THERE’S NO ARGUING with the fact that we are all moving towards a more digital world.
Most of us communicate almost exclusively through digital means when we aren’t face-to-face. We get our news, follow our favorite sports teams, and ask questions in the digital realm. Which leads me to a crucial point for us writers.
The importance of simple, blank paper.
If you’re struggling as a writer to come up with new ideas, break through a creative roadblock, or figure out how you want your project to unfold, nothing beats a blank-page notebook.
Some of the world’s most successful writers start everything in a blank-page notebook. Authors like Robert Greene, Elmore Leonard, Ryan Holiday, Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, Stephen King — the list goes on and on — all love everything that a blank page (a real, physical blank page) has to offer.
If you want to unlock your creativity and boost your productivity as a writer – nonfiction or fiction, short formal or long-form, it makes no difference — continue reading to discover the information I share below.
The Right Notebook Makes a Big Difference!
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of how to use your blank notebook, it’s important to highlight the value in finding the right notebook to begin with.
The general idea is to find something you can really fall in love with. The size should be comfortable enough to write and sketch in but small enough to fit in your back pocket or purse, something you can carry with you at all times so that you’re ready when inspiration strikes.
Higher-quality notebooks are hard not to fall in love with. But you don’t necessarily have to spend a mountain of money on your notebook to get a lot of use out of it, either.
Most people do well with a blank notebook – ideally made of post-consumer paper to lessen the environmental burden. Others can make do with a blank sketchbook. There are even writers who enjoy making their own blank notebooks by cutting, folding, and stapling personalized paper together!
The point is to find something you like, enjoy writing in, and are comfortable with — and then stock up!
Using Your New Blank Canvas
There’s just something about writing out brainstormed ideas on a blank piece of paper that warms up our creative juices.
Seeing all of our ideas, notes, and tangents down on a single blank piece of paper — without lines, without structure to contain everything – can help jumpstart new directions that you never would have stumbled across otherwise.
Writers who lean heavily into mind mapping find it to be a more organic sort of outline approach.
The blank page provides plenty of space to create interplay and relationships between the different ideas you are outlining. It sort of lets you “zoom-out” and see the structure of the piece you’re working on in a way that’s tough to pull off otherwise.
The beauty of mind mapping (especially when you are using a blank page) is that you can draw and doodle as well. These visual cues can help boost creativity and productivity, too.
Playing with Prompts
A lot of great writers like to “warm-up” with creative prompts before they dive into a project, and a blank notebook is a perfect place to get to work.
You can write your prompt on one side of the notebook and then fill the other page with different headlines, intro paragraphs, quotes, chunks of dialogue, etc.
Again, the structure-free nature of a blank page really lets you play around in a way that lined pages (or even grid square pages) make a little difficult.
Building a Swipe File
Have you ever come across a great line of dialogue, neat turn of a phrase, or a thought-provoking sentence, paragraph, or chunk of writing that you don’t ever want to forget?
Well, that’s exactly what your swipe file should be filled top to bottom with. And your blank notebook makes jotting these chunks of writing down a whole lot easier. The ideal format here would be a pocket notebook.
You can capture all of this writing down on different pages, organizing (or not) as you go along.
Emphasize, rewrite, or notate different parts to better inform your own writing going forward. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Practicing Your Prose
Master writers understand that real writing doesn’t begin until you start to edit, until you start to rewrite, and until you start to reshape the words you have already put down.
With blank pages, there aren’t any constraints. You can cross out different words, rewrite new chunks of sentences above or below the older ones, and generally see how your writing evolves through each individual draft.
The ability to kind of watch as your writing grows and morphs is a game changer!
An advantage paper has over digital writing is the fact that it slows the process down. Modern-day computer software has made the whole writing, proofreading, and editing process fast — which is obviously a good thing.
But it comes at a cost.
The same way that reading on paper may be better than on digital devices for reading comprehension and learning, it’s been scientifically observed that the slowness of writing on paper can enhance the writing process by increasing brain activity. This could result in better concentration, thoughtfulness, and creativity, which brings us to the next point.
Blank Pages Unlock Your Creativity — There’s No Limit to What They Can Help You Do!
At the end of the day, the beautiful thing about blank pages — truly blank pages — is that they can be used any way you’d like to.
One page can be designated for writing down new ideas and new projects. The next can be sketches and doodles of your main character or villain. The one after that can contain jotted down headlines for research that you want to dig a little deeper into later.
The blank pages are yours and yours alone. They belong to your writing and everything you put down in a way that digital programs and even lined notebooks can’t make possible.
Lori Wade is a journalist & content writer from Louisville, who has experience in small editions. She enjoys creating news and conceptual articles about efficiency and productivity in life. You can find her on LinkedIn. Hope you appreciate Lori’s useful insights!