One of my New Year’s directives for writers was to always carry a notebook with you. This has been the hardest one for me to follow, for whatever reason, and in the beginning I mostly just followed it because I didn’t want to be a big dumb hypocrite. I believed in the power of the notebook, but then I would forget it sort of all the time. But I’ve been getting better, and I am here to tell you that the notebook is Magic.
I don’t know why this is. I assumed it would be helpful to have something on hand for me to jot down random thoughts and ideas, but the magical aspects of notebook-having seem to go beyond my scribbles. It’s like I’ve put my brain on notice that I’m a writer, even when I’m not at my desk. Things seem to be percolating just below my level of awareness. Or maybe I’m more open to whatever floats through my head, or more likely to pay attention to it.
The other day, for example, I was out walking the dog when I remembered a book idea that a friend had sent to me, one of those “you should write about this” kind of emails. It was sweet–if, I thought at the time, totally wrong for me–but when the memory popped into my head, I jotted it down.
The next day it hit me how the idea I had jotted down would work for another project I’m working on. I could hardly get to my notebook fast enough. It was like I was downloading information. I wrote a few pages without pausing, standing there on the sidewalk. (Once again I was walking the dog–who, by the way, is pretty annoyed at all this stopping-and-writing.) It’s not the first time this sort of thing has happened, either. I’m convinced that I’m months ahead with my project than I would have been, and it’s all due to carrying around this tiny book.
I’ve tried to use my smartphone for this purpose, by the way, but it doesn’t work nearly as well. It’s too complicated. There are too many steps in the way of getting your idea written. And the beauty of the notebook is, you might think you’re blurting out one word and suddenly you’ve written a paragraph. Or a series of random words. You may not understand your handwriting, the next time you read it. You may completely mistranslate yourself, and come up with something new. And that’s pretty great. A notebook leaves room for happy accidents.
So: do you have a notebook? You should have a notebook. (Get a notebook.) (No, really, I mean it.)