Evolution of my Writer’s Notebook: 7 notebooks and counting…

Not only have my notebooks changed over the years, but my writing has also changed. Please join me as I walk you through the evolution of my writer’s notebook, including four key things about each notebook.

During a #TeachWrite chat on Twitter (now on Facebook) in May of 2019, I posted the following photo since we were discussing writer’s notebooks. It was suggested by them and Michelle Haseltine that I create a blog post about them!

Writer’s Notebooks Numbers 1-7.

A writer’s notebook is simply a collection of ideas, a source of inspiration throughout the writing process. Many writer’s and writing teachers use them, but they are all different. What you choose to keep in yours isn’t necessarily what someone else will keep in theirs.

Not only have my notebooks changed over the years, but my writing has also changed. Please join me as I walk you through the evolution of my writer’s notebook, including four key things about each notebook.

Where it all began…

The year 2014 was full of changes for me. To start the year off, life changed so much starting in January. (I’m telling you, it was so crazy that I cut 12 inches of my hair off and got a dog… I’m a cat person!)

Athena Skye is now almost seven years old.

During that summer, we moved out of state, and I started my first teaching job at a public school. I was hired as an inclusion teacher, which meant that I was in other teacher’s classrooms.

In one particular teacher’s class (thanks Koby Strawser), I learned about writer’s notebooks. Wait. You didn’t already know about writer’s notebooks?

I know it sounds crazy, but I had no idea that writer’s notebooks were a thing. I joined the students on notebook decorating day, and created my first writer’s notebook ever. (Side note: thank you to Jeffery Frieden for requesting a post dedicated to setting up a writer’s notebook!)

The writing section of my bookshelf at home (the top two of five shelves).

Notebook Number 1:

August 28, 2014 — December 31, 2014

For my first writer’s notebook ever, I used a spiral. I added the clear packing tape much later, which is why the covers look a little worse for wear.

4 key things about this notebook:

  • I mostly used only black ink. I say mostly because I was writing with bad lighting one night and used blue. I honestly thought I’d lose my mind, but I didn’t.
  • So many pages are filled with brainstorms. I was all about the ideas for everything.
  • Every month I’d have a page dedicated to my writing goals. I had so many goals that I almost always completed! (These pages contained the only color in the entire notebook.)
  • I wrote so much poetry! The one I’m sharing below is titled “What do you do when your Muse is gone? For Debora Geary” — I wrote this after finding out that she wouldn’t be writing my favorite series anymore.

Notebook Number 2:

January 4, 2015 — January 1, 2016

I did not learn my lesson about spirals before starting notebook 2. This one was the last spiral I used since the cover fell off before I filled it up. One positive in decorating was that I had found all my old scrapbooking materials.

4 key things about this notebook:

  • I still wrote in black pen (until October). However, I used more color in the form of colored pencils. I would either trace words or highlight key pieces on the page.
  • I started researching different types of poetry formats.
  • After several months of a novel idea in my head, I finally started plotting ideas for my first novel. (I’m still working on that novel, but I’m on the fourth draft now.)
  • I wrote about news articles more, which I guess means that I read the newspaper more. I’d cut articles out of the paper, paste them into my notebook, and write about them.
Word of the Day is from Dictionary.com. I used them for brainstorming sometimes.

Notebook Number 3:

January 23, 2015 — August 5, 2016

As you can see, I finally learned my lesson about spirals. This time, I chose a composition notebook (hardcover, not plastic). I also found an awesome peacock feather duct tape to use!

4 key things about this notebook:

  • Why had I never used different colored pens before? This notebook is full of color!
  • At this time, I was teaching a writing class, so my monthly goals turned into six weeks goals. These goals continued to vary: new poems, revising old poems, new story ideas, notes about teaching or writing, etc.
  • Speaking of poetry, now I was finally trying (successfully I think) new poetic formats. (One in particular is pictured below: Answer, a Pleiades poem.)
  • I used a lot more writing prompts in this notebook. Why? To try new things. I even wrote my manifesto in there.

