The Writer’s Notebook

Week Three of the “52-Week Writing Challenge”

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Photo Credit: Myself

Through reading I’ve learned there are endless worlds, those that are imagined and those that are real. Over the course of time I woke up to the idea of stories everywhere. I became more aware and observant of my surroundings. There are stories everywhere I go, in everything I do, and in every interaction I have.

My mind is consistently filled with ideas. The wheels turn and I often feel there is so much going on in my head that it’ll spill out my ears. I had never considered a writer’s notebook until I started taking Creative Writing courses and it was a requirement of the program. I learned how useful it can be. Since then I have been using a notebook to keep track of story ideas, article possibilities and taking notes on anything and everything that I do.

My writer’s notebook is my world, in raw form, not yet put into words, not yet a story, but more so a direction, an inspiration and my perception of the world I’ve created. Everything we do in life is a story. We have a responsibility to share our knowledge and to tell our truths. I can take that one line I jotted down and build a story, revise it and share it.

When I feel stuck or have writer’s block I can refer back to my notebook for ideas and clues on how to move forward. If I do an interview I take note of body language, moods, tidbits of information I can gather that aren’t verbal. This way I can refer back to not only the interview questions but also that information to present my subject and represent them as they were in that moment of our connection.

I can be anywhere and collect my thoughts in my notebook. It could be anything. A conversation that I had, a situation that I witnessed, a feeling or a mood that was brought out in me when I was at a specific place. It can be a trigger thought, that leads to another thought and the next thing I know I’m researching and investigating to find answers. My notebook promotes educating myself.

This week I relearned what an invaluable writing tool a writer’s notebook can be.

In late September 2016 I discovered a writing contest I felt that I could write a piece for. The submission date would close on November 1st. The guidelines were 30 pages of nonfiction based on American Heritage. When I read this I knew exactly what I wanted to write about and began the leg work of research and interviewing. Unfortunately the leg work process took up most of the six weeks remaining until the submission date, leaving me without enough time to write, revise and polish a story before submitting it.

I received an email at the end of last week notifying me that the same writing contest with the same topic and same guidelines would take place again for 2017. I have all of the information I’ll need in my writer’s notebook to write an impeccable story to submit, because now my only focus will be to write the story. I went back through my stack of notebooks and reread all of my notes. I’m excited about this opportunity, more so because my notes are so detailed I feel that even six months later I can tell the story as it should be.

I purchase notebooks on Amazon. They come in a three pack and are reasonably priced. They’re small enough to fit in my canvas sack or my pocket. This way I always have it on me and I can pull it out when I stumble upon a story idea.

For the “52-Week Writing Challenge” I will be writing about what I’ve learned each week in reference to writing.

Erika Sauter is a freelance writer of literary journalism, opinion and personal narrative. You can contact her via email at and follow her on Medium here. She is also the creator of “The Crazy Cat Lady Photoblog.” She lives in a small farming community in Iowa with her husband, two children and eight cats.

Newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa. The views expressed are mine alone.

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