Playmate, Workshop, and Landing Place for the Muse
Just as every artist needs a sketchbook, every writer must have a writer’s notebook. This is your laboratory, your studio, your portable workshop.
Your writer's notebook is the place you write down those images that come to you while you’re out in the world. It can even teach you to pay attention to that world. It's your junk drawer, your playground, the cupboard where you store ingredients for your writerly stew.
Your writer's notebook is where you jot down those terrific lines of dialogue that arrive disembodied from any known character (or maybe from the eavesdropping you did at the café or on the bus).
This is the friend who will listen to you as your work through the knot in your psychic shoelace, the place you make a list of 50 words for the color orange or record the color of sky that October morning you gazed into it from your place beneath a kaleidoscope of maple leaves.
Your notebook is where you’ll do your daily writing practice. It’s where you’ll work on stories and poems and copy down the observations and complaints of some new character who won't leave you be. You'll write down your own observations, too, and your worries and concerns. These pages are where you draft the map of your story's setting or tweak a plot point or create imaginary worlds.
It's your playground and your therapist's couch. Your refuge and your escape. This is where you scribble free-form and where you can be as messy as you want—in fact it helps to be messy; creativity is a messy business.
Your writer’s notebook is what you carry with you all the time. Novelist and writing teacher John DuFresne says, “A notebook is a reminder that you are a writer.” Maybe you have two or three: one that fits in your back pocket or daypack, one that slides under the seat of your car or under your bed at night, and one that fits in your briefcase or book bag.
You may be tempted to use your laptop or tablet or smart phone as your only writer's notebook. And to be sure these electronic devices serve a writer in many ways, not the least of which as the place we actually write (and rewrite) our manuscripts.
But as a receptacle for all those sudden ideas and wild thoughts that come any hour of the day or night no matter where you are, you need your old-school notebook.
It's what you surreptitiously slip out in a darkened theater to make note of particular line of dialogue, what you open and flip through and find what you thought you'd lost, the one you reach for when a line for a poem comes in the middle of the night.
My personal choice for day-in and day-out use run to the inexpensive spiral-bound notebooks picked up for cheap at office supply stores. I also carry a small notebook in my bag or slip into my back pocket when I'm out for a walk.
I keep another one at the breakfast table where I begin my morning writing practice. When I start a new project, as I have recently, I begin a new notebook, too, usually one a little more special than the plain spiral-bound. All those blank, waiting pages are as inviting to me as a bed with freshly changed sheets.
Choose your notebook as you choose all your writerly tools. Style or cost is not what matters. Neither is size or shape. What matters is what works best for you. Choose the notebook that makes you feel most like the writer you are.
Try writing a new first sentence everyday. Or an image or phrase or even a word you love. Write quotes that inspire you, prompts you want to write to. Take a sensory inventory at any given moment.
Write down the sounds, the smells, the textures you experience. Describe what's right in front of you; who knows when you can use it. It's all practice and it all feeds your writing.
Your writer's notebook can be your ever-present writing companion, keeper of your creativity and witness to your process. It's private and personal and it's uniquely yours.
So today or tomorrow, at some time, prearranged or spontaneous, open your notebook, settle in, and begin.
About Judy Reeves
Judy Reeves is a writer, teacher and writing practice provocateur who has published four books on the writing craft, including A Writer's Book of Days and, most recently, Wild Women, Wild Voices.
She has been teaching writing and leading workshops for more than 25 years, and currently teaches at San Diego Writers, Ink, a nonprofit literary organization she co-founded and at writing conferences and retreats internationally.
She's also been writing since she was a child and has so many writer's notebooks she has to rent a storage unit to keep them.
Her website is judyreeveswriter.com
Check out Judy's book:
First published a decade ago, A Writer's Book of Days has become the ideal writing coach for thousands of writers. Newly revised, with new prompts, up-to-date Web resources, and more useful information than ever, this invaluable guide offers something for everyone looking to put pen to paper — a treasure trove of practical suggestions, expert advice, and powerful inspiration.
Judy Reeves meets you wherever you may be on a given day with:
• get-going prompts and exercises
• insight into writing blocks
• tips and techniques for finding time and creating space
• ways to find images and inspiration
• advice on working in writing groups
• suggestions, quips, and trivia from accomplished practitioners
Reeves's holistic approach addresses every aspect of what makes creativity possible (and joyful) — the physical, emotional, and spiritual. And like a smart, empathetic inner mentor, she will help you make every day a writing day.
Named one of the five hottest writing books by Writer's Digest
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