Keep all your ideas in your journal. No matter how big, small, or absurd, when something pops into your head, put it in your journal.
You’ll free your mind from the burden of trying to remember your ideas and create space for more ideas.
When you have time, return to them and flesh them out in greater detail. This gives you the chance to see if and how they’ll work. It helps you to make connections as well as see which ideas you should develop and which can be thrown away.
You’re identifying which ideas to hoist up so the wind can take you forward and which ones to drop to prevent you from sailing in the wrong direction.
By keeping a chest of ideas, you’ll always have fresh material for new projects. As one project ends, you are able to pitch and get started on the next to maintain a steady flow of work. You’ll also keep your work and business interesting with new ways to grow and prevent you from stagnating.
A ship is at the mercy of the elements. A captain must constantly observe and track the weather and ocean currents to make the most of the conditions and continue forward. As they do, they learn more about sailing in all types of conditions and can add this information to their bank of experience and knowledge.
Experience is one of the finest teachers, and the best way to learn something is to do it. At the intersection of theory and practice, you gain insight and understanding.
If, for example, you decide you want to write better headlines, you’ll learn and practice how to do this. As you practice what you learn and focus on writing and reading more headlines, you’ll likely observe why certain techniques work and others don’t.
Record your insights and “light bulb moments.” This helps you remember, process, and integrate these lessons for future projects and strategies. You’ll also reinforce what you are learning.
The ship’s position and movement in the ocean is recorded daily. If conditions are bad, they’re recorded throughout the day. It helps the captain and crew to preempt and adjust their actions and course if necessary. They’re solution-focused.
Your reflections help you understand your line of thinking during a project and the decisions you made.
When you slow down and take notice of them, you can see their impact on your business. As you move forward, you can avoid repeating mistakes, identify methods that worked well, and improve your process and productivity.
You can record your reflections at any time—that’s what a journal is for. But there are significant times to reflect. For example, when you hit a snag, overcome a challenge, reach a project milestone, and when you complete a project.
To make the most of your reflection time, there are three important questions to ask yourself:
1. What worked well in this article or project?
2. What didn’t work well?
3. What can I do differently next time to make it better? (Even if you list one thing, that’s fine.)
These questions give you clarity and material to work with to keep you moving forward.
Also, record your achievements, wins and losses, and feedback from clients, whether it’s good, bad, or otherwise.
Feedback from clients helps you identify what worked well and what didn’t. It helps you pinpoint preferences and quirks specific clients have.
You want to learn from your mistakes and repeat processes that worked.
Collectively, this information helps you serve your clients better. You can use it to get repeat business, build long-term client relationships, and find better clients.
Whether on a voyage of discovery, trade, or war, the ship’s inventory is vital. The health and survival of the crew and the success of the journey depend on a well-run inventory.
Logbooks even contain details of the ship’s inventory and how it’s used. They definitely don’t want to run out of supplies in the middle of the ocean. The crew knows what they have available, what to replenish at the next port, and how to plan for future trips.
When you work on a project, you often have material left over. It could be extra content that didn’t make the final edit. Or it’s great ideas that weren’t the right fit. Maybe you have interviews you couldn’t incorporate, but they contain valuable information.
Don’t let it go to waste. Keep it in the hold and do stock checks regularly.
Brainstorm how you can use it or repurpose it for future projects; it could work for existing or new clients. You can pitch new ideas to clients or use it to add to and extend existing projects. Clients may appreciate it if you’re preemptive.
Think ahead and use your extra material to keep your project pipeline full.
Life aboard a ship can be tough, so it’s important to find inspiration.
There are many captains who steal a moment at sunrise or gaze at the star-studded sky and capture their thoughts or the beauty around them in words or pictures. It helps them remember what they love or why they sail the oceans.
These moments give them motivation to sail for another day.
There are times when you’re tired, busy, or unmotivated. Even the Energizer Bunny runs flat sometimes.
Collect things that inspire you in your journal. It could be a quote. You may love the way someone wrote a paragraph or the design of a website, or a picture or logo—anything that sparks a light and joy when you see it. When your enthusiasm wanes, you have inspiration at your fingertips to refuel your creative flame.
