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Online writing technique: How to keep a log of your writing ideas

Updated on November 17, 2011
Don't just be any online writer - Be a professional online writer by putting in place methods that will give you a professional edge over the rest
Don't just be any online writer - Be a professional online writer by putting in place methods that will give you a professional edge over the rest | Source

If you are a writer or blogger who writes online to make a living, chances are that your brain is constantly searching for what to write about. What differentiates successful online writers from the people who've given up, is that the former are able convert their creative writing ideas into actual articles. Let me share with you a technique I use for my online writing, which is to keep a log of writing ideas and use it to convert what was once a mere thought into a full blown article.

Things to know

  • You don't need to be a computer genius to put this online writing technique into practice
  • Setting up this log of writing ideas may take 15 minutes right now, but you will reap long term benefits
  • You should have Microsoft Excel installed on your computer

Step 1: Start a new spreadsheet

Open a new Microsoft Excel worksheet and save it.

Step 2: Make tabs for categories

If you take a look at the bottom of your excel spreadsheet, there will be tabs. By default, there are 3 tabs namely Sheet 1, Sheet 2 and Sheet 3. The idea is to make tabs for categories that you are likely to write about.

The categories in my Writing Ideas Log range from Self Help, Product Knowledge, Literature, Trending, Movies, Travel, Business and Employment, Celebrity, Cinema, Misc for miscellaneous and more.

Step 3: Column Headings

In each tab, make 3 columns

  • Date – The date when you made the log
  • Topic – The topic that you wish to write about
  • Status – Completed, In Progress, Not Written

A screenshot of the 3 basic column headings in the spreadsheet
A screenshot of the 3 basic column headings in the spreadsheet | Source

Step 4: Keep a log of writing ideas

The whole idea is to keep a log of any writing idea that comes to your mind. The very instant you think "Oh I should write about this topic", simply jot it down in your log for later reference. Enter the date in the Date column, the topic heading in the Topic column and the status. When you have just entered an idea, the status can be as Not Written.

Use this spreadsheet whenever you think of a topic that can be written about. Forget the keyword analysis, forget whether the topic has been already widely written about or not and forget all the SEO advice. For now, all you need to be worried about is to make this spreadsheet a comprehensive log of all your writing ideas and all the topics that come to your mind.

Make sure that you enter the topic in relevant tabs. For example, a topic on "Kim Kardashian Bikini Styles" would fall under the Celebrity tab in the screenshot given below.

Some of the tabs in my log of writing ideas - As you can see, different tabs have been given a different color for ease of viewing
Some of the tabs in my log of writing ideas - As you can see, different tabs have been given a different color for ease of viewing | Source

Using the log

  • Your spreadsheet may appear blank or useless during the first few days but as time goes by, it will fill up with ideas and thoughts.
  • Remember those gloomy days when you can't think of anything to write about? This log will come in handy because it will have a list of great ideas that you have thought of earlier. Simply open the spreadsheet and be lost in the many ideas that you have jotted down in the past.
  • You can flip through the different tabs and end up writing about a topic that you may have thought of even 6 months back.
  • You can also use filters in Microsoft Excel to filter the data according to their status. So when you are looking for topics that I have not written previously, I simply put the filter on and click "Not Written" Excel will automatically give you a list of the pending topics.
  • This log can even be used for analytical purposes because you can put down 'Completed' under the Status column once you have finished writing about a topic from this log. After every month, you can use this spreadsheet to analyze how many topics you have written and how many are pending.

As you can see in this screenshot, I've filtered the spreadsheet to show me topics which have a 'Not Written' in the Status column
As you can see in this screenshot, I've filtered the spreadsheet to show me topics which have a 'Not Written' in the Status column | Source

Personal experience

I write online for a living. Besides HubPages, I write for other clients too, which helps pays the bills and a lot more. As you can imagine, it is easy to be lost and confused in the journey of finding topics to write about. This makes the log that we just talked about a vital part of my online writing saga.

If you are like me, there will be many times when you'd have thought of a great topic to write about at a random time and gone "Oh this is a great idea. I must write about it tomorrow" However, you may forget it the next morning. To avoid this, I keep a log of all the ideas that I have and keep referring to this spreadsheet on a daily basis.

Writing online and working full time as a freelance writer is a serious business. This log of writing ideas will help you be on top of your game and help you monetize your creativity. After all, your next random idea may be the next viral blog!


