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The convenience and wide accessibility of the internet are both its blessing and its curse. Although modern technologies such as Google Docs, Word, and Grammarly certainly make writing easier, simply using a laptop can make getting distracted easier, too. That’s why one of the best tools writers can use is an old-fashioned notebook. I’ve created a writer’s journal and will explain how you can do it yourself. There’s no right or wrong way, though, so feel free to customize my suggestions.
1) Splurge on a high-quality notebook or journal.
I wouldn’t recommend one with spiral binding or perforated pages that tear out easily since you’ll want this one to last. Get one that’s bound, with paper of a sturdy weight (either ruled or blank pages are fine). I personally recommend Moleskine journals or journals in that style. They feature leather covers, lined paper, a silk bookmark, and a pocket in the back for storing loose pieces of paper, maybe sketches or encouraging letters. Pick a notebook small enough to be portable and large enough to feel comfortable.
You can purchase a three-pack of softcover Moleskines from Target for roughly half the price the Moleskine website charges.
You can also purchase a hardcover version here.
Or try this version with rows of dots instead of lines:
2) Use the first two to four pages for a table of contents.
Find out how many pages your notebook has, and number each line on these pages accordingly. For instance, if your notebook has one-hundred-fifty pages, start on page one and number the first line one, the second line two, and so forth.
Since you’re using the first few pages, you’ll actually have slightly fewer pages than the stated amount. For my notebook, which had about two hundred pages, since I used four pages for my table of contents, I ended up with one-hundred ninety-six pages left to use.
You don’t have to figure out how many pages you’ll want for each section of your journal right away. Instead, you can start writing and add the title to the table of contents later. If, for example, you have a short story idea, you can jot it down quickly on any page you’d like. Then go back to the table of contents and write “short story prompt” on the appropriate line.
3) Number your pages.
This doesn’t have to be done all at once. You can write page numbers on the first, say, fifty pages, and then add more numbers as you go along.
4) Start journaling.
I prefer using pens (I bought a pack of fun assorted colors), though you can use pencils, stickers, markers, etc.
That’s all there is to it. You can record interesting quotes, your writing progress for the day, chapter outlines, drawings, character sketches, and more here. I’ve got everything from notes on under-rated mythological creatures to funny anecdotes I want to incorporate into my stories. Flexibility is the name of the game. Don’t feel tied down to one format, but just write as inspiration comes.
Keep calm and journal on!