5 Reasons you should create your own writer’s notebook — Ruth L. Snyder

Every writer should have a notebook that goes everywhere with them and is used every day. Why? Here are my top five reasons:

SONY DSC1. To keep track of possible topics for stories or articles – Ideas come to writers at the strangest times and places. You could be sleeping, or walking down the sidewalk, or driving in your car. Once you begin to write, you’ll discover that your brain is often actively thinking about your writing projects, even when you are doing something seemingly unrelated. I have made the mistake of ignoring my thoughts, thinking that I would remember later when I had access to my notebook. Several times I’ve lost precious ideas that never resurface. Here are some random entries from my notebook:

  • First train ride
  • Shock of terminal illness
  • The role of women
  • Strategies for dealing with a child soiling himself
  • Adoption issues

2. To capture interesting events or tidbits – Every day we encounter events that can add interest to our writing. The problem is, sometimes we aren’t paying attention. When we are alert to what’s happening in and around us, we need to write down what we see and experience. These events could be things such as a friend’s reaction to bad news (what she looks like, says, does), an accident we see as we are driving down the highway, a child’s reaction to a new jacket, a dishwasher overflowing and flooding the kitchen, etc. When these events take place, jot down something that will jog your memory and enable you to use them in future writing projects.

  • You could write down a simple phrase, like “He’s bugging me!”
  • How about including a simple description of something: “washing clothes – open washing machine to find bits of wadded paper. Child didn’t throw out his pull-up. YUK!”
  • Even a simple description can be effective – “Deer walking through field of oats.”

3. To note character descriptions based on people you see – Character descriptions are extremely useful for anyone writing fiction. Most fiction writers have a large file of characters to which they keep adding helpful tidbits. One effective way of gathering information is by observing people wherever you happen to be. We all encounter numerous people every day. Jot notes in your notebook to remind you about “characters” that stand out or have interesting habits or appearances. Try to describe them. (You may even want to take a picture.) What do they look like (hair colour, clothes, eyes, height, etc.)? How do they act (head down, slow steps, or eyes shining etc.)? What are unique characteristics that you can use so that the reader can easily identify who you’re talking about (lisp, gait like Terry Fox, etc.)

4. To jot down inspirational quotes – You can use quotes in a variety of ways. Perhaps you need encouragement personally, or you want to use a quote to highlight what you’re trying to say. If you jot down quotes as you run across them, you will have your own ready reference. Here are a few to get you started:

  • “Writing is no trouble: you jot down ideas as they occur to you. The jotting is simplicity itself – it is the occuring which is difficult.” Stephen Leacock
  • “It’s what your characters do that defines them.” K.M. Weiland
  • “Jealousy is a landmine which maims or destroys whoever triggers it.” Charles Stanley
  • “To work is to pray.” Augustine
  • “Am I willing to give up what I have in order to be what I am not yet? Am I able to follow the spirit of love into the desert? It is a frightening and sacred moment. There is no return. One’s life is changed forever. It is the fire that gives us our shape.” Mary Caroline Richards

5. To record helpful information – Each writer’s notebook will be unique. Use your notebook for whatever works for you. Other information I have in my notebook includes:

  • writing resources (websites, book titles etc.)
  • notes from meetings I’ve attended
  • notes for speeches I’ve delivered
  • personal goals
  • market ideas

If you have a writer’s notebook, please share with us how you use it and how it has been helpful in your writing.


Ruth-L-Snyderwww.trusteesnyder.blogspot.com (Education information)

www.ruthlsnyder.com (Ruth’s writing and family life)

www.earlyyearssuccess.com (Information for caregivers of children ages 0-5)

Follow Ruth on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@wwjdr

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