How To Start Or Keep A Writers Notebook

MoleskineI have already written  about my writing notebook a few times.  For those of you who do not yet have a writing notebook, I have just one question…  What are you waiting for?  Seriously.  Start your writing notebook as soon as possible.  I have writing notebook tips for writers everywhere, regardless of experience.  For those of you who already have a writing notebook, this post will hopefully help you to develop a greater understanding of the importance of a writing notebook as well as provide some creative inspiration.

Notebook Selection
Let’s start with the notebook itself.  A majority of famous professional writers as well as freelancers like myself, prefer Moleskine notebooks.  As far as I’m concerned, they are superior in quality, durability, and physical appearance.  Their pages are cream in color and the texture is one that provides a unique writing experience in and of itself.  While they may be quite costly by comparison to other notebooks of similar size, their outstanding reputation and the qualities I have already mentioned amply justify their increased expense.  If you are on a tight budget, any notebook will do just fine as long as it fits your needs.

What To Write In Your Notebook
A good writer is also a good observer.  Write down things you observe in your daily life such as interesting facts you come across, or even bits and pieces of conversations you overhear at your local coffee shop.  The possibilities are endless, and by no means should you censor yourself, especially when your writing notebook is concerned.  Sarah Brennan has a whole blog post about what you should write in your notebook, written especially for kids and teens.  My notebook is a combination of a personal journal, my blog, and my writing notebook all in one Moleskine notebook.  While some may tell you that you should have a different writing notebook for each task, venue, or creative pursuit, I prefer to keep everything in one singular notebook.  There is much controversy, but the choice is yours, and yours alone.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise; what works for you might not work for anyone else, and vice-verse.

I keep track of everything with my notebook.  Everything from casual observances, funny or insightful tweets on Twitter, or even possible writing titles or journal writing prompts.  If I experience something unique, have a unique insight or breakthrough to a long-standing problem or conflict, I will make every possible action to ensure that its well documented in my notebook.  I’ll even go so far as to cite interesting passages of books I’m reading at the time.

Notebook Organization
You can set up your writing notebook in a multitude of different ways.  I’m more traditional in that I write in my writing notebook from start to finish in what’s called a linear fashion.  Others have set their notebooks up as a paper-based database.  The Art Of Manliness has a fantastic article on How To Make A Moleskine PDA. There are countless other ways of setting up and contributing to your writing notebook; more perhaps than can be successfully included and detailed here.  Some writing notebooks even have numbered pages with a keyword index in the back.  My writing notebook is quite simple by comparison, and I have found great success by typing the entries in to a PDF document for each completed notebook to provide fantastic searching capabilities and the added benefits of cloud-based storage and backup!

Take Your Notebook With You
No matter where you go, you should bring your notebook with you.  I have been known to carry a messenger bag with pens and my writing notebook everywhere I go.  In situations where I can’t bring my notebook with me, I usually get by with a couple sheets of folded paper and a pen.  I’ll generally copy any notes or entries from the paper directly into my notebook as soon as possible.  For travel writers, a GPS device is also handy if you wish to associate pinpoint geographical information with your writing entries.  In these cases, I will generally note the GPS location along with the date and approximate time along with any notes I’ve taken.

Group Notebooks
Lately I have heard about writing groups keeping their own group notebook.  While I’m not currently affiliated with any writer groups, there are many writers who are.  Keeping a notebook as a group is fine if you are a writer who works well in the company of other writers.  I prefer to keep my own personal notebook, whose contents are kept a closely guarded secret, and it remains one of my most cherished and prized possessions. There are even some writers who contribute to a group notebook as well as having their own personal notebook separate from the group one.  Again, the choice is completely personal and unique to the writer.

While it is best that all of your notebooks be the same size and shape, this is not always possible.  Luckily, I was able to score a deal by purchasing a large stack of lined Moleskine notebooks some time ago.  Ideally, your notebooks should be stored in a safe place, away from humidity or anything which might compromise its longevity, such as physical damage, theft, or loss.  For many years I have kept my notebooks in an old wooden box, but ideally I’d like to build my very own custom writing box to hold my notebooks, pens, stationary, and correspondence all in the same place.  Emily Dickinson kept her writing in a locked trunk.  While I have not yet gone to this extreme, I know that many writers have varied locations in which they store their writing, some even employ hidden or secretive places.

Your Turn
Do you have any tips or ideas to share?  Please leave your thoughts, ideas, and links in the comments!


  • jolly555

    Thanks for writing this. As a writer way back I have always had my notebook with me because I love to document my day to day experiences. It a good thing to do as a writer.

  • Grace K

    I used to keep a journal until somebody messed up with it and I stopped. Now that I see the great importance having a notebook as a writer I will definately get one for myself.

  • Obalade Damilola

    Great share..I’m not an English native speaker..so..the only book I keep contain new words and phrases.. I guess I will keep another one that will hold the details of my everyday life..

  • brainedet

    Yea, you’re right I have always had a jotter with me to put down , whatever I need to at any point in time. The only problem is that mine isn’t really organised have to do something about it.

  • Barak

    A writers notebook should be your daily companion if by all means you want to be an established writer. I have learnt a lot.

  • Janet

    I stated writing some few months ago. I feel keeping this writers notebook will help me grow in my new hobby that may turn into a career in the future.

  • mcdalit

    I have a notebook that is not Moleskine but it serves its purpose. I use it for everyday journaling. I even put what I eat and when I poop.

  • Treyvon

    I have a small notebook that I use to record any inspirations I come across. It’s not as grand but it helps me a lot.

  • Wamu

    I have owned and lost so many notebooks due to my carelessness. Thanks for the tips on proper storage so that I won’t lose them anymore.

  • Derreck

    Nothing is as frustrating as encountering something noteworthy and finding out you didn’t carry your notebook. It’s very true that one should have his/her notebook wherever they go and at all times.

  • Violet

    A writer without a notebook is like a farmer with no tools. My notebook isn’t organized well but I’m always able to get from it what I need.

  • Sherbert

    I never knew notebooks were this vital in a writer’s life. I am an aspiring writer and your article has helped me a lot. I will be getting a notebook as soon as I can.

Please Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Thomas Slatin

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading