A writer’s notebook is so much more than a journal or diary. It’s the writer’s place to “play,” to “practice,” the equivalent of an artist’s sketchbook or a musician’s jam session. It’s where we get in the habit of putting our thoughts into words, and practice the techniques that will make us better writers. Here’s a list of some strategies, things you can do with your writer’s notebook:


·        Freewriting – write as much as you can as fast as you can. Time yourself; when you’re through, go back and read what you wrote, and see if there’s anything interesting there that you’d like to explore.

·        Brainstorming – Make a list of topics, as quickly as you can, then choose one and write about it. Save the list so you can add to it later; for example, put it in the back of your notebook and try again some other time.

·        Look out the window and write what you see, or listen and write what you hear. Don’t just describe it; try to think about whatever is out there. For example, a bridge might make you wonder about all the people crossing over it and where they’re going; a house might inspire thoughts about who lives there, or who once lived there.

·        Take an object and see how many different things you can say about it. Again, don’t just describe its physical characteristics; what can it be used for? Where did it come from? What does it represent? Etc…

·        Write bits of conversation you overhear. Listen to someone talking on the phone and try to figure out what the other person is talking about. Watch people talking from a distance and imagine what they might be saying. Observe how people behave, how they speak, how they react. (Be careful with these; be discreet.)

·        Think about an important life experience and write down every detail you can remember. Try to remember as much as you can, right down to the smallest bit.

·        Lists – things you enjoy, things that make you happy/sad/angry, things that bother you, words and expressions you hear, people you know, etc., etc., etc.

·        Test your memory – see how much you can remember about a familiar topic.

·        Work out a problem, make a decision, or make plans. Weigh the pros and cons by writing them down.

·        Cut out a picture or an article from the newspaper or a magazine, paste it in your notebook and write about it. One idea: make up a story from what you see in the picture.

·        Interview yourself; write on one side of the page, then respond on the other. Don’t ask yourself things you already know, like your age and hometown; try to find out things you don’t know about yourself.

·        Write and explore ideas for future writing projects, like stories.

·        Respond to music, a song, a TV show, a movie, or anything else you see or hear.

·        Write in different places, besides the classroom and your home.

·        Find a new strategy; try and think of something that’s not on this list.

·        Re-read your notebook and see if there’s anything you’d like to revisit, or write more about.