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Setting up a Writer’s Notebook

So… today we begin! The journey I hope you’ll join me on… getting in the moment and writing our stories! Whether it’s a new year and you want to get into journaling, or if you’ve never written anything before, this post on setting up a writer’s notebook will help you get started OR restarted!

Setting up a writer’s notebook is a crucial part of creating our stories, so please don’t skip this step! If you’re a digital person, my next post is about the benefits of a digital writer’s notebook, but even that kind of notebook, the purpose will be the same. So it’s important to read through the setup process to see the thought process behind the organizational plan!

One of my favorite writing mentors, Ralph Fletcher, says about writing:

“There is no secret. But there is a process. If you like to write, there are definite steps you can take to help you reach your goals.” (How Writers Work, 3) (Affiliate link)

That’s what this Write in the Moment series is all about – I have no secrets, and you may have heard some of these writing tips before. There’s nothing new under the sun. But I invite you to walk with me through my writing process, to come alongside as you travel your own story road. I hope to encourage you and share ways to make the process a simple part of everyday life. So going forward, we’ll always be equipped to capture and write our stories.
Homeschool Resource Bundle Book Collage

Setting up a writer’s notebook is just the first step of the process.setting up a writers notebook

setting up a writers notebook

I recommend ye olde marbled Composition Book! It’s sturdy with stitched binding, and lots and lots of wide-margin pages. I don’t recommend spiral bound notebooks. The spirals bend and break and the pages easily tear out.

As a middle school writing teacher for five years, I have seen marble composition notebooks survive middle school boys, when their spiral bound and 3 ring binders did not! If you need something pretty, there are gorgeous composition notebooks out there! I especially like these Decomposition Notebooks that are made from recycled paper – aren’t the covers lovely (although… in a next step, I’m going to tell you to cover over them, so consider before you buy!).

Top Flight Sewn Composition Book, Black and White Marble, Wide Rule, 100 Sheets (41353)Under the Sea Decomposition Book: College-Ruled Composition Notebook With 100% Post-Consumer-Waste Recycled PagesComposition Notebook, 8.5 x 11, 110 pages : Boho Style: (School Notebooks)Vintage Bicycles Decomposition Book: College-ruled Composition Notebook With 100% Post-consumer-waste Recycled PagesCoffee Cup Decomposition Book: College-ruled Composition Notebook With 100% Post-consumer-waste Recycled PagesWild Garden Decomposition Book: College-Ruled Composition Notebook With 100% Post-Consumer-Waste Recycled PagesUnless you get the very large size, I don’t recommend moleskin notebooks – I find their lines too tiny and confining! You need space to write and think!

You’ll need a stash of great pens. I recommend blue or black. Or… you can go with a fun set of colorful pens! (if you’re using markers like me just be sure they’re the scrapbooking ones that don’t bleed through the pages – I like Zig writers). Also, for editing and revising, I recommend getting some green and purple pens, but that is bonus advice because generally we won’t edit and revise inside our writing notebook.

Zig Memory System Writer Dual-Tip Markers, Multicolor, 8-PackEK tools Zig Memory System Dual Tip Writing Pen, BlackFineliner Pens, iBayam 24 Colors Fine Tip Colored Writing Drawing Markers Pens Fine Line Point Marker Pen Set for Bullet Journal Planner Note Calendar Coloring Art Projects

I do not recommend pencil. On the one hand, pencil is waterproof. But that’s about it’s only redeeming quality. Pencil smudges easier, can be hard to read if it writes lightly, and is too easy to erase. Part of my philosophy of keeping a writing notebook is that we never erase. Crossing out is okay, because at least you can trace your path back if you need to, but once you erase… it’s gone.

But I’m getting ahead of myself!

Okay, Composition Book. Check. Blue or black pens. Check.

On to Setting up the Writer’s Notebook

First a word about what a writer’s notebook is NOT: It’s not meant to be a “Dear Diary” book where you log daily, dated entries about what you ate, who you saw, or how many times the baby spit up. Nor is it a journal where you gush stream-of-consciousness onto forty pages whenever you feel the need to “release” your thoughts.

