If you are a writer, you should have a notebook, a little one you can take everywhere with you. I have a red one so it’s easy to find when I need it. I throw it in my purse when I leave the house, I have it next to me when I’m bored, and when I go to bed, it stays on my bedside table in case I need it when I’m falling asleep or waking up.
There are five things you should do with your notebook:
- Collect words. You never know when you’re going to come across a word you love, or one you want to remember. This week I was reading a book and the word “unconcealing” jumped off the page at me. Unconcealing–what does that mean to the writer? What would it mean to the reader? Why would someone use it instead of “revealing”? I wrote it in my notebook. I wanted to have it there to play with later. Writers should be collecting words like painters collect brushes. You never know when you’ll need just the right one for a project.
- Gather phrases. Years ago, one of my students gave me a book of poems. It included “My Fiftieth Year” by W.B. Yeats. I read the line, “An open book and empty cup” over and over and over again. I love the simplicity of the imagery. I wrote the line in the front of my notebook because it continues to inspire me. When a phrase or saying resonates with you, write it down. Quote it in your work or just use it for inspiration.
- Borrow ideas. In her book on the power of introverts, Susan Cain mentioned Griselda, a medieval legend princess who withdrew in silence. I thought that was an interesting idea I might want to use in a future post. It’s in my notebook, still waiting to be the perfect illustration. King Solomon said there’s nothing new under the sun, so don’t be shy about borrowing someone’s idea and molding it into something you can use. Don’t plagiarize, of course, but borrow and make it your own.
- Compose drafts. If you’re working on a line, or a post, or a list you just can’t get right, step away from the computer but have your notebook with you in case you work it out while doing something else. I do this especially when I’m working on alliterative lists. Giving your brain limitations, like making every word start with the same letter, makes different parts of your brain work harder, reach deeper. Keep working with something until it’s just right, and make sure you get it in your notebook.
- Make memories. Not everything in your notebook has to be for your audience. Somethings you write can be just for you. Write down a funny joke your son made up, or exactly what you ordered at a new restaurant so you’ll remember when you go again. It’s your notebook. Use it for yourself too.
Do you have a writer’s notebook? How do you use it?