Monday, 30 May 2011

Notebook Jottings

You do have a notebook don't you? EVERY writer should have a notebook with them at ALL times, in order to capture that important idea, before it disappears into the black hole that also resides in our brain.

But, do you use your notebook properly?

For a writer, a notebook is an ideas album and a memory log. If you write down everything that comes to mind, you are creating a physical representation of all of your thoughts and ideas. Jot down everything:
  • Ideas
  • General thoughts
  • Things to do
  • Dreams or goals that you aspire to
  • Your experiences
Don't worry about how you might be able to use this information. Your notebook is simply the collection tool. Once you've written it down it is there to refer to at some point in the future. Possibly later on today, but then, maybe not for many years to come.

Writing regularly in a notebook helps a writer to develop their own style and voice. It's the regularity that improves a writer's communication skill. Even the action of writing something down can make it more real. Jot down your dream and it's there for you to see on paper. It's the memory-jogger, that just might spur you on to take some action to achieve it.

Of course, it's important to take time to read through your notebooks. Remind yourself of your thoughts and ideas. This action can spark off more ideas in itself. The other day I was looking through one of my old notebooks, and as I flicked through the pages, I came across three, separate, short phrases, each of which went on to become titles of books I have had published. It's exciting seeing an idea you had many years ago and then realising that because you jotted it down in your notebook, it grew to become something exciting!

So, what can a writer do to make the most of their notebooks?

  1. Date your entries. I use one page per idea / thought / comment. I put the date in the top left hand corner. In the middle of the page, at the top, in capitals, I put an encapsulating word or phrase, followed by a brief description - ARTICLE IDEA - Time Management, SHORT STORY - Fridge Thief. This helps me when I'm looking through my notebooks. Sometimes, if I am looking for something in particular, I may remember roughly when I made the comment, so the date helps narrow the search. Or, I may remember it was an article idea, so I simply flick through for my ARTICLE IDEA headings.
  2. Write in it regularly. Jot down ideas as they occur (so small notebooks you can carry around with you at all times are useful here). However, it's also useful to sit down for five or ten minutes at the end of the day and make a note of your thoughts about what has happened today, or any comments about things that have happened today.
  3. Don't give yourself any rules about what can and can't be written in your notebook. It's your notebook, you can write ANYTHING in it!
  4. Be truthful. Write down your innermost thoughts. Get down on paper what you are really thinking. You may encapsulate a feeling or emotion that you can use in a short story or novel at a later date.
  5. Remember your senses - especially when you're away from home. Write down sights, smells, tastes, sounds and things that you've touched.
A notebook is just as important a tool for a writer as a keyboard. The more you use it, the more effective it will be.

Good luck!


  1. Great post Simon, I have lots of journals depending on where I am, but one main one I use for daily stuff. I have started an index at the back so I can run quickly through and find things that I vaguely remember though have no idea where to find it! But also there is nothing better than spending a half an hour flicking through an old journal and discovering stuff that you wrote and have forgotten about... some might call it procrastination!

  2. Enjoyed your post. Thank you Simon. I agree 100%. I include everything from memories, feelings, story ideas, titles, beginnings, endings, descriptions, characters I come across and even dialogue that may spark up a story idea. The notebook becomes a great tool to return to when searching for the next writing project.

  3. Possibly the best post I've read from you, Simon. Great stuff.