Writing Ideas: Using Sketchbooks for Journal Writing and Brainstorming
These days, we writers use computers for most of our writing. But a lot of us admit there’s still something about good old-fashioned pen and paper that really gets creativity flowing.
It’s difficult to brainstorm on a computer or jot down notes and random thoughts, and it’s impossible to doodle in the margins (unless you have some extra fancy equipment). So for journal writing, note-taking, and brainstorming sessions, I like to do it old school.
Over the years, I’ve collected hordes of journals and notebooks. Some of them are pretty and whimsical. Others are simple and functional. I always go through lots of spiral notebooks for business note-taking, but when it comes to journal writing and creative brainstorming, I have learned (the hard way) that I have pretty basic but specific needs that my journal must fulfill.
Journal Writing Needs
What we need from a notebook depends on how we use it. If it gets carried around, dropped, and spilled on, then it needs to be robust. If we like to draw or sketch, then it’s better if the paper is unlined. Some notebooks are throwaways but sometimes we want to create something that lasts.
I use several notebooks that are throwaways. These are primarily for planning, outlining and taking business-related notes. When they’re filled up, I pull out the pages I want to keep, stash them in a binder, and recycle the rest. However, I keep journals for writing poetry, developing ideas, and recording my thoughts. These journals are keepers, not throwaways.
I need a hardbound journal so it can withstand lots of use. It can’t be too big or too small. Something in the 5×8 inch range is just right. The paper must be archival quality because there’s less yellowing and tearing with higher quality paper. Most importantly, the pages have to be unlined. I like to doodle and draw when the mood strikes. Occasionally, I write sideways, upside down, or even in circles (a technique for breaking through writer’s block). They can also handle markers, which I use often in brainstorming.
Sure, I can brainstorm and mind-map right over a line-ruled page, but why should I? Those lines are inhibiting and I need creative freedom.
The best thing about the Watson-Guptill (and other unlined, hardbound sketchbooks) is that if you are an artist and a writer or someone who likes to paste photos or clippings into your journals, they’re perfect because the pages are thick and unlined.
The Watson-Guptill sketchbooks come in several different colors including red, black, green, and purple. I’ve got one in every color! They are 5.5 by 8.5 inches and contain archival-quality blank, unlined paper. You can also get a larger size (about 8×10 inch) and landscape-oriented editions.
I find that when I work in these books, writing ideas flow effortlessly. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the hardcover (it feels so much like a real book). Maybe it’s the potential in all that white space. All I know is that I start feeling creative just by looking at one of them!
What Are Your Favorite Journal Writing Tools?
So there is only one journal for me: the Watson-Guptill Sketchbook. And the more I use these sketchbooks for my journal writing, the more I love them.
I know that writers love to rave about Moleskines. My confession for today is that although I have one, I haven’t used it yet (although I’m looking forward to trying it). When the right project comes along, I’ll break it out and do a little comparative analysis.
What’s your favorite type of notebook for journal writing? Do you find that your writing tools (pens, notebooks, etc.) spark or inhibit the flow of creativity and writing ideas? Do you keep separate notebooks for planning, note-taking, and different types of writing?