Thursday, October 16, 2014

The View From a Writer's Notebook(s)

After all the food and craftiness around here, I thought a writing-related post was appropriate.

Recently, fellow writer and suspected twin in a former life, Lisen Minetti, wrote that the mark of a writer is not just sitting down and writing every day – it’s the ability to see a story in everything.  I will attest to the fact that when you use your writing muscles regularly, stories just come to you - all the time - from everywhere.  Like a lightning rod in a storm.

When the ideas come, does a writer keep track of them?

The most important tool in the writer's box is the notebook.  Some use physical notebooks, while others use electronic versions in the form of apps for your tablets, word processors; even voice recorders.  We use everything - anything, to keep those ideas from getting lost.

Through the years, I've found it most useful to maintain about three notebooks at a time:

A catch-all type notebook app on my tablet.
My app of choice is Evernote, but there are many other note-taking apps out there, with comparable features. I particularly like the ability to create multiple notebooks to store ideas.  I like to  "containerize" things, so this works very well for me.  I also like the "web clipping" feature, so whenever I find a story or research material on the internet, I can just "clip" the article and save it to the appropriate notebook.  The most important feature to me is the active sync across all my devices, so I can access my notebooks from my iPad, office desktop, or MacBook.

A project notebook.
Whenever I start work on a project in earnest, I open up a project notebook.  In this notebook I write outlines, notes on scenes, characters, and dialogue.  When I am feeling particularly vulnerable to the doubtful voices in my head,  I can even write whole chapters in there.  I usually choose inexpensive, spiral-bound, college ruled notebooks, or composition notebooks for this purpose.  I usually stock up on these as I shop the clearance racks the week after school starts.   Recently though, I've been buying 8 x 5 1/2 sized spiral-bound sketch pads at craft stores. I like the freedom an unlined page allows.

A journal.
I keep a journal with me at all times.  In it, I write my daily thoughts, lists, story ideas, prayers, rants; anything really.  Because of the content, and the fact that it lives in my purse, I tend to splurge on this notebook. A Moleskine in a stand-out color like red, is my preference. That way, it's easy to find in the depths of my bag, which is a sea of black everything. I'm currently using a limited edition Rajo! journal from the Philippines in disco gold.  Rajo Laurel is a famous Filipino fashion designer, who collaborated with a Philippine book store chain last year.   I was hoping to stock-up on these on my Christmas trip last year, but could not find any more in this color. Bummer. I get compliments about the journal each time I bring it out in public. 

Care to show us your writing notebook? 


  1. Mieke! Thank you so much for the beautiful mention. I too struggle sometimes with ideas that pop into my head and have notes jotted down on random sticky notes strewn throughout my office and home. I also tried the one subject notebook route until one day my daughter mistook my journal for hers and took it to school with her. Also she frequently found my story ideas mixed in with her science notes.

    I need to try Evernote as my main issue is not being able to link my home and work computer software together ... lord help us all if I ever misplace my memory stick. It would not be pretty.

    I use Scrivener at home to organize story thoughts, but that leaves me defenseless at work. My new favorite thing however is the Dictaphone app on my smart phone so I can record thoughts as I'm driving. MUCH safer than scribbling on a legal pad on the parkway!

    1. I used to go the thumb drive route too until one day I sat on it. I couldn't access anything off of it. Now I use Dropbox as to back up all my writing. I can access it from my work computer and my laptop. I think if you save your Scrivener docs to Dropbox and install Scrivener on your office computer (that is, if you're allowed to) you should be able to use them both.

      I think you'll like Evernote. I find it useful.

  2. I hate to admit it, but so many of my story notes are on scraps of paper, candy wrappers, and the backs of receipts. They litter my writing desk.

    Disco gold rocks!

    1. I love disco gold. I really do. Even the name of the color! I have a journal that's full of sticky notes and scraps of paper. I didn't bother transferring them. I just taped each one to a page.


Thank you so much for your kind comments.