10 reasons to keep a writer’s notebook

Photo courtesy SXC.

I’ve kept a writer’s notebook for about 3.5 years. In that time, I’ve written successful queries, created two new blogs (this one and Creative Liberty) and significantly expanded my writing and editing work. I’m a big advocate of every writer carrying a notebook with them that they write in daily, or nearly daily.

Here are 10 reasons starting a writer’s notebook can charge up your writing work.

1. You can capture ideas before they’re gone. How many times have you had a great idea for an article, film, play, whatever, only to have it slip away before you got it committed to paper?

2. You can record sensory impressions while they are fresh. Often, what separates functional writing from truly great writing is the verisimilitude of the details. With a notebook at hand, you can capture a scene as it unfolds and not worry later if you got the color of the sky, or the color of baggy pants the strange smelly guy on the bus was wearing, right.

3. Writing your ideas down by hand is different than typing them in on your laptop.

4. You can track the development of your ideas from start to finish (even if this takes several notebooks for “big ideas” such as books!).

5. Storage and transport can be easier than computer based methods (I’m still a little leery of taking my laptop on a hike over rocky terrain).

6. Having a notebook handy makes it easier to record brain-dumps and zero drafts–which results in less blocking when it’s time to hit the computer and type a rough draft.

7. You can add mind-maps, storyboards and clippings to your notebook easily, making a neat analog multimedia experience for your story development process (think scrapbooking).

8. You can conduct an impromptu interview or write down all those stray research leads that can get lost if you depend on memory or texting your e-mail or another one-off sort of digital method.

9. Writing daily, in your own handwriting, cultivates an intimacy with your writing voice. You can find, and then fine-tune, your authentic tone.

10. Writer’s notebooks are a great place to experiment with new ideas, approaches, divulge your secret thoughts (at least to yourself) or practice a new technique in a pressure-free, private arena.

Helpful links related to keeping a writer’s notebook:

Daybooks: From the site LiketoWrite.com. A meditation on the value of “daybooks,” a personalized writer’s notebook. The term was coined by the late great journalist and writing coach Don Murray.

1000 Journals and 1001 Journals: A fascinating collaborative journaling project that has made its way around the world and spawned a book and documentary. The websites feature scans and photos of the pages of many of the journals.

Moleskine: The favored brand of notebook for many a writer.

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6 thoughts on “10 reasons to keep a writer’s notebook

  1. andrea says:

    Dear Liz,

    many thanks for mentioning 1000 Journals in this post.

    I’d love to get in touch with you and ask you a few questions. We’re putting together Teaching Materials to go with the educational DVD of 1000 Journals, and have a DIY section with tips, tricks and suggestions provided by people like yourself. Perhaps we can link in your site, and even better, interview you via email?

    All the best,

  2. […] idea for an hour and a half. It might not be a bad idea to carry a notebook in case you have some insight you’re afraid will not make it home, but otherwise, just keep […]

  3. […] Writer’s Obsession: Notebooks Jump to Comments Any serious writer already keeps a notebook. Ten reasons why can be found over at Write […]

  4. […] Picking a particular craft element to focus on each day, week, or month may also provide direction if you’re intending to start a daily writing practice or a writer’s notebook. […]

  5. […] courtesy of Write Livelihood, itee.uq.edu, ABC-WCHS, and clas.berkeley.edu. […]

  6. Rich Haag says:

    I see you mentioned liketowrite.com as being a useful resources for you. We just completed a massive redesign and expansion that you might find interesting.

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