The Powerful Magic of a Simple Notebook

For the past few years, my writing process has become increasingly digital. I like technology and use software for just about every aspect of writing–from collecting ideas to researching to writing.

But I have a notebook. It’s physical, not digital. It’s not a little palm-sized one to carry in my pocket or purse. (I used to do that years ago, but nowadays, for those kinds of notes I use Evernote or OneNote on my computer and phone.) No, this notebook is standard 8.5 x 11.

I realized just recently this notebook is magical for me–if I open it, thoughts automatically start to come to me. It’s become Pavlovian. I realized it makes me happy to even glimpse, touch, or open this notebook.

I use it in a specific way–for brainstorming about specific scenes, plot, problems, sequences, characters, etc. and for generally thinking more deeply about the WIP, away from the words and the screen.

My notebook isn’t special; it’s not bound in leather or expensive or handmade. I considered the Levenger Circa or Staples’ Arc binders, which are popular with many writers, but they felt a little restrictive and expensive.

My notebook is ordinary, inexpensive, and practical. It’s a binder made by Five Star Mead.

I have several. I prefer red or purple covers. (One of my favorites is one with a pretty flowered fabric spine that, alas, is no longer being produced.)

It has plastic binder rings and a flexible plastic cover that’s lightweight, waterproof, attractive, and easy to clean. Most important is that it always opens flat and you can fold it over on itself like a spiral notebook.

The notebook takes standard 8.5 x 11 paper which is cheap and ordinary and encourages me to be profligate rather than miserly, and to freely, messily, fully brainstorm a topic. Just recently I discovered Mead Five Star reinforced filler paper which has bigger holes so it turns better on the rings.

My handwriting is not neat and tiny; it’s purposely messy, but I do like pens with brightly colored ink. The standard dimensions mean I don’t feel cramped and limited by the small size of a palm-sized notebook.

I’m not precious about these notebooks. They aren’t journals. I don’t use an organization scheme for the brainstorming in this notebook. I don’t put in sections or an index, but I could. I might in the future. Currently I don’t usually refer back to notes, or at least not over long periods of time. Usually it’s daily/hourly/weekly problem-solving that I incorporate into current writing within a week or so, though I do occasionally enjoy leafing through the binder’s pages out of sentimental nostalgia.

Now that I realize how magical this notebook is, I think I might start using it even more systematically–open it at the beginning of every writing session and make some notes before I start writing.

I’ve thought about using an app that would allow handwriting on my ipad or phone, but in the case of brainstorming, I find there’s no substitute for the magic of pen and paper!

This entry was posted in News, Writing Practice. Bookmark the permalink.