In praise of the writer’s notebook…


I’m addicted to my writer’s notebooks. Have been since college. My writer’s notebook is where the ideas that matter (to my books and to my life) start percolating.

How I use the notebooks has changed over time. In fact, when I flip through them, I can tell a lot about where I am in the writing process based on my handwriting and how I use the page. Loose script dashed diagonally across the page? Definitely a sudden inspiration, probably jotted down while walking. Tight lists with page numbers? I’m trying to get unstuck by analyzing a novel I admire. Entry that begins, “why do I always forget how hard this is?” Self talk during a first draft. Crazy cartoons and doodles surrounded by quotations? Me, at a reading (probably after a glass of wine)…

Now that I’ve been doing it for almost 10 years, keeping a writer’s notebook is kind of like clicking on the Time Machine function on my Mac. I can see all those different writing Ashleys–and how they led me to my current place. 

I have changed through these notebooks, but the most crucual benefit they offer me hasn’t changed. My writer’s notebook lets me take my writing anywhere. It turns every park bench, bus seat, or cafe table into a workable writing space. 

Even when I’m working with Scrivener on my Mac, my writer’s notebook is open. I move back and forth between the two, using the physical notebook as a safe space to think out an idea (and question it) before or even as I draft a scene.

My notebooks also save my butt via the reading lists I tuck inside them, lists of (with secret notations) every book that I read or listen to. They save my butt because I’m one of those people who blanks when asked their favorite book (I have too many!). Having the lists makes it easier to track down the right recommendations when asked, too.

P.S. Just click on the “writersnotebook” tab for my blog to see bits from many different notebooks. One of my favorite posts is here


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