Blank Notebooks: How to be Creative and Productive with Something You Already Have 

Gabrielle Bossart, Reporter

Have you ever found yourself with a blank notebook? Maybe you bought one for a class, but you found you never needed it. Perhaps you bought one because you liked the cover design, but you did not have a use for it at the time. Maybe you have no idea how you got it, but you have one lying around. It is also possible that you, like me, happen to unconsciously hoard blank notebooks for various purposes that you are sure you will use one day, but you just have not gotten around to it. Whichever way you find yourself with a blank notebook, this article serves to give you ideas on how to fill it up in a creative or productive way. There are plenty of apps and phone tools that you can use to be creative and keep track of your life, but sometimes it is more beneficial to physically write things down and where better to do so than a blank notebook.   

One way to fill an old notebook is to write down reviews of things that you love. You could fill it with book reviews if you like to read or movie reviews if the cinema is more your speed. If you are reviewing a book, write about the author, your favorite characters, literary tropes you see, or whatever else stands out to you. If you are writing about a movie, take note of the actors in the film, your favorite quotes, the soundtrack, plot points that interested you, or all the above. Score the book or movie out of five stars and write about it like a true critic. Reviews are always fun to look back on later and are a great way to start conversations, or passionate debates, with friends.  

If you are an avid listener of music, try doing a deep reading of your favorite song’s lyrics. If you have not looked closely at the lyrics before, you might just find you have been singing it wrong or that the lyrics are different from what you thought. Analyze the lyrics line by line and come up with your own interpretation. Write about what you think the artist is trying to communicate or what the song means to you personally. You can also do this with friends and discuss themes you see in an album or an artist’s career. Choose an ambiguous song or album and have fun with it.   

A habit tracker is another productive way to utilize a blank notebook. Life is busy and finding time to take care of yourself or change your lifestyle for the better can be challenging. Use a blank notebook to help keep track of something that you have been meaning to improve, like drinking more water or managing your money better. Writing it down is a good way to force yourself to pay more attention to it and the physical reminder of the notebook will keep you on track. Try defining and tracking goals in the same way or do a daily journal about your thoughts and feelings on what is going on in your life. Daily journaling and goal tracking are wonderful ways to practice self-care and check in with yourself and can easily be done with something as simple as a blank notebook. Use it for any one of these purposes or try them all and see if this method of self-care or improvement works for you.  

If you are feeling sentimental, give poetry a try. You might be thinking that poetry is not in the cards for you, but writing poems can be a fun, low-stress way to express yourself. Poems can be written about anything and can be as great or as terrible as you want. Trying to find clever rhymes for poems is an entertaining way to pass the time and you might just end up with a personal masterpiece. If you find you are enjoying the process and want to be brave, submit your poems to a literary magazine and become a published poet.   

Life in college moves fast, with weeks going by in the blink of an eye. Keep track of all the great memories by turning an old notebook into a scrapbook. There are a multitude of ways to go about scrapbooking, but the general idea is to be creative in putting pictures and memories on paper. Invest in a polaroid camera for immediate, scrapbook-able photos with a vintage feel. Add details such as the date, where you were, who you were with, and any crazy stories or inside jokes that may have resulted. Do not forget to add ticket stubs, wrappers, wristbands, or other memorable items. If you want to get crafty with it, stop by a local craft store and get some fun, themed stickers, or patterned washi tape. Magazines are a great place to find other colorful visuals to make your scrapbook more artful. Try your hand at creating a collage or sticking to a color theme. There is no right or wrong way to scrapbook so have fun with it. Having the memories to look back on years after graduation is sure to make you smile and is an excellent way to hold onto those elusive details that slip away with time.   

Maybe you are feeling creative, but scrapbooks are not really your jam. If you like to cook or bake, use that old notebook to put together a recipe book. You might have old family recipes lying around that you could compile into a cookbook, but if you do not you can still make your own. Cut recipes out of magazines, print some off the internet, or scroll through Pinterest and put together a board with recipes that you love or want to try and add those in too. The benefit of making your own cookbook is that all the recipes are tailored to your taste so there is no wasted space. Use the book to meal prep, eat healthier, keep track of your family recipes, try new things, or just to have all your recipes in one place. There are no rules so use your imagination and come up with something that suits your needs.   

Another way to use an old notebook is to keep a dream journal. Dreams can bizarre, incredible, or terrible, but they are almost always fleeting. They often seem so intense while they are happening, but moments after waking they can be gone. While that is sometimes for the better, it can be fun to write down your strange or pleasant dreams. Keep the notebook close to your bed and have a pen handy so you can detail your dreams right after waking up. Be as detailed or as vague as you like, and you can even show your dreams to your friends if you are feeling bold and try to come up with interesting reasons you had them. Or look at dream interpretations on the internet and see if your bizarre dreams could have a deeper meaning.   

If you love traveling, use those empty notebooks as travel journals. Journaling about your travels is one of the best ways to remember them. Writing everything down at the end of the day or the trip allows you to revisit your vacation whenever you want and remember things that you would otherwise forget. A great place to fit some travel journaling in is on the plane or car ride home. Go through your pictures and take note of what you did each day. Vacations in warm places are especially wonderful to read about later when winter is in full force.   

The final suggestion is to just fill a notebook with lists. Listing things is an entertaining way to engage the mind and make sense of life. Put together lists of your favorite movies, bands, books, songs, or foods. Make to-do lists and experience the keen satisfaction of physically crossing off an item. Make crazy lists like fun facts about yourself that you can review before events that are likely to have painfully awkward ice breakers. Make grocery lists to help with meal planning and budgeting. List all the movies you want to see that are coming out in the next few months or books that you would like to read. Listing things can be a beneficial, introspective activity that might just lead to better understanding yourself.   

Life can get hectic, but there are always times we find ourselves with nothing to do and a looming sense of boredom can start to creep in. Next time you find yourself in these circumstances, poke around for a blank notebook and try something new.   

 Gabrielle Bossart is a Dakota Student General Reporter. She can be reached at [email protected].