Keeping a Notebook


Keeping a notebook is widely recognised as being essential for writers; taking a notebook everywhere and writing down anything inspiring you experience, any ideas that occur to you immediately, before they can be lost.

Somerset Maugham, who kept notebooks for over fifty years, and published extracts as A Writer’s Notebook, described them as “a storehouse of materials for future use.” They are a place to write down anything that could be useful at some time, even if it won’t fit into what you’re currently working on, or it’s an idea that you can’t see how you could develop into a story or poem.

What I find most useful about keeping a notebook is being able to see different thoughts and ideas next to each other. I find that often one idea alone is not enough to make a story out of, and keeping a notebook allows me to see how ideas can fit together, with each other, or with images or potential titles to become something more.

There are different ways to organise your notebook; you could just write everything down in chronological order as it occurs to you, whether it’s a story idea, something you saw, a character sketch, a potential title, etc, or you could divide your notebook into sections for each of those. I have tried both ways, and I prefer not to have different sections, as I didn’t like constantly flicking through to find the right page, and I like to have everything mixed up, where I can see how they could fit together. Different methods work for different people so play around with your notebook a bit to see which is best for you.

Of course it’s not easy to write in your notebook every time something occurs to you; sod’s law dictates that your best ideas will come when you’re working or driving, and there will be times when you feel embarrassed about getting your notebook out in public, but try to get things down while they’re still fresh and before you start doubting yourself about how good it is.


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