Writer’s journal vs. notebook

At a quick thought, a journal and a notebook may sound like the same thing. Or they may sound similar enough to be minimally different. But they’re more different than not, especially for writers.

A journal is meant for private thoughts. Be they a recap of the day’s activities and how one feels about them, hopes, dreams, or wishes, or anything and everything in between, the main idea is that the journal is private.

On the other hand, a notebook can be used for pretty much anything else. Jotting down plot ideas, character descriptions, short stories or novels, random concepts about texts, or anything else that you wouldn’t potentially mind sharing with someone.

While I had journals when I was younger, I don’t anymore. I do have different notebooks: one for plot ideas and random chapters or moments that may pop into my mind, another for the story I’m writing, one for chapters that didn’t fit into their original notebook or which I decided to write upon editing the text, and, of course, at least four new notebooks waiting to be used. I also have a very clear idea of what notebooks I want to buy next, but I have to remind myself, a lot, to take it slow. I could easily have at least 10 notebooks on my desk, but then I’d feel uncertain of which one to start with. (I overthink some things. A lot.)

Not every writer has a notebook or journal, obviously. Some prefer doing things the digital way, which has its own sets of pros and cons. Others are all about post its. There’s also the option of using a voice recorder and then transcribing the notes. And I’m pretty sure that there are countless other ways of scribbling or gathering one’s thoughts.

Once I found what works for me, I didn’t feel the need to try other ways of plotting down ideas. What about you? Do you keep a journal or notebook?

Moira Daly

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