Do you want to know what I did before I sat down at my computer desk to draft this blog post?
I sat down on my couch instead, with this great little tool I use from time to time. You might have heard of it…it’s called a “pen.”
Yes, that’s right: here we are in 2021 and I still use a notebook and pen to write. And I think you should too.
Maybe you’ve already got the fancy laptop, maybe you’ve got the shelf full of books on writing—but if you’re missing a writer’s notebook, you’re missing one of the most fundamental tools that should be part of every writer’s arsenal.
What’s a Writer’s Notebook?
Hey, don’t laugh! It’s actually a more complicated question, with a bigger answer, than you would think.
Simply put, a writer’s notebook is a notebook, journal, or diary that a writer uses regularly to help inform and inspire their writing.
If you’ve never used a writer’s notebook before, you might be picturing something along the lines of a typical diary, with entries that document your activities and feelings throughout the day.
Or maybe you’re picturing a stream-of-consciousness collection of thoughts or images you find interesting. Maybe you’re picturing something like a dream journal, where you break down what you dreamed about and what you think it means.
All of these are right, and there’s so much more that a writer’s notebook can do!
A writer’s notebook can be a place to try and sketch out the first draft of a poem, a story, or even an essay. (Or blog post!)
Your notebook can be a place to work out a weird, challenging bit of description that for some reason you can’t get to work on the computer.
It can be a place to try out a response to a writing prompt, to jot down ideas for future stories or poems, to reflect on things you’ve read and why you liked them.
Does that sound like it could get a little . . . messy? It sure can. But mess is kind of the point. Writer’s notebooks are not for readers. They’re strictly for YOU, the writer.
So much great writing begins in intensely private spaces, where a writer can give themself permission to explore things they might not be able to explore at a computer.
What’s great about using a writer’s notebook is that it’s the place where you can practice your craft in different ways so that you can grow as a writer and improve your writing over time.
Okay, you’re intrigued—what now?
There’s only a little guidance I can give you here. Because the first cardinal rule of a writer’s notebook is this: your notebook is purely yours.
The way I use my notebook might not work for you. The way that works for you might baffle the writer beside you. We all use them in different ways. And since there’s so much that I could say here, I’m not going to try to cover it all in one post.
Introducing: The Notebook Project #thenotebookproject
I’m excited to share that this is just the beginning of a multi-month series on using a writer’s notebook!
One post per month for the next little while, I’ll be sharing further tips and tricks on using a writer’s notebook.
I’ll talk about things like:
- What should you include in your notebook?
- Why write by hand?
- How can you build a writer’s notebook into your routine? (Spoiler alert: Take it everywhere you go!)
- What can you do with the material in your notebook after it’s been written?
- How to use a writer’s notebook to improve elements of your writing craft
SO MUCH of my published writing got its start in a writer’s notebook. I can credit a huge part of my writing career to the commitment I made to my writer’s notebook early on, and the way it helped develop my craft.
So here’s my final advice for now: don’t delay!
Head out to your local bookstore or craft or stationery supply shop and pick up a notebook that speaks to you.
Get something that looks like it will be easy to use—you can go wild with a blank book or choose something with ruled lines, and spiral-bound notebooks will let you clip a pen inside. Bonus if it’s got art on the cover that you like. Take inspiration wherever you can!
Find a smooth-writing pen, such as a gel pen—they’re more comfortable to write with, and less likely to cramp your hand. You want something with smooth flowing ink.
Bonus: if you go spiral-bound, you can clip it into the spirals of the notebook. They belong together now: that pen will never leave your notebook’s side. (You don’t want to be caught somewhere with an idea and no pen!)
Start taking that pen-and-notebook combo everywhere you go. Jot ideas down as they come to you, or start experimenting with rough drafts by hand.
Stay Tuned to The Notebook Project
For the next few months, I’ll post a new article in this series called The Notebook Project each and every month.
To talk about it on all of the socials, I’ll use the hashtag #thenotebookproject so add that hashtag to your posts as well — and be sure you’re following @resilientwriters on Instagram and facebook.com/theresilientwriter on Facebook.
With these articles, I’ll also offer a weekly writing exercise to guide you on how to flex your writing muscles in your notebook — these exercises will go beyond just the basic writing prompt and guide you on how to use them to grow in your practice and craft as a writer.
And of course, we will have some notebook giveaways!
Each month, I’ll visit my local stationery store PaperPapier here in Ottawa, and select a writer’s notebook just for our special monthly giveaway for the #thenotebookproject.
To get in on the notebook giveaways, come join me LIVE on my Facebook page every Friday at 5pm Eastern. The notebook giveaways will be drawn on a random number basis from those attending LIVE on the last Friday of each month.
#thenotebookproject Writing Exercise
Your writing exercise for this month is just to go buy yourself a new writer’s notebook, one that inspires you and has all the features you really need. Give some thought to the size of the notebook, ruled or blank, weight of the paper and cover art — find one you’ll really love to use.
And don’t forget to join me this Friday, March 26th, at 5pm Eastern on my Facebook page for the first notebook giveaway.
Further Resources for Notebooks
PaperPapier in Ottawa, Canada (yes, you can order online!)
Laywine’s (you might have met them via the GooglePay ads)
BlueSky Papers (if you like your notebooks embossed!)
Jenni Bick (custom leather journals)
**Stay tuned for our next article in this series, coming on Thursday, April 29th