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    • hisandhers profile image


      6 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      This Hub just truly confirmed my craziness- I used to keep a written list in a similar format to help me with all my writing projects but it was so hard to keep track of the progress of all my ideas that I just abandoned it. Switching over to Excel is going to make my life so much easier. Thank you!

    • chaturrajneesh profile image

      Rajneesh Chaturvedi 

      6 years ago from India

      There can not be a better idea to keep ideas live on documents, which can be handy in the time of need. Thanks for great IDEA of keeping IDEAS.

    • princesswithapen profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago


      You are right. There are numerous free softwares and programs that writers and publishers can us to add a sense organization in their work. Thanks for commenting and adding your own insight to this hub. Much appreciated!


    • princesswithapen profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi Natalie

      Yes, combining a methodist attitude with a practical approach to writing works well for me. I can relate to the endless bits of paper that you talk about becaue I too, was a fan of sticky notes and notepads at one time. However with more work at hand, I cannot afford to be lost for hours wondering what my last writing idea was. I'm really glad you liked this spreadsheet. Thanks heaps for your appeciation!


    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Ideas pop into my mind at odd times, like when I am writing something else, when I am reading or researching something.Some are good ideas and some are dead ends. usually I jot them down ansd write about them before I forget them, if I haven't already forgot them.

      You idea requires serious consideration.

    • profile image

      Website Examiner 

      7 years ago

      This is interesting. I agree with the spreadsheet approach, where I use Google Docs. There are free software programs for creating storylines for creative writers, which can help keep track of characters, scenes etc.. Thanks for the article, and to Textured Ideas for sharing it! W.E.

    • profile image

      Textured Ideas 

      7 years ago

      What a great idea! - very methodical and practical. I will give it a try. You're very right that it is important to get organised to avoid confusion. I always write my ideas on endless bits of paper and it's a nightmare to find anything! A spreadsheet is a much neater and better approach!

      Many thanks for the idea =)

    • princesswithapen profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi Jennifer

      "..Yesterday's ideas were written on the back of a store receipt.." Haha! What a funny start to the day with my morning coffee!

      This spreadsheet will be any day better than a store receipt or a computer paper. You are doing the right thing by soaking up tips and tricks during your initial period. Feel free to ask if you need help.


    • Jennifer Essary profile image

      Jennifer Essary 

      7 years ago from Idaho

      Thank you! As a newbie I'm trying to soak in all the tips presented to me. I was just thinking about where I should put my ideas this morning. A few are written on a piece of computer paper. Yesterday's ideas were written on the back of a store receipt. Voted up!

    • princesswithapen profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi Riviera Rose

      Good to catch up with a fellow Excel fan. Believe me, you are definitely not alone because most people who I consider efficient maintain spreadsheets in one form or the other. In my case, I have spreadsheets which I use to keep a track of how I'm going for my different clients.

      To sum it up, no you are not a nerd. You are a highly organized worker and someone who I'd call an ideal worker. A big thumbs up to you and thanks for reading and commenting.


    • princesswithapen profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi Donna

      I don't track my hubs too extensively either because HubPages has a great reporting system under 'My Hubs Statistics'

      But when it comes to thinking of topics to write on, I find a simple spreadsheet like this extremely effective. I have a few spreadsheets that help me be on top of work and manage workload of different clients.


    • princesswithapen profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago


      You're absolutely right. Penning down thoughts and ideas always makes it easier for writers to build reference material. I'm glad you liked this.


    • Riviera Rose profile image

      Riviera Rose 

      7 years ago from South of France

      So happy to find another Excel fan - most people I know think I'm a complete nerd because I have so many spreadsheets on the go - including one for my hubs. When I'm writing a novel, which I am now, I have a spreadsheet with details on every chapter, including word and page count. Plus ideas and submissions sheets for all my various other articles and stories. Then don't get me started on finance, income, daily costs, etc etc!!

      Oh God, I am a nerd. :)

    • Donna Sundblad profile image

      Donna Sundblad 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      Some great ideas. I keep an ideas folder, but I've never tracked things this extensively! Voted useful!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      7 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for sharing! Writing it down always make it seem do-able.

    • princesswithapen profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi Brian

      I'm glad you liked this idea. Thanks for reading and commenting!


