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Posts tagged ‘notebooks’

Waste a notebook with your random ideas

One day when I was in the fourth grade, I got in trouble for not paying attention in class. I was scribbling away on my tablet, writing notes that had nothing to do with what my teacher was talking about. She said I was daydreaming. She said I had to go sit in the hallway. I narrowly avoided a visit to the principal’s office.

Writing in a notebook has been part of me for as long as I can remember. In my notebooks, I write interesting words or phrases, the title of a good book recommendation, the date of the next book club meeting, words of a song that sound like poetry.

At some point, I type the notes from my notebooks into my computer so they’re easy to search. I know that in this electronic age, many people type everything on their digital devices, but I don’t enjoy typing with one finger. Mostly I just enjoy the act of writing with pen in hand. And it gives me a good excuse to buy more notebooks.

Little did I know, with all my scribblings, I was creating a “waste book” in the tradition of 18th century German scientist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, who had a habit of collecting aphoristic notes, ideas, and lists. According to a Scientific American review on, in his student days, Lichtenberg began the lifelong practice of recording his observations and reminders in notebooks that he called “Sudelbücher” after the waste books that English businesses used to enter transactions temporarily until they could be recorded in formal account books.

This is one of my favorite of Lichtenberg’s aphorisms: “The book which most deserved to be banned would be a catalog of banned books.” Lichtenberg’s writings have been translated in The Waste Books.

My waste books might seem a morass of random scribblings to some people, but when I look back at them, I find a gem here and there — an idea that may find it’s way into a story, the root of an essay, or a character waiting to be born.

For another take on keeping a notebook, read my previous post, A twist on the writer’s journal: The commonplace book.


Start the new year by journaling

With the new year almost here, it’s a prime time to get into the practice of keeping a journal. By creating a journaling discipline, you’ll find you establish routines in other areas of your writing life. Below are three previous posts about how journaling can further your writing and storytelling mojo: 

Three ways to unleash your inner journaler:” if you’re trying to decide what kind of journal you want to keep, check out these tips.

Record significant daily events in the 5-Minute Journal:” discover this app for recording significant daily events, ideas for writing projects, or character traits that you notice while out in public. 

My favorite writing journals is a fun post on some of my favorite types of journals. 


What’s in your writer’s notebook? Here’s what’s in mine

I get jittery if I don’t have a notebook with me at all times. I have a tiny one that fits perfectly in my purse. And I have others of all sizes. Boxes of notebooks in all shapes. Stacks of them in all colors. But I digress.

“Carry a notebook” is one of the most common pieces of advice in the writing universe. I use mine to note story or poem flashes — anything that strikes me as odd, sad, funny, out of place, or thrums in my chest — even if I don’t know why I feel compelled to write them down.  I might use these observations as part of a description, an idea for a character, or as a plot for a story.

The act of carrying a notebook primes my subconscious to be in a state of “full observation mode.”

I’m sharing some recent entries from my writer’s notebook in case they inspire you to see more deeply as you live the writer’s life:

Customer at a Denny’s restaurant placing her order:
“I’d like my eggs over hard and burned” Read more