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The Writer's Notebook - An Essential Tool of Writing

Updated on March 3, 2013

Use A Writer's Notebook To Preserve That "Next Big Story Idea"

If you're a writer and don't have a writer's notebook within your reach at all times then you risk losing that "next big idea" you come up with while taking a walk. Oh, you have something to write on, but no pen - same result. As a matter of fact, anybody who is doing any kind of work in the creative field should always have some way to write down their ideas fast or at least reasonably fast.

Ideas are like raindrops for writers. There are so many that fall at times that it's hard to know which one is the right one and when we do see it, catching it becomes a top priority. Unless you have something to catch it in, it can disappear quite fast. Memory can be a tricky thing; everyone has had a great idea only to forget about it within a few minutes (sometimes less). Having a notebook or journal around (along with a pen) can solve this problem and must be a priority for any writer or creative person.

Photo by Marc Vanstraelen / flickr.

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old-writers-notebook-photo-by-ricardo-oliveira-flickr

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Moleskine Notebooks

The best way for writers and artists to take notes while on the move.

The best way to make sure you remember ideas when out of the house is to have a good pen and notebook on you (or close by) at all times. The notebook I prefer is Moleskine. They offer a few basic sizes (I use pocket and large) and several different versions based upon what you need it for. A few of the versions are listed below:

- Ruled page notebooks are good for writers.

- Grid-like pages are good for brainstorming.

- Plain pages are great for sketches and drawings and some are even safe for watercolors.

- They also produce various planners, address books and diaries.

They are durable and have been used by writers, painters, scientists and a lot of creative types to keep down ideas for a very long time. A hard cardboard bound cover, acid free paper, bookmark, rounded corners, an elastic band and inner pocket are just a few of the reasons I own several. They are made for people like me.

A Few Moleskine Tips

- It's a good idea to put your contact information inside the front cover in case you lose your notebook.

- You can use right-hand pages for notes and left-hand pages for to-do lists.

- Label your Moleskine by writing start and end dates on the spine of the pages.

- Number either the odd or even pages. You can then make a contents or index page to make ideas easier to find.

- Always have at least one or two post-it notes stuck on the inside to write down notes that you need to remember but don't want to put in your writer's notebook. I usually have two different colors; yellow are for ideas and blue are for other information.

-Take advantage of the small pocket in the back. I use mine to carry a few business cards just in case I meet someone that needs my services.

My Idea Notebook

Writing Instruments Art Print - 12 x 12 in.

By Jean-Michel Labat

Buy for $9.99

All That Matters Is That You Have Something To Keep Your Notes In - Any notebook can be used for keeping your ideas safe.

Crayons by Laurence David

10 x 12 in. Art Print

Buy for $16.99

moleskine-notebook-and-staedtler-remedy-mechanical-pencil
moleskine-notebook-and-staedtler-remedy-mechanical-pencil

How To Organize A Writer's Notebook

Getting your ideas for writers down on paper is only half the battle.

While a small pocket notebook may help you get your ideas down before you forget them; having a larger one in which you can organize the notes is just as important in my opinion. This will require you to sit down and copy down your notes again but if you do it before a lot piles up then you won't feel overwhelmed.

Organization Of Your Written Ideas

If there's one thing I've learned about documenting my ideas it's that if they are not organized in some way (at least a little) you'll never find what you're looking for when you need it. That may be fine for someone who is trying to overcome writer's block and is just willing to casually peruse a notebook of random ideas to spark the imagination, but I prefer some order in my chaos. I've got a table of contents and all of my pages are numbered. You'll have to sit down and come up with the categories that are most important to you for your notebook to be effective but I've listed a few of mine below to give you an idea about what I'm talking about.

- Story Ideas (zombies, horror, funny, based on existing characters, western, etc.)

- Scenes (action, comedy, violence, sex-related, scary, settings, time periods, etc.)

- Objects and Items (collectibles, used by women, used by men, writing, military related, etc.)

- Quotes and Dialogue (funny, spooky, dangerous, dying, love, hate, interesting words, etc.)

