3 Offline Writing Tools and How I Use Them

Guest post by Jessica Ferguson

I’m always looking for writing short cuts (ways to do something fast!) and inspiration. My productivity and creativity are inspired by interesting notebooks, and quotes from characters in favorite movies. Sometimes my husband is pretty inspiring. Today, I’m sharing three items that actually work for me.

1. Reporter’s Notebook

Here’s my stack of Portage Reporter’s Notebooks. Twelve to a pack goes a long way, 140 pages in each one. I fell in love with these little notebooks years ago when hubby attended a seminar and brought one home to me. Since then, I’ve ordered them from Amazon (12 for $20.99 at the time of this writing) and I use them in various ways because:

These Portage reporter’s notebooks are so handy!
  1. They fit in every purse I have and even some jacket pockets.
  2. They tuck into my Bible without taking up a lot of room. They’re excellent to jot down sermon notes.
  3. My interview questions and gathering notes for articles is a breeze with these unobtrusive notebooks.
  4. I use them when I go to board meetings for the SWLA Book Festival, and when I peruse genealogy sites, collecting facts about my ancestry. 
  5. I label individual notebooks for my specific projects.

These oddly shaped notebooks inspire me, along with their title: PROFESSIONAL REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK. The word professional has always been a favorite word, and something I strive to be. Too, these notebooks are convenient and I’m all about convenience.


I enjoy quotes from favorite movies. Sometimes they’re so wonderful and brilliant that I jot them in a notebook so I can always remember them. Many years ago I came across a plastic sign of a quote that encourages me not only in my writing but in my everyday life. “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” You recognize this quote, don’t you? The words of Cool Hand Luke make me remember the importance of communication in everything I write and all my relationships. If we don’t make ourselves understood, it’s poor writing, poor communication. We don’t want confused readers, friends, or family to misunderstand us, do we?

I try to remember that just because I understand what I’m saying doesn’t mean the reader does. I know the backstory—the reader doesn’t. The words of Cool Hand Luke remind me to strive for simplicity, clarity—to make every word count for my reader.   

3. Travel

Where do you get your best ideas? I had a friend who wrote her books while traveling. While her friend drove to a conference, she’d prop her short legs on the dash of the car and pound away on her laptop. I’m the designated driver in my family so no leg-propping allowed, but I’ve collected many good ideas while sitting behind the wheel.

A couple of my stories have come in a flash with a beginning, middle and ending. Those are rare, but when it happens, my foot gets heavy on the gas pedal because of the adrenaline rush. Once, my husband, napping in the passenger seat, woke to find a reporter’s notebook on my thigh as I scribbled away with one eye on the road and the other on my story.

We all need a special place we can go for fresh ideas. Whether we’re flying through the backwoods of East Texas or standing in a hot shower, we should jot those thoughts down as soon as we can, so we won’t lose them. A professional reporter’s notebook is convenient, and remember, good communication is a life skill we—everyone!—should work to master.  

Do you have some favorite “offline” writing tools? Let us know in the comments below!


  1. Linda Castro on March 16, 2021 at 4:04 pm

    Jessica Ferguson’s post has given me a lot of useful offline writing strategies. It opened the door for creativity on the run with the use of those Portage Reporter’s Notebooks! Her use of quotes to create a new thought pattern is something I will be using, and, all of us need that special “go-to” place for fresh ideas. Wonderful post! Thank you for the info!

  2. Jessica on March 16, 2021 at 4:46 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Linda, I love notebooks. Probably have way too many. And quotes are so fun. They encourage me, make me think and inspire me.

  3. Tom Ferguson on March 16, 2021 at 7:11 pm

    Interesting ideas! I keep a couple of notebooks on my desk but I don’t carry anything with me. Sounds like a good idea!

    • Jessica on March 16, 2021 at 9:10 pm

      Every writer needs to carry a notebook for those things you overhear in restaurants. 😁😉 Of course, my “notes” section on my phone is full so that works too. Thanks for commenting, Tom.

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