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What every writer needs: the idea notebook

Big ideas start small.

When people think of writing a book, they think of the overwhelming final product. The beautiful cover, binding, cream paper, typed text that reads well and almost looks effortless. We forget about the years that go into it, that every word was written one by one.

The small idea that sparked it in the first place.

I was on a course recently where the instructor had been at a networking event dinner that was also attended by Bill Bryson, a writer I highly respect. A prolific writer. One who has written so many books and has a calming, easy-to-read voice.

He said Bill spoke to a few of the people around them about keeping a little notebook where he jotted small ideas and snippets and anecdotes he experienced daily. Funny anecdotes, quirky observations. Even moments that might seem inconsequential that he admitted will likely not end up in one of his books, but he just never knew, so he wrote it down anyway.

My instructor recommended everyone keep a small notebook to jot their little ideas and anecdotes in too.

Why bother? My life is so inconsequential, you might think. Nothing that could spark ideas for a book. He might just have a more interesting life.

But, brilliance doesn’t announce itself. No trumpets or fanfare that you scramble to write down before it disappears again.

Sometimes it tiptoes in amongst the daily buzz, leaving you with a nugget you don’t understand.

So write it in your idea notebook.

One day, that snippet or idea might grow into something bigger, or join with something that just clicks into a blog, or even a book.

This idea notebook isn’t about crafting entire novels or groundbreaking essays. It’s about giving a home to your thoughts so you don’t lose sight of them or forget them. A place you can review them. They might one day grow into something bigger.

In a world that often celebrates the grand finale, let’s appreciate the backstage efforts too. And Bill Bryson’s approach is so simple and easy to get started. Just take note of life’s small wonders, the ideas that ping into your head. Questions you want answering. Then, who knows, they might merge with something to create something extraordinary.

Grab a tiny notebook and a pen from the dollar store and leave them in your bag at all times. The smallest scribble today could be the seed for your next big adventure in writing.

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Having read many Brysons I’ll state categorically that the man is an acute observer of humankind. Which will make any writer, even better.

Plus he’s bloody funny!

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