Fletcher says, “I think of my notebook as a net with holes so tiny that no idea can slip through.” (How Writers Work, 13)

I personally like to think of my notebook like a garden. I plant my ideas there. Nurture them. And sometimes one of them grows into a story or a poem!

Create an Index in your Writer’s Notebook

setting up a writers notebook

The first two pages, I set aside for my index. There are 100 sheets (200 pages) in a Composition Notebook, so two pages is enough to record each sheet. I either don’t use the backs of sheets, or I use them to continue what is on the front, so I only number the sheets, not the pages.

Why create an index? Because as you progress further into your writer’s notebook, you may have so much content, you forget where you put that list of funny things your third child said. With the index, you’ll be able to find it quickly. Now, you may not find the index to be useful for you, but I enjoy having it.

I number the first ten sheets or so, and then just keep up as I go.

Decorate your Writer’s Notebook

Oh, now the fun part! In fact, this is the first step in collecting seed ideas for writing! Find some decorations for the front and back cover of your writer’s notebook. Decorations that visualize you, your life, and have meaning for you. Here’s a few ideas:

  • Pretty duct tape – I always tape the spine for added reinforcement.
  • Scrapbook paper – I lay down a background of patterned paper, so that I will never have any bare spots!
  • Photos – generally of the topics you hope to write about
  • Magazine cuttings
  • Words that define you
  • Quotes that inspire you!
  • Stickers
  • Alphabet letters – spell your name, your kids’ names, words that are important to you
  • Fortune cookie fortunes
  • Tickets from plays, sports games, events

Don’t worry about filling up the entire notebook at once. I just laid down a few items on the front and cut up some words about mothers (from an extra print out I had of my DIY Gift for Mom idea!). As I go, I’ll add more decorations to the book, and perhaps even write about a few.

setting up a writers notebook

Doesn’t that just change everything? It makes me want to get started writing!

Your decorations are all seed ideas to help you generate a piece of writing! So again, be sure your decorations really speak to you as a writer! Since my purpose with this series is about capturing my mothering moments, all my decorations will be about that aspect of  my life (other writing notebooks of mine have depicted travel and hobby decorations, and it’s perfectly fine to keep separate notebooks for various writing topics if you need to!).

Here’s some great decorating ideas for you to get started:

Duck Duct Tape, Assorted Prints and Sizes, Great Designs for Crafting, Pack of 6 Rolls24 Rolls Washi Tape Set - The Theme of nature, 24 different designs about flower and leaves Decorative Masking Tape Collection (15mm Wide)me & my BIG ideas Fitness StickersSticko Sweetheart Gold Script Alphabet StickerSo. These is your task for now:

  • Procure a writer’s notebook.
  • Stock up on pens.
  • Create an index (which for now will likely be nothing but the first two pages set aside and numbered 1-100 (use front and back).
  • Decorate your notebook (at least a little).

Want more writing workshop? Here’s the rest of the series (to be updated):

If you’re getting “write in the moment” with me, please share a photo of your decorated notebook on my Facebook page! I’d love to see your beginnings!

Setting Up a Writers Notebook


Disclosure: Affiliate links have been used in this post. Purchases made after clicking the links may generate a small commission for me. All opinions are my own.


Tuesday 21st of April 2020

Love this! I never actually write an index, but it seems like such a simple idea that I completely overlooked. I think the organisation is my main issue, I have so many notebooks that even they need and index! :)

Create An Editorial Calendar For Your Blog - The Frangipani Creative

Monday 23rd of September 2019

[…] usually note down ideas as they occur to me into my writer’s notebook (I created one like this).  Then I transfer them online using on to Evernote, to which I also have saved […]

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Monday 24th of June 2019



Tuesday 24th of July 2018

This is terrific! Thank you for sharing. Happy writing!

Brenda Williams

Friday 21st of September 2018

I really enjoyed reading about the notebook great ideas


Wednesday 21st of March 2018

Very refreshing to have a realistic simple approach to writing. Sometimes we dwell more on the fancies and miss the practicalities - this is why I personally appreciate this approach.