When I was at writing camp in junior high (cause that's the kind of cool kid that I was) one of the instructors told us to never throw away a piece of our writing. As my mom can attest, I took her advice very seriously. While this has resulted in piles and boxes of notebooks and scraps of paper, I can honestly say that my instructor's advice was dead on. The more I write, the more ideas I need, and the more I resort to looking through my old stuff. But thanks to my freshman college creative writing professor, I now have a more organized way of doing that.
It's a writer's notebook!!! And here is why you should have one:
- When you're bored, you have a place to free write. Whether it's at the bus stop or eating lunch, it's always a good idea to have pen and paper on hand. I used to jot my random ideas down on my phone which may work for some people, but for me it was too much trouble. I keep a notebook in my backpack, my purse, and in any suitcase when I go on any kind of trip (weekend or week long).
- People say the craziest things. In that same freshman creative writing class, we were told to become small talk spies and to report back to class with whatever things we picked up over the week. Some of the stories people came back with was writing gold! Listen in on the conversations around you, eavesdrop! It's ok, you're writer, and somehow that makes you exempt, right? (Plus let's face it, everyone wants an excuse to eavesdrop on other people.) I was able to write a whole story inspired by a conversation had by the people the row ahead of me at a concert. Since I had my handy dandy writer's notebook, I was able to jot it all down pretty truthfully and draw from that while I crafted my fictional story.
- It's 3 AM and you want to get back to bed. I can't tell you the number of times I have woken up in the middle of the night with a great story idea. There is no way it can wait until morning. Not because I'll forget it, but because my mind is so set on me not forgetting that I can't go back asleep. I have a writer's notebook on my nightstand though and after a few minutes of writing down my idea, I can sleep for the rest of the three to four precious hours I have left in the night.
- Newspaper clippings! I love reading newspapers and magazines and whenever I see an article that prompts my creative writer's mind, I cut it out and save it in my notebook. It's fun to go back and read all of the things that I found interesting.
- Sometimes the Muses are merciful. I've had a few times where I've been walking to or from class and the beauty of the natural world around me has prompted an outpouring of poetic proportions. I've been known to find a bench or pop a squat on a tree root scribbling furiously in my notebook before the inspiration vanishes. Even if you're not into poetry, a cool character name or an especially clever line will hit you and you'll need to have someplace where you can write it down fast.
Here is one of my many writer's notebooks. It's a little beat up, as you can see, but I like that it reflects its usage.