Tumblr as an online scrapbook for writers

This post provides an overview of microblogging service, Tumblr, and looks at how it can be used as an online scrapbook by writers.

Ideas come in all shapes and sizes and can be generated or inspired by almost anything.
As writers, we’re encouraged to read, read, read, but our imaginations are just as likely ignited by the things we watch, the things we listen to and the people we hang around with.

All of which brings me neatly on to Tumblr.

What is Tumblr?

Tumblr is what’s techtastically known as a microblogging platform. For me, it sits somewhere between WordPress, a full fat blogging experience, and Twitter, with its 140 character’s worth of tiny talk.

Tumblr’s ‘About’ page says it’s the “easiest way to express yourself”.

It also says this:

Tumblr lets you effortlessly share anything. Post text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos, from your browser, phone, desktop, email, or wherever you happen to be.

Of course, all of that is true, but the same more or less applies to every other blogging platform out there, doesn’t it? And having used it for almost exactly a year now, I know that Tumblr offers so much more.

So what is different about Tumblr and how can you use it as a scrapbook?

What makes Tumblr so special?

I have a Facebook account and I use Twitter. I also have a last.fm profile, a Vimeo page and a LinkedIn profile too. But the only social media platform I return to on a daily basis is Tumblr. Here’s why:

It really is easy to use

To post something to your blog, or ‘Tumblelog’ as they’re known, you simply choose from seven different post types: Text, Photo, Quote, Link, Chat, Audio and Video. And because each post type is pre-styled, you don’t have to worry about what it will look like. It means you can crack on with finding and adding content, which is great.

It’s how social should be

Arguably the best thing about Tumblr is its social aspect. I know that there are various communities and groups of people who regularly communicate through services like Twitter, but it’s not the same, I promise.

As a platform, Tumblr is growing and growing, but it still seems to retain a certain ethos that I love. Essentially, you interact with people by reposting their material and saying, ‘Yeah, I like that. Other people should see it too.’

Imagine Twitter as a major record label. Tumblr is the indie that’s not only cooler, but always has its heart in the right place.

It’s the perfect online scrapbook for writers

Like most other social-type platforms, Tumblr comes with its own little bookmarklet that sits in your browser toolbar and allows you to post to your Tumblelog without actually going to your Tumblr dashboard.

Effectively, that means that when you see something you like, whether it’s a blog post, an image or a video (see full list above), within seconds you can have it appear on your Tumblelog. It will also appear in the dashboard of anyone who’s ‘following’ you.

Nothing revolutionary there, but with Tumblr it’s all so visual. You’re not farming links, you’re assembling a collection of media that inspires you, flexes your brain-box and makes you laugh.

And everyone else is doing the same, so you’re not building a scrapbook for your writing on your own, there’s a community (with plenty of writers, actually) there to help you out. Plus it’s all so effortless and quick.

So, what now?

Well, first of all you can head over to Tumblr and have an account set up in no time at all. This post is just a very brief overview and there really is no explanation that can do the job better than simply getting stuck in.

Have a scout round, post a few things and then find a couple of people to follow. Ahem.

If you take to Tumblr, you’ll no doubt use it however best suits your needs. But I’d encourage you to approach it with the scrapbook notion in mind. Be creative and don’t restrict yourself.

Remember, your Tumblelog is not your novel, freelance work or ‘proper’ blog. It’s a playground of ideas. If it looks like fun, have a go on the slide.


ulla.hennig@googlemail.com 22 May 2009 Reply

Iain,I have a tumblr account but I haven’t been using it for a while. Your post made me think about reusing it, thanks!

signup@hamishmacdonald.com 22 May 2009 Reply

This will only be useful to a small minority of users, but there’s a RapidWeaver Stacks plug-in that lets you show Tumblr posts on a page (this is also possible with some pre-rolled JavaScript code the Tumblr folks provide in the Settings area).
So I’ve got:
– Twitter for disposable thoughts (also showing on my site, though I doubt anyone sees them there)
– my blog for long-term chronicling of thoughts
– and now Tumblr fills in the difference, allowing me to post “Hey, look at this!” messages on the front page (rather than throwing them right into the blog — which is largely irrelevant to the information about my books and DIY publishing that I’m trying to draw people to — or showing them a static welcome page which suggests the site is stale).