A business journal is as unique as you and your business, so there is no exact or right way to keep one. Here are some tips to help you get started and maintain your journaling discipline:
Using a paper journal is powerful. The action of writing is slower and makes you and your brain slow down, too. You’re able to process the thoughts you’re writing and connect with them on a deeper level.
A business journal is meant to make you slow down, think deeply, and reflect on your work. Working on paper complements the purpose of your business journal.
A business journal is only effective when it’s used. Keeping a digital journal may be easier and more convenient. You can save information, screenshots, links, emails, and feedback from clients (for the awesome work you’ve done). Plus, you may find it’s quicker to type into a digital journal and be able to access it from any device when you need to.
There are many note-taking and journal apps you can use. If this method works for you, go for it.
If you can’t decide if you prefer paper or digital, it’s okay—use both. Many people combine a paper journal with a note-taking app and find it works well.
And if you’re a stationery addict, like many writers are, this next bit of information will get you excited.
You can get a smart notebook so you don’t have to choose between methods. This specially designed journal gives you the best of both worlds. You write on the pages of your journal with a smart pen (which feels like a normal pen) and your work is uploaded and saved to your device. You can return to it later, edit it, and share it, making it easy to toggle between paper and digital.
To get the most out of your journal, use it regularly and make it a habit. You may start out with enthusiasm, but when that runs out or you’re busy, it can fall by the wayside.
Have a system in place and decide how often you will use your business journal. It doesn’t have to be every day, but do have set days and times to spend time with your journal.
Does the thought of keeping a journal make you want to squirm and run to bathe the cat instead? It’s probably the fear of the blank page. Having a template is a great way to conquer the blank page and get you writing.
For each section of your journal, have a few headings, questions, or prompts. This way, when you journal, you “hit the page writing.” You don’t have to think about where to start or what to write. A template makes your journaling session more focused and productive.
Before you rush out and buy an expensive journal, think about whether you will use it. There are countless people who buy them and then feel that what they have to write is not worthy of their fancy journals. Or they don’t want to deface their beautiful pages with their chicken scrawl handwriting.
Journals want to be used. They’re begging you to fill their pages with the ruminations of your mind. So, if a fancy expensive journal will make you think twice before using it, get a cheap one that you won’t be afraid to use.
Have fun and make it easy. It’s your logbook. It doesn’t have to contain award-winning writing, good grammar, or proper sentences. Your journal will understand whatever you write in it, as long as it makes sense to you. It can be a mind map, bullet points, doodles, or have pictures and notes on napkins stuck in it.
You may write about certain things in depth but use bullet points and mind maps, too. They’re quick to get on the page and easy to scan when you review your journal.
There are several projects underway where logbooks from voyages in the 18th and 19th centuries are being transcribed and captured digitally.
Scientists discovered that these old journals contain meticulous notes about climate and the environment. They’re using this wealth of information to study and understand weather patterns and improve their knowledge and predictions of climate change.
Once the pages are full, a logbook should not sit on a shelf and never be opened again. It’s a living, working document. These projects prove this.
Your business journal is also a living, working document meant to be used and reviewed again and again.
Keep your journal in a place that’s easy to get to. Once the pages are full, don’t pack it away. Put a date on the spine and the cover. Use it as a reference and textbook, and return to it regularly. It tells the story of your growth and development and will continue to help you build and grow as you move forward.
As a writer and entrepreneur, you have many balls to juggle. Your journal gives you a complete view of your business and helps you keep an eye on all the balls. This will help you give each of them the attention they need.
With a business journal, you also become more intentional about the way you run and grow your business. By giving yourself regular pauses to use your journal, you focus and think about what you’re doing and how it affects your business. Instead of getting caught in the busyness trap, you’re more purposeful in your actions and decisions.
To get started, use one or two of these suggestions, if it feels overwhelming, or all of them. Add in your own. It’s yours and is as unique as you and your business.
Remember, you are the captain of your ship. Try journaling for one month and review it to see how it helped you. And when you find yourself sailing off to the horizon to live happily ever after, it will be a total win.
Hayley Michaels is a freelance content writer for hire. She creates blog posts, content and articles for the beauty, wellness and self-development industries. She has also run her own beauty and wellness business for the past 18 years. But what she loves most is the challenge of using words to persuade, motivate and inspire. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her with her nose in a book or hanging out with her gorgeous kiddo and their four crazy pets.