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This is What Those Little Notebooks are For

June 22, 2010

Viewed from the outside we writers must seem a silly lot…

A few weeks ago, I chronicled on this blog that I was restarting morning pages, with the goal of ramping up my creative output. I’ve kept with the morning pages—not everyday, but most—and so far my creative output has increased a touch. But what I have noticed is that with the Morning Pages, my mind has started to think about the characters and ideas that get tossed around each morning in the Morning Pages.

That is to say that while I’m at work, coding, I’ll be unconsciously casting my uncast characters in various scenes, settings, and scenarios to see who belongs where. While I’m driving home mouthing the words to whatever on the radio, I’m trying out dialogue.

However, this can sometimes lead to some frantic moments when an idea comes up.

I mentioned we were a silly lot…this past weekend I was at a small party. The entire group was in an intense debate about religion. Something one of the guests said could have been said by one of my characters. Not only that but the logic set forth made a final connection between two arguments my character was making.

So what did I do in that instant? I realized I didn’t have anything to write with.

I immediately started searching around for something to write on…or with. One or two others noticed what I was doing and suggested that I use my phone to record my epiphany. So I popped the phone out of its case and started typing, quickly becoming frustrated with the tiny keyboard. Next I tried the voice recorder; but it was a party and the background noise was drowning out my own voice.

Eventually I found a large napkin and a small ball point, and spent the next 5 minutes covering the napkin with nearly illegible scribble, and trying in vain not to rip my makeshift canvas.

The friend with whom I went to the party, watched me with a bemused look and said, “This is What Those Little Notebooks are For.”

This week Dale is going through boxes of his belongings and trying to find his collection of little notebooks.
  1. June 22, 2010 1:33 am

    I have this obsession with notebooks, always seem to have even more than one on me at a time. It’s a habit I picked up from being a socialist actually, before writers seemed to do it. We’re always in meetings jotting notes down and having one for that came in handy when story ideas come too.

  2. June 22, 2010 3:18 am

    Ah, I know this situation only too well! I try and carry at least one little notebook with me (and also a sketchpad, but that’s because I’ve discovered sketching my characters is helping me to understand them better) but don’t forget, also carry something to write with!!! Many a time I’ve had the paper and not the pen. D’oh! Mechanical pencils are my best tip – they don’t run out as easily as pens…

  3. June 22, 2010 3:57 am

    Oh, my goodness, I’ve had too many episodes where I’ve nearly driven myself crazy for want of pen and paper. Thankfully, however, I have learned to keep a pen and a notebook practically glued to my hip whenever I leave my house. It makes for much less stressful days.

  4. June 22, 2010 5:17 am

    I have a page a week/notebook Moleskin that I take everywhere. Perfect cover as it looks like a diary. People don’t realise I am noting down story stuff, they think I’m checking appointment times. Got loads of little notebooks too – my favourite being the Zombie Survival guide one my wife bought for me. As for pens, I use the gadgety space pens, perfect for writing when slouching on the sofa or leaning on a wall.

  5. June 22, 2010 12:28 pm

    I picked up the habit of always carrying a mechanical pencil when I worked in construction. My problem is I never bring a notebook and there’s no way you can write on a napkin with a mechanical pencil. I’m constantly scribbling on the backs of receipts and small bits of paper. I like Dan’s idea of using a small date book sized notebook I can stuff in my back pocket.

  6. adampb permalink
    June 22, 2010 4:49 pm

    Being a teacher I am rarely without a pen, usually my Artline black felt tip. My best mate calls it my “geek stick.” Stashed in my bag somewhere is usually a small hardcover notebook for scrawling ideas. It’s just very hard to write down an idea whilst driving a car, I must say.

  7. June 22, 2010 8:23 pm

    Love my morning pages! And I always keep a notebook in my purse. Anytime I’m stuck waiting, I pull it out and watch people. I also jot down notes for future stories as they pop up.

  8. June 22, 2010 8:56 pm

    I’m funny about notebooks and writing things down… because I feel that once it has been written down… it has been “written down” and there is no story to tell. Now to contradict myself… when I do want to write something down it seems I’m without pen and paper. I have a plethora of small notebooks and pads but never have one when I need one.

    I had a moment in a restaurant a few years back where two Captain Juan characters launched into a heated argument in my head over a nice romantic dinner… and disappearing to the toilet to allow the argument to play out I had nothing to write on… and thus lost the entire argument.

    Adam… I’m with you on the black artline pen – my absolute favourite. I’d be happy for it to be called my ‘geek stick’. Why were there not cool teachers like you when I was at school?

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