Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Quick Take: Carry a writer’s notebook

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Mar• 10•14


Carry a writer’s notebook. Always. A writer’s notebook trains you to be a relentless observer. Using the notebook forces you to capture the endless ideas, phrases and stories that pop into our heads but are lost unless we jot them down immediately. So many of our ideas are lost unless we note them as soon as they occur.  So pause and record those sudden insights and flashes.

Then look around; pay attention to weather, recording the first breath of spring or the muffled magic of a snowfall.  Write about people, a co-worker who drives you crazy, your high school sweet heart, your in-laws and childhood bullies. Write about your memories, beliefs, and questions, but remember this is not a diary. It’s a canvass, a safe, deep place to throw words together with Jackson Pollack abandon.

Practice characters sketches, scenes, outlines and poems. Write about grief, loss, jealousy and other strong emotions. Write about bugs, trees, gardens, vistas, creatures, and flowers. Collect scents that you can later infuse into a story.  Write about how you imagine life in the West of 1800s or England in the Middle Ages. Write about places, worlds far from your own, populated by cowboys, sheiks, philanthropists, gypsies, Arctic explorers, royalty, conquerors, and orphans. Jot your observations of people you spot at the county fair, supermarket, or shopping mall. Write about the weather, the lighting at dusk, the night sky awash in silver light, a dinner party that lingered on with laughter and secrets and warmth. Write a scene or a description of an old couple holding hands. Write a conversation, a letter, a diary entry told in a character’s voice. Never go into the world alone; arm yourself as a writer.

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One Comment

  1. Paddy says:

    Great advice. It’s one of those “why didn’t I think of that” moments or a V-8 head bump which in itself is write-aboutable.

    One sense we often forget to use is smell. If we use our notebook when we encounter specific smells, we’re more likely to be able to identify it from experience than we are from memory.

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