Romancing the Notebook

by sbh on Monday - 14 April 2008

in Uncategorized

Man, I’ve gone through a drought. Perhaps not a drought of epic proportions, but I do feel like Israel waiting for Moses to tap on that rock. More than anything, I’d like to break out of this drought and get back into the glorious habit of writing daily. I’ve produced practically nothing for a couple of weeks now. This dearth has set itself upon my soul — it is a weighty stone that won’t be cast aside.

In order to get back on track, I’ve started doing two things. Here they are:

h3. THE Notebook

I have a fine collection of half-used moleskins. Moleskins are awesome. They are the Bentleys of the notebook world, no doubt. That’s just the problem — I have no trouble taking my Nissan out for a spin, but the Bentley stays in the garage. When I’m looking at a moleskin, I feel like whatever I write in it must be perfect. No scribbled out words, no dumb thoughts, only smart and witty things worthy of Wilde and Byron and the like.

Bottom-line: Moleskins are for 19th century literary pretenders.

For Christmas this year, my wife bought me these other notebooks put out by the moleskin folks. They are small (probably 1/5 the number of pages), with these cheap, brown, paper covers. They are atrocious. They come in packs of three for half the price of a regular little moleskin.

They’re perfect.

Buff Moleskine

From my snobby point-of-view, these things are trash. Therefore, I’m not at all afraid to write whatever I please in them. I’ve started to really use one of these over the last week. I keep it next to me at my desk by day. Here are some of the items that have filled its pages:

* Words I needed to look up from a Michael Chabon book I was reading (seriously, the man has a silly vocabulary).
* Writers I should check out.
* Words I hate.
* Character sketches.
* Things I’m good at (nothing like a little self-esteem boosting!).
* Notes from a meeting with some folks for whom I’m going to be editing a video.
* Notes for the Bible Study that I co-lead.
* General observations.
* Bits of conversations I’ve overheard (or taken part in).

Basically, anything under the sun makes it into this notebook.

h3. Why is this useful?

Notebooks are dumb and pointless — unless you are going to periodically review them. Let me lay out for you how this new notebook kick got started in earnest.

Last week, I was in preparation for this Bible Study (mentioned above). I wanted to jot down a quick outline for what I was hoping to accomplish. I could find nothing but huge 8.5×11 sheets of notebook paper. In my search for a small notebook, I came upon a stack of old (and new) moleskins. Urged on by curiosity, I began to thumb threw them.

Here are some items I found:

* Notes for stories written in 2002.
* Accounts of a professor I had whose career was coming to an end due to Parkinson’s disease (truly sad stuff).
* Drawings of floorplans of ancient structures from sites visited in Greece and Turkey in 2005.
* General observations — behavior, conversation, etc.

In short: A little time machine to the past with some really good stuff in it.

The notes for the old stories were particularly interesting. I was able to relive some of those debates I was having way back when about character and plot. My stories have always been character driven. I’m not a plot guy. This notebook confirms it!

h3. What notebooks are not…

You are not Leonard da Vinci. It is extremely unlikely that anyone will care to read your notebook drivel some 500 years from now. So, don’t fret what you put in there: it’s not for posterity — it’s for YOU!

That’s right. Your notebook is for you.

Around the Hebert house we have a strict rule established long ago: The notebook is personal and not to be touched.

This well-established rule goes for Nat’s notes too. We don’t go pokin’ around in there unless asked to. That’s just the way it is.

Start yourself a writer’s notebook. Do it. Here’s a recent post from “Daily Writing Tips”: on the topic. Get after it!

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