I’m the sort of writer that has a lot of notes written on scraps of paper. During school, I would jot down ideas on the corners of handouts and then tear the corner off and put it somewhere safe. I went through a post-it note phase where I covered the walls near my computer with quotes and information about my NaNoWriMo novel.
At some point, while procrastinating on the internet, I came across information about “Commonplace books.” Basically, a scrapbook where you keep all sorts of useful information.
I thought this concept would translate well into a “Writer’s notebook.” Where you keep all sorts of information regarding writing in general, or you could create one for a specific project.
Why not just use the internet?
These days everyone has a smartphone or a computer that is connected to the internet. We’re all perpetually browsing facebook, Reddit, Pinterest, Tumblr, whatever. There are a lot of great ideas on the internet. From Tumblr posts that have some great story ideas, to ridiculous facebook conversations, to the insane stuff you find on Reddit.
As excellent as these platforms are, it’s easy to get sucked into the distraction and never actually get any work done. These diversions are why I strongly recommend keeping your writer’s notebook as a physical notebook. It allows you to unplug and sit with your ideas without searching for the next exciting thing. Also, your brain processes information differently when you write it down by hand so it may help you get over any mental blocks you are having.
I have a physical notebook, but I also save a lot of stuff in Evernote. It syncs across my devices and allows me to keep whole web pages directly from my browser.
Choosing a Notebook
Stop! Do not run out and spend a ton of money on a brand new notebook. Especially since you probably have one lying around already.
Also, by notebook, I mean any method of storing paper notes in one location. You can use a binder, a file box, or “the notecard system.”
I recently got into Bullet Journaling, and since it has become popularized, you can find all sorts of information about different types of notebooks and pens online. Don’t be intimidated by the prettiness. The original system is incredibly straightforward and would create an excellent method for your writer’s notebook. Check it out.
Starting is the Hardest Part
I hate starting new notebooks. It’s so fresh and beautiful, and I don’t want to ruin it by writing something dumb and being forced to tear pages out. (This is why I love spiral bound notebooks, no one has to know I tore pages out.)
A great place to start is to pass your empty notebook around to people you trust and ask them to write some words of encouragement for you in the first few pages.
Next, copy down some quotes from your favorite authors. It’s like they’re encouraging you too.
Then write a little bit about yourself and why you started writing. What goals do you hope to achieve?
Make a “List of 100”
Making this list is one of my favorite writing exercises. It’s great for when you’re feeling stuck and just need to break through and get some new ideas.
I like to do “100 things that make you happy.” This exercise works best if you set aside time to do it all in one sitting. It seems simple, but it’s harder than it looks. Remember, you’re not ranking the items on the list just writing them down as they come to you. Don’t feel bad that you forgot about your pet until halfway through the list. You’re going to see patterns, and you will more than likely repeat some things; this is just a writing exercise.
When you get a little stuck about what to write, just pick something off the list and write about why you like it so much.
You can do this for other things to help you generate ideas. So if you need an occupation for a character you could make a list of “jobs of people that you know.” That way if you decide you have a character that’s a school bus driver you can email your bus driver friend and ask them questions and get real-life answers.
Fill Your Notebook With Stuff You Love
More on Lists
Lists are a great way to organize your thoughts and get things out of your head. Here are some great lists to include and work on when you don’t feel like working on anything else.
Things That Make Me Happy
Mental Images From My Childhood
Jobs I’ve Had
What My Summers Have Consisted Of
Sports, Hobbies, Activities, and Clubs
Trips, Journeys, and Adventures
Secret Places Only I Know About
Things I Believe In
Lessons I Have Learned
Things That Make Me Laugh
Things That Make Me Cry
Ways I Can Help Others
Places I Would Like to Visit
Things I Carry With Me at All Times
Things I Would Like to Carry With Me at All Times
Expectations I Have For Myself
Things I Do Well
Things I Love/Hate About My Family
Good Books I have Read
Fun Things to Do
Special People In My Life
Hopes for the Future
Things I’m Afraid Of
Things to Do Before I Die
Chloe Davis Smith has a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing from Southwest Minnesota State University. She currently works as a retail drone and occasionally blogs about “How to Be An Adult” at www.thepurplebug.com.