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