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Being Prepared for When Lightning Strikes: The Notebook and the Writer’s Journal

January 27, 2011

Continuing on the theme of being a busy writer with little or no time to write, I wanted to take a moment to talk about my notebook, again.

I first made mention of my notebook back when I first started blogging, over a year ago, and followed that little introduction up with a simple how-to guide on using the tool.

The gist of the idea is this: a simple, easy-to-obtain paper notebook is a great and portable way to keep writing in your busy life even when you’re too busy to actually write.  A notebook is small and easy-to-carry, so you can have it with you no matter where you go.  That means its with you when you catch a break in your day.  It’s with you when you have five minutes or ten minutes or more here or there.  It’s with you when inspiration strikes like a bolt of lightning from the clear blue heavens.

As I commented in my year-old posts, lots of people with more money than I might find a smartphone or other ultra-portable computing device fits this bill better for them.  But hey, we’re struggling writers!  We don’t have money for fancy tech (if drool were money, we’d be all up in that technology, but drool sadly lacks monetary value).  For us, a spiral-bound notebook, Moleskine, or a basic composition book will do the trick. 

That trick being, of course, to take advantage of the rare opportunities to jot down a few notes and tidbits of inspiration when they arise.  But I have a confession to make, in that regard.

My old notebook

My current, old notebook, in which I started recording ideas at the beginning of last year

When I first posted about my notebook (in the above-linked post from December of 2009) I didn’t yet have a notebook that I used regularly, though I had had such notebooks in the past.  Shortly after that entry, I got a new notebook.  The first entry in that notebook is dated January 11, 2010.  This is the same notebook I have today.  The latest entry in that notebook dates December 13, 2010 – over a month ago!  Before that, it was September 5th, 2010, then September 3rd, then July 13th.  So the pattern goes.  A short burst of one, two, or three entries (usually because I didn’t finish my thoughts on something before I ran out of time on a given day) and then a long abstinance of entries.  In fact, in this notebook, there are a total of 19 entries… or just a little over one entry per month since I started it.  And it’s only about third full!

Basically… I haven’t exactly been using this tool in the way I intended.  But, in all honesty, I’m writing in this as often as time and inspiration allow.  That is… I don’t have much time to write even scattered notes and thoughts and ideas as they occur to me, and I don’t have much time even to think about the stories I want to tell in order to feel as though I have ideas I need to write about.  (Which relates to a topic for another post, either later this week or early next, depending on when I get to it.)

So, in summary, what should you keep a notebook for?  It’s helpful, as a writer, to have for on-the-go notes and ideas, short character sketches, vignettes, and other thoughts pertaining to longer works such series, novels, novelas, novelettes, and so on.  What’s it not good for…?  In my opinion, it’s not a great medium for drafting or finished prose.  It’s meant to be a journal, a chronological history of your thoughts. 

But even with this great, on-the-go tool, you may still find yourself short on writing time, and unable to fill a notebook with all the great ideas that simmer still in the back of your mind, waiting for a little heat (and a little time) to boil over onto the page.  But something else I like my notebook for?  Once you have a few entries, you’ve got something to read, something to look back over, something to remind you of the ideas you’ve been thinking about.  And that’s a little something that can help keep the flame of inspiration alive.

My new notebook

My hot-looking new, leather-bound, high-class writer's journal

So, before I close out this entry… I thought I’d ask you all, dear readers, a question.  I blogged recently about the gifts I got for Christmas this year, including the great looking new leather-bound writing journal from Dear Wife.  I’m eager to start filling this handsome volume with my thoughts – as soon as I get time to start thinking about my story ideas and what I want to write about.  But still, I can’t get over the nagging feeling that I’m wasting two-thirds of a notebook worth of blank pages just waiting to be filled, and how sad it would be to leave my current notebook so unfulfilled.

So, what say you, dear readers?

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. January 27, 2011 2:48 pm

    I love new notebooks. Sometimes I love them so much I don’t want to write in them because my handwriting is terrible and it turns them ugly haha. My favourite notepad though? The app on my iPhone: it comes with me everywhere. 😛

    • January 27, 2011 3:52 pm

      I have the same feeling sometimes… I especially feel that angst about my new notebook. It’s so perfect, so pristine, and my handwriting so sloppy… I almost don’t want to mar the pages with my crude chicken scratch. I also feel like my writings and notes and scatter-brained ideas are of insufficient quality to fill such wonderful pages. On the other hand, how awesome will my notes and writing look in that awesome notebook? But yeah… no iPhone app for me… the dataplan alone would bury me. I’d never pay off this student debt!

  2. January 28, 2011 12:50 am

    Wow. so far an even 50/50. I’m a huge fan of notebooks in general (and Dear Wife had very good taste) but I always start a new one too soon and then am never satisfied with the blank pages in the old and all I end up with is a ton of unfinished stories in old notebooks that I don’t like anymore. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES!!

  3. February 1, 2011 3:04 pm

    I started my pocket moleskine in 2003 (it was a gift from Christmas 2002). I have now only a few pages left. It took me 8 years to fill it with notes – story ideas, projects, sketches, notes taken at conventions or panels, etc. I don’t know how many pages it has, but it looks like a fairly well used booklet now! Most have been expanded or copied or whatever, some are still there, waiting… And I have my Notebook Friend that I use mostly as a journal, but haven’t used it much lately… writing too much online, haha! 😀
    You could use the old notebook for story ideas and quick notes and the new shiny (lovely!) one for bots of prose… I know, it would mean carrying two, but are they so heavy? 😉
    Happy writing!

    • February 1, 2011 4:26 pm

      I thought about that possibility, actually. Or something like it. It would make a handsome volume for prose as well, certainly. I’m surprised it took you 8 years to fill your moleskine – but you’ve introduced an interesting new use for it to me, which is using it to take notes at conventions. If I ever attend panel discussions and whatnot, I shall have to remember that!

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