Serving students and faculty since 1971

“If I’m going to set the literary world on fire, the only way to do it is to rub one word against another.   ‘A writer’s notebook is one place to start rubbing.’ ” (Wallace Stegner/Ralph Fletcher)


Journal, sketchbook, notebook, idea log, whatever moniker you assign, it may surprise you how useful one can be, and that many published writers utilize them.  For some of us, this item conjures thoughts of “Dear Diary, today I…,” yet a true writer’s notebook transcends this plane, building a resource of details, that when consulted on a regular basis, can enhance your writing endeavors.

Now, unless you have an eidetic memory, allowing you to remember with complete clarity every thought or detail you’ve ever entertained, you need a place to house ideas, quotes, odd facts, lists, snippets of conversations, and words that intrigue you and could one day become details of an inspiring essay. Being a digital immigrant myself, my journals are multiple, page-filled, pen scrawled books, placed on shelves in my office, yet for those of you that are digital natives, yours may be typed into an electronic device and then stored on it or somewhere in the ether.  Either way, your notebook provides a place to record, rant, question, and preserve items you wish to retain, revisit, and revise.

These details we house were termed by the late poet William Stafford as “golden threads.”  His thoughts propose that the details we take in via our senses, when turned into words, especially in a journal, become items we can follow and weave into our written works.  So, as you travel through this life, don’t discount the details you remember or come across, make sure you place them in a “journal” so they can become the threads that lead you to literary richness.

Okay, still not sold on the idea of keeping a journal? A great place for information on starting one can be found in “Breathing In, Breathing Out — Keeping a Writer’s Notebook” by Ralph Fletcher.