I’ve recently been taking a free online poetry class through the Iowa Writer’s workshop, and it reminded me how useful – essential even – a writer’s notebook is. After all I did name a whole website after it!
What is A Writer’s Notebook?
Any kind of notebook that you jot down ideas, words, stories, poems or drawings if that helps you. You don’t need the classic Moleskine notebook, any notebook will work. Sometimes the more ordinary it is the better. Fancy notebooks can make us feel overly precious about what we write.
Who Would Benefit from Using A Writer’s Notebook?
Any kind of writer, or anyone who wants to record their thoughts. It’s not important to give yourself a label to use a useful tool.
What Are the Benefits?
1. You won’t forget your ideas
When you overhear a conversation where someone says something memorable, what are the chances of remembering it word for word ? Nil of course. But beyond whole conversations , even small details, in fact particularly small details, are things that will be lost but have the potential to enrich our work. Red shoes on a subway station. The bird had a pinkish head with a pale underbelly. “I could ‘ave bloody well killed ‘er” I overheard on a cell call on a bus one time in England.
2. Developing Ideas without Pressure
The important thing about a writer’s notebook is that it is totally private – unless of course you want to share it. This in itself lets you write down ideas you might never consider sharing with anyone. Which is liberating, because you can jot down things you might think are stupid but once followed through lead onto to a kernel of something worth running with.
3. Brainstorming is productive – one idea leads to another
Whenever I’m thinking of a title of a piece I start with one word, which leads to another, letting them lead on until I have a whole list of words. Inside that list I can usually find a title. The same goes for character traits, or descriptions – words to describe the wind blowing against a pane of glass for example. Lashing, hurl, pebbles, slanting rain, rain heavily, heaving against the glass, pouring, slash, ripples, windswept, sweeping torrents etc. You will likely go through a number of options before you get to something you like.
4. Writing words makes you write more words
When you start writing, something becomes released. Almost as if to put it on a page lets it go and you can move on to the next thing. Often when we have writer’s block all we need to do is write. Jotting something down on a piece of paper, is a very low threat way to get back into the flow of one word following another.
5. Writing down rather than typing makes for a strong connection
Although I don’t find it feasible to write a whole novel by hand, I’m a big believer that writing by hand taps into the subconscious more readily than if you type it. There are studies that have proved that people learn better if the exercise has been written by hand.
6. All your Ideas in one place
I know you have “notes” and “evernote” and a myriad other ways of keeping information on a computer and obviously I do, but there’s nothing like picking up a notebook, flicking through it’s pages and having your information all in one place. If you don’t want to carry a notebook with you, carry a post-it pad or other little pad to jot things down on. You can consolidate it later. Paste it in with Scotch tape if you dont’ want to rewrite it. My particular favorite is a notebook that has a little envelope at the back where I can keep either scraps of notes, or say a ticket stub to remind me of an exhibition or a train ride.
Do you keep a notebook of any kind? How do you like to organise your thoughts, memories or experiences?
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