September Blog –
The Writer’s Notebook.
Even though my school days, and those of two of my children, are long gone, Autumn brings with it the same sense of new beginnings I felt as a child; the holidays may be over, the summer at its end, but no matter, for there will be fresh pages to write on.
I have a great passion verging on an unhealthy habit for notebooks. And September rekindles the urge to start a fresh one, its untrammeled pages just begging to be filled with ideas, stories, and much neater handwriting than last year’s.
They say writers should carry a notebook at all times. The elusive idea that comes to you on top of a mountain or in a crowded tube will vanish if you don’t pin it down immediately. And I bow to this aged wisdom. Leaving home without a notebook in my bag makes me feel a little insecure, like an asthmatic without their Ventillin, (I am one of those as well.) Knowing my notebook is there helps me breathe.
Before developing the habit of carrying a notebook, I often bought them on the go. I have accumulated an eclectic pile of exercise books that emanate from local post offices, tiny stationers in out of the way towns, from those Alimentari stores in Italy that sell everything, from kiosks on station platforms in Greece or from mysterious stalls in medinas in Morocco. The ones I’ve grabbed abroad usually have squared paper, and some have the oddest covers, things I barely looked at when I bought them-in my rush to open and get scribbling, but which now I regard with bemusement.
Amongst the collection accumulated over the years I also have some high quality notebooks given to me on various birthdays usually by my children who know of my guilty pleasure, leather-bound beauties with integral book marks and high quality paper, which I keep as diaries and for my private thoughts.
The problem with having too many notebooks is that when you come to look for the one you need for your latest scene it’s hard to remember which one it’s in. At times I’ve tried to come up with systems-one book as diary, one for books I have read or ‘to be read,’ one for ideas, one for ‘deep thoughts,’ another for research. This brought to mind Doris Lessing’s ‘The Golden Notebook’ (which I read many years ago,) in which her narrator has four notebooks each allotted a different purpose with a fifth- Golden one to tie all the others together.
For me however, having too many note books can get out of hand. I knew I had to cut back when I found I had more than eight on the go at the same time; appointments; memoir or diary; ideas; research; character sketches; things to do; ideas for the house and garden; lists of books read and films seen; lists of books to be read, short story ideas; article ideas; recipes…. and if one wasn’t to hand at the right time I’d note my thought in whichever book was, so I’d end up with recipes in my diary or deep thoughts in the book of things to buy for the kids.
More recently I have tried to pare this down. I have discovered what I consider to be the crème de la crème of writer’s notebooks that I keep quite distinctly from the diary which stays by my bed and the ‘to do’ book which floats around the house. These are simple notebooks with plain recycled covers from Muji, they mimic the school exercise book in size, so fit happily in my bag, but are not too small to write copiously in and to be able to read my own writing in afterwards. They are slim, so not overwhelming, and I fill up a whole one with a combination of notes, ideas, research, character sketches, beginnings of scenes (and in emergencies recipes and the names of plants for the garden.) I keep on going until t he notebook is full and then I label it and put it in a pile on my desk.
I have grown to love and depend on this particular brand of notebook and to feel that as long as I have a few empty ones waiting for me in a secret location, I can keep my craving to buy new ones under control…almost.