It’s a cliché, definitely, but pretty much all writers have a stack of unused notebooks and journals lying around somewhere. It might be a source of immense shame, or immense pride, depending on the writer. Or it might just be a source of confusion. After all, you bought the notebook because it was cute and half price…and now what do you do with it?
Luckily, I have a list of different uses for those notebooks. I think that journals are a great tool for writers, so I’ve compiled five different types of journals/notebooks that can be used for writers. Of course, you don’t have to use any of them, but I reckon at least giving them a try is worth it. 🙂
(And then, of course, once you’ve used up a few notebooks, you’ve got an excuse to buy more!)
A Novel Bible
Novel bibles are an extremely helpful tool and one that I rely on quite a lot. Whenever I decide to start working on a new novel, I choose an A5 notebook from my stash and I start on the first page by listing my characters. Then I’ll go on to complete a detailed profile for each of the characters listed on the front page. Then I’ll do my plot outline in the next pages and miscellaneous info, plus worldbuilding and random ideas in the following pages. Of course, you can set out your notebook any way you want, and you can always use a computer file instead of an actual notebook. But look, if you’re a writer, you probably have a lot of spare notebooks hanging around, so why not use them?
A commonplace book
When I first heard about commonplace books, I thought they were like “the new bullet journal” or something like that. But after researching them, I found out that they’ve existed (under that name), for hundreds of years. And also, that I’d been keeping one for ages!
Commonplace books are essentially just a notebook that you write down things that hold meaning for you. They can be quotes, passages from books, Bible verses, phrases, or even just words. You can decorate them as you like, doing little doodles or full on masterpieces. Whatever you want, you can do it. A commonplace book is merely a way to hold things that are important to you in a compact, easy to find and easy to add to place.
In my commonplace book, I have separate sections for different topics, but also just pages where I can write whatever I fancy. For example, I have a page dedicated to quotes that remind me of The Stars Fill Infinity.
I think commonplace books work great for writers, because they’re an easy way to compile quotes, that can be later used as philosophies for characters or for boiling themes down to a simple idea. It’s also great fun just to keep one!
A prayer journal
Out of all the journals I’ve mentioned here, this is the one that I keep the most vigorously. I write in my prayer journal every night before bed.
A prayer journal is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a notebook to record your prayers in. Its a great way to stay focussed during prayer times (which is so hard) and to remember the things you prayed for, so that you can record the way your prayers are answered.
But also, for me anyway, my prayer journals are the place where I pour out all my most raw emotions. Reading back over my journals can sometimes be a bit cringeworthy (“why the heck did I even care about that?” “My word, I was a drama queen”), the emotions I express in them are authentic. They are real and that’s invaluable help to a writer who can’t quite remember being an melodramatic thirteen year old.
A favourites/ List book
I don’t have a single notebook dedicated to lists of favourites, but I’m thinking about starting one. A favourites book is simply a list of favourite things. I have a miscellaneous notebook in which I often scribble down “my favourite movies” or “my favourite tropes”. I think just keeping a book of favourites is a great way to have a bit of fun. The topics can be silly (“Top ten favourite chocolate bars”), or serious (“Five Social Justice Issues I care about”) and they can be handy for adding little quirks, or big beliefs, to characters. The more you flesh out your characters, the more relatable and realistic they become, and just having the knowledge of a few things, like their favourite colours, can help tremendously.
And it doesn’t just have to be your favourites. Ask your friends and family to contribute their answers–make it a fun project for a long car trip, or a weekend away. You’ll learn more about those closest to you and it will help diversify your characters even more.
A regular old journal
Nothing really beats the good old fashioned journal. A friend gifted my whole family journals as a Christmas present last year, so we have time every day where we write or draw in our journals, whatever happens to be on our mind, whether that be big or small (the things I’ve mentioned in my journal range from: thoughts on abortion, Jim Crow laws, and identity, to what I cooked for dinner last night and my thoughts on the TV shows and movies I’ve been watching).
This year has been a huge year of change for me, but through it all I’ve written in my journal three to four times a week, on heaps of things that matter to me and occupy my thoughts. Looking back on it in a year or several years will help me to remember the good times and the bad times, and to be more able to accurately write the emotions of my characters as they go through similar things, or to remember random facts I scribbled down in a state of boredom.
So there’s a few ideas to help you use up some of those pretty little notebooks! Do you keep any of these journals already? Do you have any other suggestions? What sort of journal is your favourite?