Notebooks: The One Item Every Writer Needs

by Marylee MacDonald in For Beginning Writers

Writing notebooks from other creative people can inspire us to keep track of our own creative thoughts. On the tab called Writing Notebooks, I lay out the general idea of keeping a writing notebook, but I want to go into a little more detail here. That’s because it’s so important for writers at any stage of their careers to develop a systematic method for saving their warm up exercises, bits of conversations, and responses to writing prompts.

Writing can be done in bits and pieces. My novel, Montpelier Tomorrow, began on Post-its and on notes scribbled in ballpoint on the back of my hand. I had not yet become a connoisseur of notebooks, but now I am. If we do not write down ideas immediately, they disappear.

Small Notebooks to Jot Down Story Ideas

The best place for a writer to capture snippets of daily life is in a journal or notebook. Pick one to carry in your pocket or purse. Until a year ago, I always used Moleskine notebooks. I’d slip it out in a restaurant and eavesdrop on conversations.

Small notebooks vary in size. There are 2.5 x 4s and 3.5 x 5.5s. You might be a writer who opts for a reporter’s Moleskin Notebook. This kind flips open at the top and you can write with it propped on your knee. I’m a doodler and go back and forth between ruled and unruled. My main criterion is to choose notebooks of identical size. I like to see them all lined up on the shelf by my desk.

Large Notebooks for Writing Scenes

Large-sized notebooks (5 x 8.5) work well for writing scenes, for diary entries, and for doing writing exercises. I like to buy different colors. That lets me see at a glance which notebook contains my research for a new novel, notes from my writing group meeting, or whatever.

For my diary, I prefer a black, hardcover notebook. Why? I guess I like the feeling of permanence, and black makes me think I’m hiding it from prying eyes, not that there’s anyone around to snoop. When I’m going on a trip and need a larger, single-purpose notebook, I step up to the Volant at 7.5 x 10.

If you have never kept a writer’s notebook but want to, then find a size and color that suits you. Splurge and buy three or four. Try writing in them. Do you like the paper? Color? Lined or unlined? The point is for you to figure out what you like, what makes you smile when you think about picking up the notebook and actually putting down your words.

Notebooks Express Your Style

Like glasses and shoes, one writer’s taste won’t match another’s. Test drive a few of these options. When you think of your new purple notebook, are you smiling to yourself? (I am because the purple notebook will match my purple hiking books.) Keeping a notebook is good for most writers, but others prefer daily writing sessions on a computer. If writing the old-fashioned way works for you, then great, and if not, then come up with something else. The point is to make you run toward the writing, rather than away from it.


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