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How to Start a Writing Notebook: 3 Benefits of Keeping a Notebook

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 4 min read

In the creative writing community, the ability to open a notebook to a blank page and jot down a story idea is invaluable.



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What Is a Writing Notebook?

A writing notebook is a tool that many writers use to record creative thoughts. Writing notebooks come in many shapes and sizes—composition notebooks, spiral notebooks, bound notebooks, softcover and hardcover, wire bound, notepads, ruled paper, sketchbook paper, leather journals, and more—and no one type is the best notebook for writers. All that matters is that it’s some kind of physical notebook that a writer carries with them, which they use to write, brainstorm, doodle, journal, make to-do lists, and jot down notes.

3 Benefits of Keeping a Writing Notebook

A writing notebook can be a wonderful asset for your writing life. Here are a few reasons to start using one:

  1. To keep track of your ideas: A writer’s notebook is a great place to keep all of your thoughts in one place. You can use it to jot down new ideas or expand on older ideas. When the time comes to outline your novel, you’ll know where to go for ideas.
  2. To unlock your own creativity: The privacy of a paper notebook allows you to experiment with your writing and quit worrying about making everything perfect. You can use your notebook to make lists, draw, collect newspaper clippings—whatever you want to do. That sort of unfettered space is what lets your brain explore new creative ideas.
  3. To remind you that you’re a writer: Even if you keep your writing notebook closed during the day, it serves as a gentle but consistent reminder of your craft.
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3 Tips for Keeping a Writing Notebook

Thinking about starting a writing journal? Here are some tips to make your new notebook a success.

  1. Make it your own. Make your writing routine your own, and let your writing notebook be whatever you want it to be. Write every day, or write once a week. Draw up character sketches, or make lists of songs that you think your characters would listen to. Make a collage of magazine models that you think look like your characters, or make a mood board that gets you in the right mindset for writing a particular scene in your project. Don’t settle for a blank notebook—make your new journal yours.
  2. Keep your notebook handy. Your notebook is only as good as it is available—it’s no use if you have an idea and your own notebook is nowhere to be found. Make sure that you have access to your notebook when you need it. Do you often get inspiration when you’re at the gym? Then make a habit of bringing your notebook. If you’re having a hard time remembering to carry your notebook to important places, try a pocket notebook or something letter size.
  3. Get messy. Your writing notebook should be a place where you don’t worry about what ideas are good and what aren’t. Make your writing notebook a scrapbook, or use it to collect your most ridiculous writing prompts. The goal is to start writing, get your creative juices flowing, and offer more options for your brain to explore, connect, or subvert—it’s not about paper quality or neat handwriting. During any notebook entries, keep in mind this mantra: There are no bad ideas.


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15 Ideas for Your Writing Notebook

Think Like a Pro

The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.

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If you’re interested in starting your own writer’s notebook or just got a new book and want to try something different, consider exploring some of these writing activities during your writing time:

  1. Freewrite. Spend five minutes freewriting about something you find particularly frustrating.
  2. Rewrite. Rewrite a scene from your current project from the point-of-view of a different character.
  3. Journal. Keep a record of every single thing you do during a full 24 hours of your daily life. Journal writing will help you take ideas from your own life and use them in your stories.
  4. Take notes. eavesdrop on a public conversation and invent backstories for the speakers.
  5. Draft blog posts. Imagine you’re a blogger and write a brief blog post detailing something you think the public ought to know.
  6. Sketch. Draw/doodle each of the characters of your current project.
  7. Study. Take notes during a writer’s workshop, so that all of your peers’ feedback is organized in one convenient place once, ready for you when you sit down to revise.
  8. Get to know your characters. Conduct “interviews” of each of your characters—and ask them questions you don’t know the answers to. Make a list of each of your characters’ favorite things.
  9. Brainstorm. Keep a list of novel and short story ideas.
  10. Record names you like. When you happen across a name that seems striking or fits with one of your characters, write it down in your journal.
  11. Consider your eventual marketing plan. Design marketing materials for your latest book—from posters to business cards.
  12. Collect reference photos that inspire you. These could be images of people, places, or objects that remind you of things in your current writing project.
  13. Practice writing with prompts. Find a list of writing prompts online and draft out a story following your favorite one.
  14. Write morning pages. Take a shot a morning journaling routine in which you handwrite three pages immediately after you wake up.
  15. Gather information that could be useful to your career. Make a list of local writing workshops that you want to attend in the area.

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