Well, I have to admit it. I’ve picked back up on an old habit.
That’s right, keeping a notebook. I have a long history with ’em.
One time, when I was packing up to move house, I found a box with over twenty composition notebooks. Artifacts from my teen years, or even more ancient and long-forgotten aeons.
They are never filled. Ever. For a long time I considered this some kind of moral failing. I thought I was being wasteful or undisciplined.
But when I would consider mixing themes or projects –say, putting a crudely drawn board game and associated rules in the notebook reserved for short stories– an electric feeling of wrongness would overtake me. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Still have a hard time with it. Each one was started with some aim in mind, and each one stayed faithful to its aim.
My most recent acquisition was obtained at a local bookstore. I wasn’t really planning on purchasing anything….until my eye caught their selection of beautifully blank books.
Like many people, I’ve gotten used to using my phone or other electronics to store notes and jot down ideas. Digital mnemonics devices that conveniently fit in your pocket.
Technology is wondrous of course. I sit now, effectively manipulating a glyph terminal, itself projected onto a modern laterna magica. But there is something, as I’ve expressed, about a notebook that draws me.
So I picked one up. Purchased it, and I’ve been scribbling in it ever since.
You might be wondering if I have any sort of system, any tips or tricks.
Not really. I’m sort of a mess. Despite my grandiose outlines, world-building backstory, and fictional histories. When I go into a creative project like The Witch-Doctor, I go hard, but this intensity does not translate into something orderly and pretty.
Instead, I have dozens upon dozens of sentence-long scrawlings that probably
wouldn’t couldn’t make sense to people even if they got to see them.
That is, unless said viewers had taken a special interest in such obscure topics as European witch-hunts or the history of Western Esotericism; and these are somewhat comically the most easy to discern bits.
These notes are the cells of my story, even more fundamental to structure than the outline.
Has it helped?
I do believe so. There is something about it that connects to me on an aesthetic level, inspiring me to revisit it. The pleasure I get from drawing the pen over the paper, arranging the oh-so-familiar letters of the alphabet into new combinations, is palpable. It affects me in a way that computers cannot. The process works to inspire me and thus creates a sort of positive feedback loop.
The lesson I think is to embrace methodologies and techniques that inspire you to continue creating. There is nothing objectively valuable to writing in a notebook, though there are probably plenty of people who would disagree, enslaved as so many are to nostalgia and rose-tinted retrospectives. My love of the simple notebook does not come from a place of technophobia. I recognize that in many ways, analog can be quite a bit less efficient.
I’m willing to accept that.