Notes in Notebooks

You have to be a little scared when your best friend gives you a pocket notebook for your musings.

One: because notes and musings are best written on recyclable envelopes so that no one close to you has any idea that you are serious – or pretentious enough to have the offending supply.

Two: You might make mistakes. A commitment to a notebook is permanent and can’t be shredded – lost, misplaced, gathering dust, but not whizzed out of existence.

I have another new one, bought for me at NYMOMA as I returned from the RWA conference in Orlando. My previous notebook was bought for me in Italy. Both are beautiful. I carry them with me daily.

I always feel weak in the knees about spoiling a beautiful, crafted notebook with scribblings. My handwriting has been cramped and distorted by use of the keyboard.

Do you have a special aversion or passion for a method of collecting your thoughts?

Also on this subject...


  1. Leigh,
    I keep a daily ‘journal’ of sorts in spiral notebooks. I started this only about four years ago, after reading Julia Cameron’s “Artists’ Way.”
    My handwriting never was very good and it’s worse and worse as arthritis gains ground on me.
    I have tablets all over the house and write on those mostly. If something jumps at me, I dare not wait til I can power-up my PC, log-on, get into the correct program, and begin typing. In those intervening moments, the image can scatter like a wisp of smoke.
    When my tablets are not near, I’ll write on the back of receipts, on paper bags, on napkins, on anything that will hold an image until I can ‘deal’ with it.
    I have folders full of that stuff. A lot I do get to later, but much just lays around for decades, like permanent mulch.

  2. In. I see what you meant now.

    I also use spiral notebooks and lined sheets in tablets. The beautiful notebooks are for display in public places. Any writing surface has to step up to the plate when I have an idea, even the pretty ones, if they are at hand.

    I carry four variations of writing surfaces in my work bag – the two notebooks as above, a Collins bound A5 and a tablet in a conference folder. I like to keep my work close to me! This last week, I also had a print-out of the first three chapters of my 2nd novel (1st in terms of starting) on which I wrote revisions in the margins on my lunch break.

    I kept a writer’s journal for years and it’s fun to read the entries now – the intensity, the seriousness, the earnest devotion! My posts here are similar – without taking myself quite as seriously.

    Thank you, Jeff. I really appreciate you’ve taken the time to comment.


  3. I have a variety of beautiful notebooks, and love to buy or be given them. Although I always have some intent in mind for them, they rarely fulfil the purpose for which I pretended to need them- in reality they are objects of my covetousness in their own right.

    Post-it notes stuck round the place, the whiteboard in the kitchen, the backs of bills, even the sleeve of my baseball jacket when I couldn’t find a piece of paper… those are the kinds of places I usually end up scribbling my thoughts. But then I often find that I only act on the ideas that lodge themselves in my head in any case: anything I have to write down in order to remember for future work tends not to be used in the long run.

  4. Hi, Peri.

    I buy with covetousness as well. I have attached a photo of a very few of my notebooks to #2 of this string. You may be able to see it by the time you read this. While I’m working on a particular project and am at work or in the car (not driving), I do write down specific ideas in rather plain, small notebooks – they are immediate and of current value.

    I write first drafts on notepads (tablets) or in less fancy notebooks (Collins A5 Ideal or the A4 version), to keep ideas that are going somewhere – for me that means I have characters and a scene. This is my ‘Ian McEwan Method’ – write until you have something that will make a book.

    When I am well into a draft, I hold ideas in my head until I am where I can write them down – this usually happens at the end of the day and I have to sleep! This is my ‘John Steinbeck Method’ – write until you know what’s going to happen next.

    Thank you for joining this conversation.