Are Paper Notebooks Better for Creative Writing?

Is paper better for creativity?

These days, we writers use computers, electronic tablets, and even our smart phones for most of our creative writing. But a lot of us admit there’s still something about good old-fashioned pen and paper that really gets creativity flowing.

It’s difficult to brainstorm on a computer or jot down notes and random thoughts, and it’s impossible to doodle in the margins (unless you have fancy equipment). So for journal writing, note-taking, and brainstorming sessions, I find electronics to be confining.

Over the years, I’ve collected hordes of journals and notebooks. Some of them are pretty and whimsical. Others are simple and functional. I always go through lots of spiral notebooks for business note-taking, but when it comes to creative writing and brainstorming, I have learned (the hard way) that I have basic but specific needs that my notebooks and journals must fulfill.

Throwaway Notebooks

What we need from a notebook depends on how we use it. If it gets carried around, dropped, and spilled on, then it needs to be robust. If we like to draw or sketch, then it’s better if the paper is unlined. Some notebooks are throwaways, but sometimes we want to create something that lasts.

I use several notebooks that are throwaways. These are primarily for planning, outlining and taking business-related notes. When they’re filled up, I pull out the pages I want to keep, stash them in a binder, and recycle the rest. My favorite is the Mead Five Star Spiral Notebook. With 200 hole-punched sheets and several pockets to stash clippings, it’s perfect for notes and ideas that I can save in a binder or throw away once it’s filled up.

However, I use hardbound journals for writing poetry, developing ideas, and recording my thoughts. These journals are keepers, not throwaways.

My Favorite Hardbound Notebook for Creative Work

I need a hardbound journal so it can withstand lots of use. The paper must be archival quality because there’s less yellowing and tearing with higher quality paper. Most importantly, the pages should be unlined. I like to doodle and draw when the mood strikes. Occasionally, I write sideways, upside down, or even in circles (a technique for breaking through writer’s block). The thicker pages can also handle markers, which I use often in brainstorming.

So far, my favorite choice for a hardbound journal is the Watson-Guptill sketchbook. If you’re an artist and a writer or someone who likes to paste photos or clippings into your journals, these journals are perfect because the pages are thick and unlined. They come in several different colors, including red, black, green, and purple. I’ve got one in every color! They come in a variety of sizes and are filled with archival-quality blank, unlined paper. You can also get landscape-oriented versions of this notebook.

I find that when I work in these books, writing ideas flow effortlessly. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the hardcover (it feels so much like a real book). Maybe it’s the potential in all that white space. All I know is that I start feeling creative just by looking at one of them!

Many of my fellow writers rave about Moleskines. Although I own one, I haven’t cracked it open yet (although I’m looking forward to trying it). When the right project comes along, I’ll break it out and do a little comparative analysis.

What Are Your Favorite Creative Writing Tools?

What’s your favorite type of notebook for journal writing? Do you find that your writing tools (pens, notebooks, etc.) spark or inhibit the flow of creativity and writing ideas? Do you keep separate notebooks for planning, note-taking, and different types of writing?

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