Use a Writer's Notebook to Inspire Your Craft

I love using a simple notebook. I invest in one I really enjoy, focusing on the feel of the pages, the texture of the cover, and the lightness of the book (I like to carry it in my bag). Then, when I'm moved to, I fill it with scribbles, jotting down ideas and inspirations as they come. 

But it's more than a tool, this notebook I invest in. It helps me to always be an active writer, no matter where I am, no matter what I'm doing. By training my focus on "art in every moment", I live a writer's life. And that's part of my own writerly self-esteem. 

Here are a few ways of using a notebook to further your own writing and enjoy your craft.

Remind yourself, whenever it occurs to you, about why you write--or will yourself to write. Susan Sontag writes in her collection Against Interpretation: And Other Essays, "The notebooks of a writer have a very special function: in them he builds up, piece by piece, the identity of a writer to himself. Typically, writers’ notebooks are crammed with statements about the will: the will to write, the will to love, the will to renounce love, the will to go on living." 

Lay down your own "Commandments for Writing." And of course, these can be added to whenever you like. Henry Miller used his own notebook to lay down his own "Commandments of Writing." These include "When you can't create you can work," and "Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers." What are your own commandments? (Mine include, "If you're not being nakedly honest, cut, cut, cut.")

Collect "found" bits and bobs that excite or inspire. You never know where they'll take you. In an awesome BBC News piece called "Writers' notebooks: 'A junkyard of the mind'", writer Lawrence Norfolk explores the phenomenon. He tells us that Thomas Hardy and his first wife Emma noted down incidents culled from local newspapers in their own notebook: "One entry (barely three lines long) is headed Sale of Wife. Out of that fragment came The Mayor of Casterbridge," notes Norfolk.

Don't lose your ideas! In The Guardian, Will Self outlines his rules for writing, including, "Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever." Now isn't that just the truth?

Make your notebook a memory library. Says Holiday Reinhorn, in an interview at LitReactor, "I label each notebook I go through by place and date. I title everything I write in there and keep a table of contents so I can travel back through them like a memory library. All of my stories come from notebooks, initially."

Do you use a writer's notebook yourself? If so, how do you use it? If not, does the idea appeal?

Image credit: Mattes (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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About the Author

Sue Williams is co-founder of Here Booky Booky ( where authors' works are made into beautiful books. With a background in psychology, education, and online marketing, she is an instructor and confidence coach at Grub Street and has published her short stories at a variety of magazines and journals including Narrative (where she also worked as an editor), Salamander, the Yalobusha Review, and elsewhere. Under her pen name, Sue is agented, has published a novel and several collections, writes columns on sexuality and spirituality, and also runs an indie press. As Sue, she works as a marketing assistant for branding and marketing expert Dorie Clark, and also coaches writers who are looking to build their confidence and platforms. Find out more at and

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