A writer’s notebook is often seen to be a thing of mystery and – possibly depending on the writer – a thing of wisdom. I’m here to dispel both theories.
People often ask me about my notebook as if it is somehow a secret worth uncovering. And, I have to say that, when I begin to write, I like the idea of having a pritine and beautiful notebook in which I will record all of my wonderful story ideas and pieces of writing. In fact, I even go out and buy a notebook before I begin writing a new book, perhaps hoping that the newness of the notebook will cause me to be more inspired and my writing to be more inspiring.
The reality is that, while I do use the new notebook, it is by no means the only place in which my thoughts are jotted. I actually have a slew of notebooks hidden in various places because I have a terrible memory and I know, from long experience of chasing forgotten ideas that, if I don’t write it down, I’ll never remember it. And of course, the pristine, new notebook is rarely on hand when the ideas come, because it is usually sitting in all its pristine newness on my desk in my study.
So, I also have a notebook – a small spiral bound thing that someone gave me as a present years ago – in the drawer of my bedside table. This is because my ideas have an annoying habit of arriving just as I’m about to go to sleep and I hate getting out of bed for anything other than a crying baby once I’m all tucked up. The problem is, the baby has decided that, of all the things in the house, the notebook in my bedside table drawer is his favourite toy. He is often to be found sitting on my bedroom floor with a pen in hand and the notebook on the floor in front of him, scribbling away, shouting ‘book!’, ‘book!’, at the top of his voice. As a consequence, all my wonderful pre-sleep ideas have to be deciphered from between layers of scribble.
I also keep a notebook in my handbag because, when I’m sitting down supposedly watching one of my daughters’ ballet classes, I will start having ideas for my book. This notebook looks the part – it is a Moleskine, the black leather bound notebooks favoured by writers such as Ernest Hemingway. Again, mine was given to me many years ago and has found its way into my handbag simply on account of its size rather than its pedegree – it’s small and light and, given how much space in my handbag is taken up by kids’ water bottles, food, stickers, textas and other necessities, the smallness and lightness are its best attributes. Of course the baby likes this notebook too and usually starts grabbing it out of my hands for scribbling paractice the instant I begin to write in it.
I’ve also been known to write ideas on the back of shoppping receipts, on those free notepads that real estate agents have a habit of leaving in my letterbox, and many other equally unglamourous places. So no, I don’t have a set of matching notebooks in which I write everything, my notebooks are not numbered and dated and nicely ordered, and they are certainly not legible to anyone other than me as, for someone who dares call themself a writer, I have the most terrible handwriting. But I keep them all. I can’t bear to part with them and sometimes, when I really need to, I like to go back and look through them and marvel at how, a few words scrawled on the back of a parking ticket, can turn into a character or a chapter or the plot twist that you’ve been searching for for months.
Where do you write? Are you a notebook keeper or do you have some other secret stash of ideas? Please share …