Ways to Use a Pocket Notebook

Travis Poling
May 12, 2018 · 2 min read
  1. Buy the cheapest notebook that’ll fit in your pocket. Spiral-top ones are good for keeping pages together through the ruggedness of daily use. Don’t get too fussy about the design. Expensive ones may be nice, but then you might feel that only nice things can go in it.
  2. Keep it in a pocket or bag close at hand along with a pen. Any pen will do. At night put it next to your bed.
  3. Be ready to capture anything you find interesting or important. Imagine yourself as a journalist, observing and recording the daily events around you.
  4. Copy quotes from reading.
  5. Write down pieces of conversations in the speaker’s own words. Use language you hear around you instead of contriving your own constructions of language.
  6. Make grocery lists.
  7. Make lists that can be writing prompts later: pets you’ve known, people you’ve known personally who’ve died, things you have to do tomorrow, a place you remember as a child, something you regret, favorite vacations, funny family stories, things you notice that are out of the ordinary.
  8. Write down bus arrival times and library book call numbers.
  9. Cross out things when you’re done with them.
  10. Tear out pages you no longer need.
  11. Write important phone numbers.
  12. Pass notes in church.
  13. Doodle in class.
  14. Play hangman or dots.
  15. Write short poems, short stories, long poems.
  16. Take notes on story characters and scenes.
  17. Describe birds or trees so you can look up their names and use them in your writing later.
  18. Outline stories or essays.
  19. Try to fill up a whole notebook in one sitting.
  20. Ask questions of the universe.
  21. Make lists of your favorite stories then see what they all have in common.
  22. Describe one thing that is near you. Go into detail. Use your senses.
  23. Make a list of clichés to avoid or embrace.
  24. Channel your thoughts so you can read them.
  25. Get bad ideas out of your head so you can focus on the ideas that will give you gold.
  26. When you don’t know what to write about, flip through your notebook to find an idea. Copy it into your journal and keep writing.
  27. Draw a map to the store, through the park, around the block.
  28. Write down questions to ask someone later.
  29. Write 3 things you want to remember about each day.
  30. Throw out your notebook when you’re done with it. Go through it and copy into your journal the things you want to keep, then recycle the notebook.
  31. Keep your notebooks if it makes sense for your process.
  32. The pocket notebook is an extension of your short term memory. Store in your journal what you need long term, but make space for more memory by starting a new notebook when one fills up.
  33. Collect the raw ingredients for your writing: the pieces of your life you want to examine with language. They only stay fresh for so long. Mix the ingredients together in your journal. Cook them in your word processor.
Travis Poling

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Writer, teacher, and photographer in Indiana. travispoling.com