Keeping a notebook
Many writers advise newbies to keep a notebook.You might ask yourself why?
The first reason to get in the habit of keeping a notebook is to just enjoy writing even a paragraph without having to churn out an article or a short story. If you have to churn out a finished product everytime you sit down you're going to start hating writing.
There's a difference between a notebook and a diary. A diary is about you; what you ate, how you felt. A notebook is about other people and places.
So get in the habit of writing everyday. When you start you might have trouble writing a paragraph much less an article or short story. It's important to get in the habit of writing no matter what mood you're in. By getting into the habit of writing each day at the same time and same place you'll start to get into your writing mental zone the minute you sit down.
I like to spend 3/4 of an hour each day. Conveniently my laptop battery expires in about 3/4 of an hour. forcing me to write in 45 minute blocks.
Keeping a notebook gets you in the habit of observing people and conversation. Like a magpie getting in the habit of collecting strings, twigs and shiny objects to build a nest. Get in the habit of collecting shreds of conversation, clothing and descriptions.
If an article is like a knitted sweater. Then your notebook entries are like odd bits of yarn that you twist into longer skeins and balls. The raw material to be knit into a sweater story.
Observations and conversation snippets can be expanded into paragraphs. pages and articles.
Get out the house to write. At the coffee shop observe people stabbing at their food, how they hunker down over a bowl of chilli. Or never let go of the fork. How do people walk, what clothes do they wear?
Friends make great subjects for notebook piece. Write down who bugs them; the noisy neighbor, absent-minded travel agent or the ex-girlfriend.
Don't hesitate to add photos, newspaper articles, menus and train schedules.
Keeping a notebook is the start to becoming a better writer.