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How to Use Your Notebook To Generate Ideas and Boost Creativity

Updated: Apr 30

A woman writing in a notebook.

A writer can have many tools in her toolbox: computer, dictionary, word processing software, a window and a comfy chair, but to many wordsmiths, nothing quite compares to the usefulness of a notebook.

The notebook is a depository, where many of your captured ideas and inspiration live until you're ready to use them. Thoughts are fleeting, memories are fickle, but notebooks stand the test of time and distance.

The utilitarian notebook is portable, able to travel with you to most places you might venture. For best-selling author Sierra Kay, it’s something she doesn’t leave home without.

“I have at least one on me all the time,” Kay said. “I’m a writer, so I never think it’s odd for me to pull out a notebook.”

Maybe you’re a writer too and you also carry a notebook in your car, purse or jacket pocket.

Capturing obvious nuggets inspiration is one sure-fire way to use the notebook, but how else can an author harness the power of the paper and jump start a creative lull?

Here are four ways you can use your notebook to generate ideas and unleash creativity:

  1. Sorting. One way to generate ideas is to reserve pages for sorting specific levels of inspiration. For instance: Words, Character Names, Adjectives, Adverbs, Smells, Scenery, or Titles. This is next level organization, but could be a treasure chest when it comes to finding just the right word for the paragraph that won't write itself.

  2. Perspective. Most of us spend a great deal of time on screens and pattering away at keyboards, but there is something to be said for seeing words lined up on a piece of paper. “Because I write poetry too, seeing how the words associate with each other on a line of paper matters,” Kay said.

  3. Resource. Don’t forget to actually resource your notebook when you are writing. Not only will it help you remember, but any given passage can also inspire a whole new thought. “Sometimes when I look at a blank screen nothing happens. I can look at my notebook to help generate ideas,” Kay said. The key is remembering to have it handy when you are actually sitting down to write.

  4. Active Observer. Intentionally using your notebook as a landing page for active observing can be a game changer. This is one of our favorite ways to use the notebook for idea generating and busting through writer's block. Try this exercise out for size! Grab your notebook and your favorite pen. Stay where you are, or move to different locations. You can do this literally anywhere. Try listening to conversations, people watching, tasting a meal, taking a hike, watching the rain fall, reading a menu, and the list goes on, the sky is the limit. The name of the game is to observe and record in your notebook what you can pick up with your senses. Train your brain to pay attention to the details, names, movements, smells and shapes. This exercise can provide a missing piece to your story, or can inspire a whole new book! Are you uninspired? Grab your notebook and try this exercise!

Need a new notebook? Sierra Kay offers an inspiring collection to hold all your ideas.

Notebooks for sale.

Did this blog post inspire you to use your notebook as a creativity booster? Comment below, we'd love to know!

Click the hashtag for more #writingtips

Follow Sierra Kay down the modern fairy tale rabbit hole by visiting her book library here.

A woman writing in a notebook.

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