In Praise of Notebooks

1 Conversation

Over at the Daydream Journal, we discuss many things. Lately, mandalas, poems and notebooks. Yes, notebooks. Minorvogonpoet and Cactuscafe are great notebook keepers, so Peanut asked them for their thoughts on the subject. Here, MVP shares some with us.

In Praise of Notebooks

A magic pen that writes all by itself

I have kept notebooks of a sort ever since my son was born in 1986. I started writing diaries to make a record of my baby's progress but, since then, the notebooks have changed and grown. So why do I keep notebooks? I think there are two reasons.

The first is to establish a practice of writing. If you aspire to be a writer, you need to write. This sounds obvious, but I've met people at creative writing classes who admit that they don't do much writing. I try to write every day. But how do you come up with something interesting to write? That's where notebooks come in. Notebooks are liberating, because you don't have to worry about the quality of what you write. It doesn't have to be logical, or grammatical. You write whatever comes into your head, whether it's lists, or single words, or lots of repetition. Read Natalie Goldberg's book 'Writing Down the Bones," which extols the use of notebooks to free up the writer.

Some writers swear by morning pages. They pick up their notebooks as they wake in the morning, and catch those thoughts that emerge half-formed into their heads after a night's sleep. I don't seem to run to lazy mornings. So I keep my notebook by my bed and write at least a page last thing in the evening. These pages catch anything interesting that I've seen or heard during the day. However, my habit has the disadvantage that I sometimes fall asleep in the middle!

Once you've filled your notebook with stuff, even if it's junk, you can use it to generate material for your writing projects. If I want to write a story, I go back through my notebooks to identify interesting ideas, or striking images. Poetry, in particular, calls for vivid images, which are likely to be more precise if you write them down at the time. So, I also have small notebooks which I can carry with me. I fill these with descriptions of places, or people, or fragments of overheard conversations.

It is fascinating to watch people and listen to their conversations. I noted down this exchange, which took place between two young women and two older men in a café. One of the old men said: "I can see what the next war is going to be. It's between the young and the old. And I'll give you some advice. Organise across the world. Call a strike of everyone under 30 and you can get what you want – more money, more sex, anything. Just organise."

Now, my notebooks are full of thoughts about my writing projects – how my characters are likely to react to the latest events, or how to change my latest chapter to make it more focused. My only problem is that I have so many notebooks, it takes me ages to find the pieces I want. I need an index, and where would I keep it? In a notebook, of course!

Lucidi's method of learning languages.
Poetry and Stories by Minorvogonpoet


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