Your Writer’s Notebook

Oct 30, 2014 | Better Writing

By 1930, when he was sixteen, Dylan Thomas had developed the habit of capturing his thoughts and ideas for poems in small notebooks. You could see them during the celebration of his 100th birthday at a “Dylan Thomas Notebooks Exhibition.”

The first writer’s notebook that I was aware of belonged to a member of our church who was a reporter. It was the classic reporter’s notebook and he always had at least one stuck in a pocket. Yours may not be a reporter’s notebook, but a handy notebook can make you a better writer.

Use your notebook to aid your memory

“The palest ink is stronger than the strongest memory.” I don’t know if that’s a real Chinese proverb or not, but it’s true. If you capture ideas and descriptions in your notebook, they’re always there for you.

Use your notebook to capture your ideas

Human beings have ideas all the time. But if you don’t capture them right away they disappear into thin air. If you capture your ideas in a notebook, you can act on them later.

Use your notebook to make yourself a better observer

When you make the effort to describe a situation or idea in writing, you pay more attention. You’re more likely to notice details or contrasts if you’re taking notes.

Don’t just take my word for it

Writers and many other successful people have used notebooks to capture ideas and observations. Here are two posts with some examples.

From Ryan Dunn: Six Famous Notebook Users

“Research has indicated that keeping a notebook handy can actually improve a person’s creativity. While the research is fairly new, people have known about the usefulness of journaling for as long as paper and writing utensils have been readily available. Here’s a list of six well-known individuals who understood the importance of capturing fleeting thoughts into a notebook for creativity.”

From Brett & Kate McKay: The Pocket Notebooks of 20 Famous Men

“The result is this look at how 20 famous men used their pocket notebooks. The list is hardly comprehensive; the practice was so widespread among eminent men that it would likely be easier to compile a list of famous men who did not use them, than did. And the choices are a bit eccentric; men who were famous for their interesting and numerous notebooks are well-represented but also included are a few from the past and present that just happened to cross our path during the course of our research. Where images of the notebooks were available they have been shown; in their absence a description will have to do.”