Notebook Of Images

Many writers find that pictures are just as useful for sparking the imagination as the written word and that's why it is also necessary to have a notebook dedicated to them. I tried to organize mine at first but came to the realization that it is not that easy to do; much harder than organizing ideas (unless you put them on a computer). I prefer notebooks at the moment and you probably do as well since you've read this far, so I go through quite a few rolls of scotch tape.

Handmade Leather Writing Journal - By Sam Lemiux / Taeliac Studio

japanese-writers-notebook-journal
japanese-writers-notebook-journal

A Peek Inside My Writer's Notebook - Take a look at the creative process.

bunch-of-notebooks
bunch-of-notebooks

Organizing Several Idea Notebooks

You will need more than one notebook to write your ideas down if you plan on keeping them.

If you're anything like me you are always trying to think of good ideas that you can use to create your own worlds or characters. If this is the case then you really need to have several notebooks, one for each major category. How many books and categories you have will be up to you; the more you have the better, though. When I first starting writing down my ideas I bought 8 notebooks for the categories listed below.

- Story Ideas

- The Occult or Supernatural

- Graphic Design Ideas

- Quotes and Dialogue

- Scenes or Actions

- Settings and Objects

- Pictures and Images

- Dreams (I only put write down dreams that I think I can develop into a story)

If you do this on a regular basis you'll eventually start filling up your bookcase. The bright side is that you won't ever have to worry about where you might get ideas from.

Photo by YellowHammer

Ultra-Orthodox Jew Writes Some of the Last Words in a Torah Scroll

20 x 16 in. Framed Photographic Print

Buy for $49.99

The Other Half To A Successful Combination - The perfect pen can often be any pen - when you don't have one.

Human Proportions - Vitruvius Man

24 x 36 in. Poster by Leonardo Da Vinci

Buy for $17.99

Florence Dome by Lodovic Cardi

9 x 12 in. Premium Giclee Print

Buy for $39.99

Sketch of a Square Church with Central Dome and Minaret

9 x 12 in. Giclee Print by Leonardo da Vinci

Buy for $34.99

I Would Love To Hear Opinions From Writers, Artists and Other Creative People - On how they organize and record ideas.

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    • CafeLove profile image

      CafeLove 4 years ago

      Honestly, I'm bad at the organizational part! I tend to write a lot of stuff down in a lot of different places - on my laptop, my phone, in different notebooks and journals... I'm a creative mess, but I get things done. :) I really like this lens. Thanks for writing it.

    • profile image

      Aunt-Mollie 4 years ago

      I keep notes the old fashioned way, with pencil and legal pad. (You should see my desk!) Later, I sometimes transfer to a word document. But, for me, ideas are filed in my mind and my heart and seem to always be there when I need them.

    • Seasons Greetings profile image

      Laura Brown 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I use my writing blog as a way of making writer notes with ideas. It makes me focus on the idea and get extra research. I can make endless notes and leave them in as draft posts until I'm ready to finish them up with details too.

    • profile image

      dippybud 5 years ago

      I'm constantly grabbing for my notebook (I go through so many these days, I tend to stick to dollar store spirals), so I tote it along with me everywhere. Here are a few other ways I stay creative: http://www.squidoo.com/spark-inspiration-with-a-pi...

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Small notebooks seem more convenient, you're right, but they don't last me long enough... And I can't go drive out for a new one all the time, and everyone that knows me has dealt with the fact that the notebook of the moment is a permanent fixture. I'll try moleskin sometime, great article!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @emmaklarkins: Me too, I'm known for having a million pens in my other pocket. My English teacher told me that it was just laziness for not putting them back, and it took all I had not to reply that it was art, and none of her business :)

    • daphnedangerlov1 profile image

      daphnedangerlov1 5 years ago

      I love moleskines too. I just keep one notebook with me at all times though because I could never keep track of more than that!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      As a wannabe writer I keep small notebooks everywhere - my car, by my bed and in each room of my house. One tip I would like to suggest is to make sure your pen writes. I have actually switched to using a mechanical pencil due to a pen not working for me one time.

    • emmaklarkins profile image

      emmaklarkins 5 years ago

      I always need to have something to write my thoughts down nearby. Otherwise, I panic :)