A writer’s notebook is a valuable tool to capture words, phrases, and ideas that occur to you through the day and that you might want to use in your writing.

The purpose of the notebook, which could be an iPad, a traditional paper notebook, or even a 3×5 card, is to scribble down snippets of information that occur to you when you are away from your desk.

The information could take several forms:

  • a word or phrase you read or hear and you like it because of its imagery or action
  • a word that you like but that you want to look up to be sure of the definition
  • details in a story that you think are particularly descriptive
  • a lead on a news article of feature story that you think is effective
  • a possible topic for a story
  • an observation that you want to develop in a blog post, column, or article. Perhaps you observe a family dining out but paying no attention to each other because everyone is riveted to a mobile device, and you want to write a piece about the ramifications of being tethered to technology.

These thoughts could occur to you while you are reading the news, poring over magazines in a waiting room, talking with a colleague in the hall, resting on a park bench, sitting at a red light, and certainly while doing a crossword puzzle.

The information might be valuable in something you are writing now or that you will be writing. They might be what writing coach Don Murray called “an itch waiting to be scratched,” a topic that you want to explore in a blog post, an essay, or commentary. Or you might just want to add the words and techniques to your writer’s toolbox.