Tag Archives: notebooks

22 Ideas To Fill a Writing Notebook

Now’s the ideal time to unwrap one of those notebooks you’ve been hoarding because it’s “too nice to use” and start filling it up. They look even better when they’re being used. Or just grab a cheap composition book from the drugstore. I’ve discussed the importance and value of keeping a notebook in a previous post, so I’ve compiled a list of ideas to do just that.

I personally don’t like having multiple notebooks going at the same time, so I just throw everything together and use one at a time. It makes for good reading and inspiration when the well is running dry (or I’m procrastinating), and I always find a surprise or two along the way that I had forgotten about. It also gives me insight into what I was doing and thinking about during that time span. Some people like different notebooks for different subjects or use index tabs to keep things separate. Others like Travellers Notebooks, where you can use multiple inserts and band them all together. Whatever is comfortable for you and makes it as easy as possible for you to write things down.

1. Quotes. I collect quotes from books I’m reading, websites, blogs, social media, TV shows, signs, podcasts, and pretty much everywhere. Just remember to note who it’s from and where you found it. A favorite quote is also a great way to break the ice and use it on the first page.

2. Books I’ve Read. Helps me make sure I’m doing enough reading, and I then add a 2-3 sentence summary and a rating of 1-5 stars.

3. Books I Want to Read. I always keep several books stacked up on hand, and this list makes sure there is no lag in reading material.

4. To-Do Lists. Current lists, soon, and someday.

5. Journal. You can make these entries as long or as short as you like. Even a simple sentence summing up the day. These help me keep track of my days, my work, my life, and my goals. I try and do a short paragraph on average 6 days a week at the end of the day. Some days I ramble on, some days it’s just a sentence. Even just a weekly summary will show you where you’ve been and what you’ve been up to.

6. Ideas for blog posts, articles, and books. I may think it’s the best idea I’ve ever had, but if I don’t write it down there is little to no chance of remembering exactly what it was. I’ll remember part of it, but not that perfect combination of words.

7. Every single dumb idea that pops into your head. Inventions, book titles, movie pitches, fan fiction…You can decide later whether it really is dumb or worth exploring further. Maybe a character in your next book might be thinking that same thing?

8. Recommendations. A list of books, articles, authors, websites, blogs, places to go, etc… Anything that sounds interesting that you want to get back to at a later date.

9. Words you really like, or a combination of words that sound poetic together. Like Sushi and cigarettes, or plastic personality.

10. Ideas for new creative hobbies. You don’t have to take them all up, or even try them, but it does give you a good insight into what might be missing from your life.

11. A list of everything you have that you love. It can be a close-knit family, a friend, the best pet in the world, a great neighbor, or material things like a really cool fountain pen, an awesome car, a super comfy couch, or a great sense of humor. Similar to a gratitude list, but much more specific.

12. Random interesting bits of conversation that you overhear or have had.

13. Goals. Short term and long term. What would make you feel really good about yourself by the end of the month or next year at this time? What would you like to accomplish?

14. Subjects that you would like to study. Anything you would like to research, know more about, or even become an expert on.

15. Things you would like to do for fun. A weekly poker night, a weekend exploring museums in New York, a trip to a Caribbean Island, or a week in Paris getting lost in bookstores. Like a bucket list, but there’s no commitment. It doesn’t need to be realistic.

16. A List of everything you’d like to have. From material things like a new coffeemaker or a new laptop to a greater number of close friends, or a mentor, or a significant other.

17. Every project that needs to be done around your home. Include what’s needed to get it done, and the steps involved. Get it out of your head and on paper.

18. Character Sketches. Keep a list of interesting quirks, physical characteristics, accents, names…

19. Submission list. Keep track of all work you submit anywhere, whether for pay or not, including date and copy.

20. Everything you can do to boost your self-care and be kinder to yourself. Don’t depend on anyone else to make you feel good.

21. Things you pay attention to. What gets your attention? Is it an image, a certain word or phrase, a setting, a type of musical score? What makes you stop what you’re doing and look or listen?

22. Things other people don’t notice, but everyone sees. From front doors to what people put on their windowsills, to stickers and flyers stuck to signs. What can you write about, or photograph, or draw?

There is an endless amount of information you can stockpile in a writing notebook, some of which isn’t outwardly related to writing. It’s a collection of bits and pieces of yourself, your life, your dreams, and your ideas. It can inspire you, help you stay on track to reach your goals, give you a jumping-off point for that next project, and maybe even teach you a few things about yourself.

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Keeping a Writer’s Notebook

Every book on writing and every successful writer has one piece of advice that they all agree on. The importance of keeping a writer’s notebook.

There are as many ways of keeping a notebook as there are personalities in the world, so I’m going to share with you what has worked for me. I challenge you to try this for 30 days. Just 1 month.

Pick a notebook. It can be pocket size or larger, but choose one that you’re comfortable writing in and that’s easy to carry around with you. Hardcover or soft. Decorated or plain. Make it your confidant and take it with you everywhere you go. Eat with it, sit with it, watch tv with it, sleep with it. Take your time to choose something you really like. It can be a simple, cheap spiral notebook, a composition book, or a sturdier moleskine or similar version. I personally prefer Field Notes. They are small enough to fit in my back pocket, and sturdy enough to last the month it takes me to fill it up. Find one you’re excited about using and a pen that can keep up with you.

Now make it yours. Add stickers, draw on it, tape a picture of someone or something that inspires you on it, or leave it blank. To break the ice, put your name and email inside the front cover in case you lose it, and number every other page. You can also add a quote on the first page to get you started.

Use it as a journal, daily log, book of lists, ideas, bits of conversation, doodles, names or words you like, something you’d like to know more about, books, people or websites you’d like to check out, movies you’ve watched, and any idea that pops into your head no matter how dumb you think it is. Try not to tear out any pages though…there are no mistakes.

Now this is where the road diverges. Some people like to keep separate notebooks for everything, some like to add an index in the beginning so they can refer back to certain subjects or ideas later on, some like to separate it into different sections for different purposes. Personally, I’m a minimalist, so I like just one notebook to write everything in, and then I can always transfer anything worthwhile once the book is filled. A stack of index cards held together with a binder clip works for some people. It’s just finding a system that works for you and encourages you to use it. Pinterest is an endless source for ideas.

As I mentioned earlier, I use Field Notes, which are 48 pages of 3.5 X 5.5 paper. I force myself to fill up one every month. Some months are easy, and I’m well into the second one before time’s up, and sometimes every word is an effort. At the end of the month, I read through it and highlight anything I think is worthwhile or I’d like to refer to later. Or I rewrite it into another notebook that’s more long term. Moleskine’s are my preference then, but Leuchtturn makes a fine notebook as well. I like the process of rereading them when I’m stuck for ideas, and it also helps me notice what I pay attention to.

Whether you’re a writer, poet, artist, photographer, musician, or architect, that fantastic idea you just had or that perfect line of dialogue you just overheard will be gone within the hour. Write it down before it’s lost forever.

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