Sunday, February 22, 2009

Saturday Soiree – A Writer's Notebook

Do you have one - a writer’s notebook? You should you know. A hand-held recorder is good; it’s a relatively modern take on the notebook and pen. There’s nothing wrong with having and using both. Still, nothing beats a writer’s notebook for those quick 5-second jot-downs or longer note-taking. Nothing beats a small notebook you can pull out of your bag at the mall, in a waiting room or at the beach. Nothing beats dragging your notebook next to your computer to jot down an idea unrelated to what you might be working on. Nothing beats a notebook next to you while you lounge on your couch reading. Yes. I’ll say it again. Nothing beats a writer’s notebook.

A notebook is one of the major tools of a writer’s trade. Ask writers you know. Read what famous writers have to say about keeping a notebook and their relationship with theirs.

Over the ten years I’ve been writing, I’ve accumulated quite a few notebooks and I keep them on my desk, lined up next to my monitor. I like having the old, filled ones at arm’s length. They hold hundreds of wild, disconnected ideas, verbatim and paraphrased lines from my favorite television shows and movies, snap article outlines, idea maps, (or mind maps as they are more popularly called), snippets of conversations, quotes from magazines at the hair salon and doctor’s office and interesting words with their meanings, antonyms and synonyms and peculiar names for characters in stories I have never written.

There is a notebook in every room in my home where I spend a significant amount of time because ideas can be fleeting and often vanish in the same split second they appear. I know from experience the frustration of trying to recall something I did not write down because I did not have a notebook with me or nearby.

A writer’s notebook is not a journal or diary. It is a writer’s place to record the myriad of thoughts, images, questions, answers, problems, solutions, story and article ideas, words, and just about anything related to writing, the writer and the writing life.

A writer’s notebook is an extension of the writer. He or she thinks, see, hears, speaks, and feels and the notebook stores it all for future use.

Two of the best things about using a writer’s notebook are:

1. It can be any size, shape or color; simple or fancy; ruled, checkered or plain
2. You don’t have to worry about grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.

Following are some of the ways to use your writer’s notebook:

• Freewrite. Set a time and write as much, as little and as fast as you can. Then see if anything you wrote is valid for further exploration.
• Brainstorm. Take one idea at a time and list several possible angles you can spin it.
• Describe and report observations - scenes, situations, events, people, conversations, actions and reactions.
• Write your first response to anything you see and hear - music, a song, a TV show, a movie, or anything else you see or hear.
• Find inspiration. Re-read your notebook for nuggets to jumpstart a writing session when you’re blocked, stuck and dry.

Do you own a writer’s notebook, what kinds of treasures are buried between its covers? Re-visit it and return to share some of them.

If you are yet to use one, here’s your mission. I hope you’ll accept it. Get yourself a notebook, call it your writer’s notebook and begin collecting your own treasures. Then visit this post again and share what the experience is like.


Joanne said...

I don't see how it's possible to be a writer without a notebook. I have several, one for my current manuscript filled with ideas, character traits, plot considerations. One for blog ideas, one specifically for Itineraries, monthly & daily. My very favorite is the one I bring to concerts, in which I jot down the artist's spoken words between songs, capturing something other than the planned setlist. These I turn around and use in music memoir essays I'm writing, weaving music to my own life.

Cheryl Wright said...

Hi Joanne,
"...I jot down the artist's spoken words between songs, capturing something other than the planned setlist." Interesting. Never heard of anyone doing that before.

When we get used to using notebooks they become indispensable to our writing and our lives as a whole. We can't help but jot down every thing that could inspire, inform and enhance our writing and our lives.

Magnolia said...

Well, I recently bought a very nice journal with a magnetized cover that I was stashing away for use when I fill up my other journal.

I love pretty journal books and have collected several over the years. Filled of course.

I read a post or comment you made that you kept a notebook in your purse for notetaking, etc., and it tickled my brain to possibly use this nice journal I have tucked away just for that purpose.

I will go ahead and confess I'm a journal snob. I want them to look nice. A spiral notebook just won't do for my esthetic sensibilities. So, I think I'll tuck this nice one in my purse and go buy another one to stick in my bedside drawer.

Cheryl Wright said...


You're right I always have one in my bag. When I change bags I may sooner forget to transfer my wallet than my beloved notebook.

Enjoy your new journal.

Clarisse Teagen said...

I used to have one.. it was my planner. . cause i carried it around everywhere. Yeah it is really really helpful..hmmm. I shuold get another one.

Cheryl Wright said...

And I think you should Clarisse.

Jan said...

What a great post! I agree, every writer should carry a small notebook. I found another great resource, thanks to author Anne Lamott. She uses index cards. I find that a small pack of those is easy to carry. Chain drug stores (Walgreen's for sure, $1.99) sell small plastic (flexible) cases to hold the index cards. They even come with mini dividers for different categories. I have one for quotes, one for ideas, one for books I run across that I'd like to read/research someday, etc. Just a thought... Happy writing!

Cheryl Wright said...

Hi Jan,

I've heard that index cards can serve the same purpose. I'm glad you're comfortable with them and they help you write as beautifully as you do.

May you day be filled with precious moments.

Share |