Notebooks and Fancies


A selection of fancy notebooks

Yes, I’m addicted to notebooks, and I’m not afraid to admit it. I love the potential inherent in a new notebook – all those blank pages, just waiting to be filled. I prefer composing with pen and paper. Something about watching the lines leave the tip of the pen almost becomes a meditation fueling my creativity. And yes, I have many more notebooks than I need right now … and no, that’s not stopping me from picking up new ones as the fancy strikes me.

I’ve been wrestling with two issues with regard to notebooks. One is compartmentalization. I’ve designated certain styles of notebooks for certain types of writing. For example, all my fantasy universe notes are in one style of notebook while my science fiction universe notes are in another style. This works well to keep like with like, but I run into difficulties when I’m working on one task but come up with an idea for another and don’t have the right notebook with me. And what should I use if I want to work on something entirely different? Writing ideas in the wrong dedicated notebook inhibits me, and that’s a problem. The right tool for the right job and all that (or is it the write tool for the write job?), but the tools should not get in the way of the work.

My current solution is to declare a section at the end of each notebook as “Miscellaneous” to capture any stray ideas before they escape, then transfer the writing to the correct notebook later. I’ve also designated a couple of “anything goes” notebooks to be used for any type of writing. We’ll see how well that works.

And speaking of inhibitions, the second notebook issue is in regard to fancy notebooks. Modern notebooks have come a long way from the simple spiral-bound days. Walk through any store selling office supplies and you’ll see gorgeous notebooks, but fancy notebooks are their own special trap. A fancy notebook should be filled with fancy ideas and fancy writing, shouldn’t it? Yet the process of writing yields lots of writing which can be downright ugly, especially in the early stages. So is it wrong to sully the pages of a fancy notebook with infant ideas that might make a mess of all those pristine pages? After long deliberation, I’ve decided that the answer to the question, at least for me, has to be no, it’s not wrong.

I’ve heard the recommendation to use ugly notebooks as a way to lower the pressure of expectations on oneself, and to some extent, I agree. An ugly notebook can contain anything, so it’s easier to just “let ‘er rip” and experiment. Yet if I deliberately choose to use ugly tools, something within me begins to ask why I’m not worthy of using pretty tools instead. When I’m in the zone of creativity and the ideas are flowing, my tools don’t matter; I could use crayon on newsprint and be happy. But if I’m struggling with the writing, then the tools gain importance.

Success in any creative endeavor requires the confidence to allow oneself to make mistakes. Choosing to use a fancy notebook boosts my confidence. I choose to surround myself with beauty while I attempt to create beauty. When I sit down to write, I never know what’s going to come out of the pen. The initial writing might not be pretty, but it might lead to something beautiful later. Shouldn’t an idea be allowed someplace safe and pretty to incubate?

So I’ve been allowing myself to crack open the fancy notebooks and use them. I refuse to be intimidated by my tools. Time will tell whether this course is correct. In the meantime, I will enjoy the serenity of beauty every time I open my fancy notebook to a new blank page.



1 thought on “Notebooks and Fancies

  1. I loved the image of an infant idea possibly soiling an otherwise pristine notebook — writing is indeed a messy process.

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