Notebook Number 4:

August 5, 2016 — April 24, 2017

Since the composition notebook worked so well, I chose it again for this notebook. What’s different? My pen name! I had officially chosen J.J. Burry by the time I started this notebook.

4 key things about this notebook:

  • I started branching out and drawing more. I am by no means an artist, but I can look at a picture an mimic pretty good if I take my time. (You’ll see one of these lovely drawings in the picture below with yet another poem!)
  • Somewhere in this notebook (or possibly at the end of the notebook before) is where I learned about flash fiction, so I started writing way more in this style.
  • There are so many letters in here. My students loved to write to me, and I always answered. All my answers would go into Google Classroom for all students to read.
  • I guess I was all about discovery with this notebook because I also started writing micropoetry in here. I have so many that I wrote, and I even shared some of them on Twitter!
“Hippopotamus (for Roni)” — a poem I wrote for a friend.

Notebook Number 5:

April 24, 2017 — January 27, 2018

When it was time to start this notebook, I wanted a change. Therefore, I tried a new type of notebook: a Pen + Gear hardcover journal that was originally blue with gold fireworks on the front.

4 key things about this notebook:

  • My first ever blog post (and several others) are plotted in this notebook. Before that, I even took notes on how to start a home page for my blog.
  • I started keeping writing goals with my students. (Side note: I no longer do these since I started gamification in the 2019-2020 school year.)
  • I started thinking about other novel ideas. Yes, I was still working on that first one, but I had this great idea for a dragon story. I eventually even gave him a short story until I could get to his novel: Capturing a Dragon. (I wrote the first draft to his book for NaNoWriMo 2019.)
  • Thanks to Anjela Curtis starting FlashFicHive, I continued building my flash fiction skills. I have so many plots and drafts in this notebook.
The beginning of Dardo the Dragon.

Notebook Number 6:

January 29, 2018 — October 8, 2018

I loved the hardcover notebook so much that I found the same kind for this one. This notebook was special because it saw my first entries into writing contests, and it experienced my first rejection.

4 key things about this notebook:

  • For some reason, there are so many lists at the beginning of this notebook: my best friend (my sister), things I see, career plans, how I feel in the winter.
  • There are also a lot of plot lines. I’m sharing one below for the story Puzzle Pieces from April of 2018, a story that I entered into a small contest and won!
  • I continued writing poetry, especially micropoetry. I shared one below that stands out possibly due to the illustration (still managing to add pictures to some of my pages).
  • I joined a local writing group (Bosque Valley Writers), and accepted a few new challenges. One particular challenge was to write a historical fiction short story. (Pictured below is the first of 11 pages of research!)

Notebook Number 7:

October 11, 2018 — May 19, 2020

When I started this post originally, I was only halfway through this notebook. Since I postponed it so much, I have recently filled this one up!

I chose to branch out and try a new notebook for this one. Unfortunately, it’s not because I wanted to… I just couldn’t find the hardcover one again in the store. This is a Pen + Gear Leatherette journal, and I absolutely loved it!

4 key things about this notebook:

  • This notebook lasted longer because I was working on my novel more. Don’t let that fool you, I still kept stretching my skills.
  • I continued trying new poetry formats, including the ones sent as prompts in 2019’s #OctPoWriMo. One is pictured below that was fun to try.
  • In this notebook, I ventured out of my comfort zone with the NYC Midnight short screenplay challenge (13th place!!).
  • The last major idea this notebook saw was my attempts at slam poetry. I was working on it with my creative writing class before COVID-19 hit, and I never finished.
Trying out the #OctPoWriMo day 2 challenge in 2019.

Coming soon… Notebook Number 8:

My next writer’s notebook will again be a Pen + Gear Leatherette Journal. I loved the last one, and decided this may become a trend for me.

It could be that I also realized I keep notebooks in pairs, so if I change types, it will be after this one. My next post will be all about this next notebook!


Do you keep a writer’s notebook? What ideas can we find in yours? How has your writing changed throughout the years? Share with me in the comments!

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