How to Start a Writer's Notebook
I have a notebook obsession. I love everything from children's diaries with locks all the way to leather bound journals. The journal department at Barnes and Noble is like my dream. I can't help but touch and look at every single one.
I'm also a writer so my family always buys me notebooks for holidays and birthday. I'm so lucky.
Now I have to figure out how to use all of these notebooks. So I decided to turn one into a "Writer's Notebook."
What is a Writer's Notebook?
A writer's notebook is a designated place where a writer keeps all of their ideas. It's perfect for inspiration, quotes, research, etc. There is no limit to what you can put in your writer's notebook.
Why not just use the internet?
These days everyone has a smart phone or a computer that is connected to the internet so you would think that using app that syncs across devices would be the best idea. You want your ideas with you at all times don't you?
This would be a good idea if the internet wasn't made entirely of distractions. I'm looking at you Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc.
Keeping your ideas in a physical notebook allows you to disconnect from those distractions and focus on your work, and you can take it anywhere.
Choosing a Notebook
Stop! Do not run out and spent a ton of money on a brand new notebook.
There are several things to consider when choosing your writer's notebook.
First, do you have any notebooks lying around that you can use. Free is best.
Size: Notebooks range in size from pocket sized to 3-inch-thick monstrosities. You want one that is going to fit your lifestyle. If you're constantly on the go then a smaller notebook may be better. If you work from home and don't want to write anywhere else then go ahead and get a huge one.
Paper Weight: I never thought about this until I bought a notebook with thin pages. My pen bled through so I could only use one side of the page. Live and learn.
Lines, Grid, or Dots: I didn't know these were options until I got into Bullet Journaling. Also really look at the line spacing in the notebook. Most "pretty" journals are wide ruled which I hate, so make sure you take a look inside before buying.
Price: There's nothing wrong with buying a $1 composition notebook. It's a perfect place to start and play around.
Starting is the Hardest Part
This part can be intimidating. It's easy to worry about ruining your beautiful new notebook. Don't worry. Here are some ideas for your first pages.
Personal Biography: Write a little bit about yourself and how you got into writing. If you're ever unsure about yourself just read why you started writing.
Notes of Encouragement: Pass the notebook around to people you trust and have them write words of encouragement for you.
Quotes: I love writing advice from famous authors. I find this particularly inspiring when I'm feeling down.
Make a "List of 100"
This is one of my favorite writing exercises. Make a list of 100 things that make you happy. The only catch is that you have to do it all in one sitting. It seems easy but it's a lot harder than it looks. Doing this exercise all in one sitting really forces you to think about the things in your life that make you happy. Even the little things.
Remember, you're not ranking these items, just writing them down as you think of them. You'll see patterns emerge and that's okay. You might repeat things and that's okay too.
I love this exercise because it makes you feel happy when you're doing it.
When you get a little stuck about what to write about just pick something off the list and write about why you like it so much.
Fill Your Notebook With Stuff You Love
- Song Lyrics
- Overheard Conversations
I found this book a few years ago and there are so many fun lists in it. Such as "List all the songs you know by heart" and "What do you scream into the phone when you're stuck on hold."
More on Lists
Lists are a great way to organize your thoughts and get things out of your head. Here are some great lists to include and work on when you don't feel like working on anything else.
- Things That Make Me Happy
- Mental Images From My Childhood
- Jobs I’ve Had
- What My Summers Have Consisted Of
- Sports, Hobbies, Activities, and Clubs
- Trips, Journeys, and Adventures
- Secret Places Only I Know About
- Things I Believe In
- Lessons I Have Learned
- Things That Make Me Laugh
- Things That Make Me Cry
- Ways I Can Help Others
- My Accomplishments
- Places I Would Like to Visit
- Things I Carry With Me at All Times
- Things I Would Like to Carry With Me at All Times
- Expectations I Have For Myself
- Things I Do Well
- Things I Love/Hate About My Family
- Beautiful Things
- Good Book I have Read
- Fun Things to Do
- Special People In My Life
- My Skills
- Hopes for the Future
- Things I’m Afraid Of
- Things to Do Before I Die
What are Your Favorite Things to Include in Your Journal?
Let me know in the comments.
Questions & Answers
What do you do when you get a new notebook?
I like to make sure that I put my name and phone number on the first page of each new notebook, especially if I'm taking that notebook with me or keeping it in my purse. That way if I lose it, the person who finds it can return it to me.
I don't often read my old journals, so I just keep them in a box labeled "Keep Out." You can keep them on a bookshelf, if you like. To make it easier to locate a specific journal later, you can write the date (or another identifier) on the spine using a permanent marker.
Do you have any advice for a high school student trying to keep a writing journal?
Write as much as possible as often as possible. You can use the classic pen and paper, but you can also journal on your phone using an app. Some of these even allow you to add pictures which is even better.
If you are looking to improve your writing abilities, then you should experiment with different writing techniques. Journal an experience in third person point of view, or fully detail a conversation using dialogue and dialogue tags.
If you get stuck, think back to a childhood memory and write about it.
There are also plenty of places to find writing prompts online in whatever genre suits your fancy.
Do you have any advice for a middle schooler with depression, and trying to keep a Writers Notebook?
Journaling is especially helpful for those with a disease or illness. It really lets you track how you are feeling over time. It is good to journal when you feel you are in a depressive state, even if it feels like you are just writing boring stuff. You should also make sure to write about the really good stuff that happens to you too. Re-reading these entries can help you feel better when you are in a depressive state.
If you can speak to a therapist or even your school counselor you can show them some of your entries to help them understand how you feel.
I created an emotional ranking system for myself to help determine how I was feeling. I used a one to ten scale. So when I journal before bed, I can mark down how I felt that day. This is helpful in the long run to determine if there are certain months or seasons where you feel especially bad.
1. Literally the worst, stayed in bed and cried.
2. Made it out of bed, only cried a little.
3. Everything sucks, but you went to work or class anyway.
4. Anxious, forgot something, spell your lunch, got rained on.
5. Meh, take it or leave it. A day you'll forget by tomorrow.
6. A day you thought was going to be bad turned out okay.
7. Decent day even though you had to go to work or school.
8. Great. Good news and your day went smoothly.
9. Fantastic, ate your favorite foods, went out with your favorite people.
10. Best day ever. Nothing can compare to this day.
Do you find that as you get older, and maybe wiser, your lists grow up with you? And maybe your outlook on daily chores change to make you feel more compassionate towards those around you that don't write?
My brain is wired in a way that things make the most sense when they are put in writing. It's much easier for me to organize thoughts and ideas in written form. So I often recommend this method to others.
As I get older, I realize that not everyone's brain works in this way. For some, it is not easier to write everything down. They don't like to work through their issues in a daily journal. That's okay. Writing, while important, isn't for everyone.
I encourage people to try many methods to figure out what works for them. That may mean using speech to text for shopping lists and talk therapy to work through issues.
Can I include doodles in a writer's notebook?
Absolutely. This is your journal, and you can do whatever you want. There is no right or wrong way to journal. You can doodle, add stickers, glue in pictures or magazine cut-outs.