Keeping a Writer’s Notebook

A writer’s notebook is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a notebook where you keep all your writerly thoughts, observations, and experiments. It’s not dedicated to a certain project, and it’s not a diary. It’s the sandbox, the practice field, the dark, rich earth where you plant writing seeds.

OK, enough poetics.

A writer’s notebook is hands-down the best tool for writers. It’s a safe, personal space for you to just think like a writer, to play with language, and above all, to write every day. I’m sure everyone has heard the old adage, “Writers write everyday.” Well, keeping a writer’s notebook is the only way I’ve ever been able to live up to that.

Step 1: Get yourself a notebook!

This can be anything. A composition notebook, a file on your computer, an app on your phone, a fancy-dancy journal like mine.

Writer's Notebook
I like trees.

As long as it’s yours, you can dedicate it to being a writer’s notebook, and you enjoy writing in it, it counts! Liking it is key because we are more likely to write if we use tools we enjoy using.


Step 2: Start writing!

To be a writer, the key is to think like a writer all the time. Every day you overhear fantastic bits of conversations, watch interesting interactions, and are inspired by everything from an article you read to the way sunlight hits the raindrops just right. Write it down! Here’s an example from my own writer’s notebook.

Writer's Notebook Excerpt

On the left, you can see I’ve recorded a few great quotes I got from somewhere: the internet, books, songs, or other people. Then there’s some math that for the life of me I cannot remember why I did it… It must have been writing related somehow!

On the right you have part of a longer entry. I decided to do a free write that focused on one word. The word I chose was audacity, probably because of the second quote I recorded on the left. That’s not the whole entry, it’s just the only part I feel like sharing because believe it or not, I get even more maudlin and pathetic on the following page.


Step 3: Use it as inspiration!

The next time you sit down to write whatever it is you write, be it novel, short story, poetry, or blog post, dig through your writer’s notebook for inspiration. Odds are you recorded some line, image or story idea to get you started. 

A writer’s notebook is actually a great way to overcome writer’s block!


Keys to keeping a writer’s notebook:

  • Take it with you everywhere.
  • Write in it every day.
  • Don’t worry about “writing well”. This is a place to experiment!
  • Don’t limit yourself to things that have immediate relevance to certain projects.
  • It’s not a personal journal, so don’t use it like a diary.
Writer's Notebook
Ralph Fletcher is amazing!


If you need prompts, ideas, or inspiration, check out A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You by Ralph Fletcher. It’s used widely in English classrooms (including mine!). It’s written in such a way that it’s accessible to a wide range of audiences, from elementary school children to experienced adult writers.

Good luck! Let me know how it goes! 🙂

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