It’s getting complicated, being spread across all these sites!

Of course, there’s Facebook, but to me it’s purely social, about the people I know from the real world, whereas the other sites are better for finding communities of disparate people who are up to the same things I am.

But, back on topic, yes, Tumblr is really well thought-out and easy to use — much more straightforward than Twitter. The only drawback is its relative obscurity. I wonder how it’ll fare against the others.

jean@jeanhannahedelstein.com 22 May 2009 Reply

Agreed, but I also think one shouldn’t underestimate how good Tumblr is for one’s main (rather than scrapbook) blog if desired – I like the fact that I can mix up my long-form posts with shorter photo/quote/link/whatever posts as well. I’ve used it for my blog to tie in with my book and it’s been a super platform for that – much less fiddly than WordPress.

seanmichaelplatt@gmail.com 22 May 2009 Reply

Sounds really cool. I’ve heard of Tumblr for a while, but didn’t really understand it and didn’t really need another social media do hickey. You’ve totally convinced me to check it out though.

zoe@zoewesthof.com 23 May 2009 Reply

I just started using Tumblr a few weeks ago, and it’s the visual collection that hooked me. Like you pointed out, it doesn’t look like a link farm — after all, who’s dying to jump into a link farm? It’s clean, simple, and formats the snippets just right.
Great job pointing out its unique aspects :).

yoursqick@yahoo.com 25 May 2009 Reply

I have been a tumblr member since last year, and I post some of my random thoughts on my tumblogs. It’s cool and very easy to use and set-up. 🙂

iain@writeforyourlife.net 8 September 2009 Reply

@helia phoenix I’m with you on the fistfighting for Tumblr. Sometimes I find myself enthusing and encouraging others to join just a little too much!

phoenixlily@yahoo.com 8 September 2009 Reply

totally totally agree, a million percent. I’ve actually got two tumblogs, one which is for general personal random stuff, the other is strictly a bookmark for things I’m writing about. It is super super easy to keep it like a writing scrapbook or journal, and has actually been invaluable while working on a book I’m currently writing. tumblr is ace and I will fistfight anyone who says different.

karratattooyou@yahoo.com 26 October 2009 Reply

hey i was just wondering, can you take your main tumblr journal and make a link on your main journal that tranfers you to your blogs? may seem like an odd question, but i have my main journal set up and i wanted to use blogs as a website for people to view my artwork. I want to just use one URL, which would be my MAIN journal, the one that Tumblr starts you off with. Then i want on that main journal maybe button a viewer could press to view my other blogs which include my art, ect.

xvampirexinkx@aol.com 19 January 2010 Reply

Great article! I love tumblr. I originally started using it in October, I think, after my cousin showed it to me. I liked the idea of the ranking of the top blogs and thought I would just post my pics and whatever’s going through my head.However, my cousin’s blog is a lot different than mine, she posts more funny stuff, I didn’y realize all the amazing pictures circulating around. Seriously, some of the most inspirational things I’ve seen have been on Tumblr.
Now I pretty much mostly reblog pretty pictures and anything that I just love. I definitely agree that it is a virtual scrapbook. Everything I love is in my blog, and it is so great to inspire me to write. 🙂

jenniswift@yahoo.com 26 January 2010 Reply

Thank you! I’m just learning more about social media and haven’t used tumblr yet…thanks to your suggestion I’m going to go open and account now and start using it. Appreciate it!

himself@flawnt.me 11 March 2010 Reply

i enjoy using tumblr (see site) for scraps and notes and flash while my blog at http://flawnt.me is reserved for longer pieces and for commentaries. wordpress (the blog) also features my tumblr flash but not vice versa. i’ve been tumblering it almost daily since 2 weeks or so and i am used to it now. it really is easy.

netalula0707@gmail.com 2 May 2012 Reply

I’m a 14 year-old writing a book. Tumblr will help me get my thoughts out to the people who want to listen. I just love it.

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