Stepping Stones Blog

Writer’s OCD: What Works for Me (Part 1)

Journals I use to write meaningful quotes on writing, travel, and photography.

Journals I use to write meaningful quotes on writing, travel, and photography.

In my last post I wrote about embracing my “Left-brain” temperament.  I alluded to the fact that this has manifested itself in some OCD tendencies with regards to a writing practice, and I promised to share my new-found system for others who may be interested.

Let me give a little background.

I have read numerous books on writing, and each one praises the benefits of maintaining a writer’s notebook:   a place to jot down ideas, snippets of overheard conversations, brief descriptions of characters as they cross our path, etc.

I LOVE this idea, not only from the practical aspect (the ole brain is not nearly as reliable as it once was) .. but also from the romantic image it conjures in my mind:  from the adorable Harriet the Spy, who guards her spiral notebook like a most prized possession, to Ernest Hemingway who faithfully carries his moleskin to the French cafe each morning.

However, maintaining a writer’s notebook is not as easy as I thought.  The block, I discovered, is not my unwillingness to write, but more my difficulty in writing about “everything” in one all-encompassing notebook.  Where is the organization?  How can I keep notes about memoir in the same space that I keep notes about historical fiction?  And how can I readily access a specific entry within this sea of seemingly unrelated ideas?

I was overwhelmed before I began… but I did not want to admit defeat.  I knew there had to be a way that this left-brained, highly organized, intentional  yet passionate “person-who-liked-to-write” could become a writer.

The various journals I use on a regular basis.  Just looking at them brings a smile to my face...

The various journals I use on a regular basis. Just looking at them brings a smile to my face…

My solution:  several different notebooks.  My favorite style is a composition notebook I found at the back-to-school sales last year.  The colorful cover is a soft and pliable, not stiff like the traditional version, and I prefer the college-ruled pages.  At a cost of about $2.00 each, I do not feel guilty using so many, and the fear of the blank page is considerably reduced.  Currently my notebook use is as follows:

  • one for travel  (blog post ideas, bucket list dreams, research possibilities, etc).
  • one for NaNoWriMo research (currently, Post French Impressionism with a focus on VanGogh)
  • one in my purse to jot down when I am out and about (I then return home and transfer those ideas to the “appropriate” journal).
  • one for blog post ideas (divided into three sections for Writing – Travel – Photography)
  • one as a “junk drawer” – that is, a journal that I use for those notes or ideas that do not easily fit into one of the pre-assigned notebooks.
  • And TWO  for my life story.  It is this system that I will discuss in detail in my next post.

While using multiple journals currently works for me, I would love to hear how you have modified the writer’s notebook to suit your specific needs and personality.  I am always open to suggestions to tweak an idea to make it better.

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1 Comment

  1. joyweesemoll

    I’ve played with Writer’s Notebooks but fallen down at the same spot that you did. No organization meant that I never looked at them again, which also meant that I quit writing in them. Perhaps, several notebooks would work for me as well. Something to ponder.

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