    • Brian Weekes profile image

      Brian Weekes 

      7 years ago from Queensland, Australia

      Fantastic Idea. :)


    • princesswithapen profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago


      If you want to bring some organization into your work, a spreadsheet is a fantastic tool to help you gather your ideas and much more. There are numerous ways such a spreadsheet can be useful for an online writer, this was just one of them and I'm sure it will help you.

      Thanks for your feedback and it means a lot when a stellar writer like yourself appreciates this hub.


    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Great tips princess! I like this. As I venture farther into the online writing I'm starting to get more organizationally challenged. I'll bookmark this for sure and apply what I can.

      Thank you for sharing your ideas - voted up!

    • princesswithapen profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago


      You are a gem of a person! Your comment suddenly brightened my day and I look forward to get some more work done. I make it a point to consider 'practicality' one of the key factors while drafting a write-up. After all, what use is all the information if the reader cannot relate to it and put it to good use?

      Thanks heaps for your warm compliment and I'm glad you found this useful.


    • avorodisa profile image

      Anna Sidorova 

      7 years ago from Russia

      Princesswithapen, I like your hubs! They are always full of practical advice and very useful. Voted up.

    • princesswithapen profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi ytsenoh

      You hit the nail on the head. Writing is all about organizing your ideas. As an accomplished writer like yourself would know, it is easy to get lost in the thousands of new and creative ideas that we all have on a daily basis. Instead of spending time thinking "Should I implement this idea right now?", I like to simply put it down in this spreadsheet and move on to what is at hand.

      Thanks heaps for your comment and feedback!


    • ytsenoh profile image


      7 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

      Excellent idea. Thumbs up. A really great way to keep projects and ideas very organized. Thank you!

    • princesswithapen profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi PeanutButterWine

      Indeed, Excel can be used for virtually everything! Besides this log, I use Excel to keep a track of my other writing work too including receipting, invoicing and more. Yes, it takes some time in the beginning to learn the menus and how it all works. But once you get the hang of it, Excel can be the be all and end all of data management for users like us who need it for basic purposes.

      I too think that it is time you got back to using Excel rather than going through those old notepads. I'm really glad you could relate to this hub. Thanks for reading and commenting!


    • princesswithapen profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi randomcreative

      I have been using this since more than an year now. And it all started when I realized how hard it was becoming to keep a track of all the ideas and suggestions that the mind threw up even while in the midst of other things.

      Thanks for stopping by on this one!


    • PeanutButterWine profile image


      7 years ago from North Vancouver, B.C. Canada

      Oh I just love this idea! This reminds me of back when I used to do data entry and used excel for 'everything', I even ended up logging household chores and shopping lists etc... over the years I completely forgot about excel and what a powerful helpful tool it could be. Thanks for the reminder princesswithapen! :) *just today I was hunting through old notepads in folders for some 'ideas' I had jotted down, now I can't find them, arrgh! So this came at a great time for me. Thanks again...loved the Hub voted up

    • princesswithapen profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi Dardia

      I have not used Open Office yet but it seems interesting. I'm really glad you liked this tip and thanks heaps for your warm feedback. Much appreciated!


    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      7 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Awesome resource! I have a much less sophisticated method of keeping track of my ideas, but I still believe that no matter what method you use, it is so important to do this. Thanks for the tips and detailed instructions.

    • Dardia profile image

      Darlene Yager 

      7 years ago from Michigan

      Great idea! By the way Open Office should work for this as well, in case people don't have and can't afford Microsoft Office. You can get Open Office for free. You can find it at Voted up, interesting, awesome, and useful. Bookmarked for future reference as well. :)

      Thanks for sharing!

    • princesswithapen profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi Millionaire Tips

      For this purpose, Excel is a better software to keep a track of your topics as compared to Word. In fact, as you mentioned, you can even add more columns like URL, traffic, $$, etc to analyze your data in the long run.

      For now, use excel to keep a log of your writing ideas. I assure you that it will be more convenient and less time consuming than flipping the pages of a notebook.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!


    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      7 years ago from USA

      This is a great idea. I have been writing my ideas down in a notebook and was thinking of putting them on the computer - hadn't decided between word or excel. I already created a spreadsheet of written hubs, so I could just add this information to it. When it is written, I could add the url. I also like the idea about using a separate tab for each topic. I haven't done that either.


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