Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Writer's Notebook

This has become one of the must have and must write about topic for writers and possibly to all creatives as well. So I’m jumping onto the bang wagon and write a post about it.

When I was a lot younger and first started to write, no one ever told me that I would need to keep notes. During that stage, most of my writing was about what was happening in my life. It was more like journal writing, hence no notes were ever needed.

It was the time when I started uni and took up writing seriously that I was told the importance of keeping a notebook. I became obsessed about carrying one at all time and made sure I had one in each room of my house. And to make sure that I was a "real" writer, I made loads and loads of notes in all the notebooks. After awhile, I realized that I was writing down notes for the notebook’s sake as well as to satisfy my vanity. I imagined people being impressed by my writing attire. The note writing took precedent to writing stories!

After this realization, I made a careful study of my notes in relation to my writing projects. The discovery was astounding. As I was never into pre-planning a story, it only made sense that I jotted down notes while I was actually writing the story. Those "notes" in the notebook was more like a to-do-list or a reminder of what sort of research I needed to do for the writing projects. Story ideas and story writing never landed in the notebooks at all!

I know that lots of writers would grab their notebooks, go out say to a shopping mall and write down their observations. I admire greatly to writers who do this. In my case, I don’t really do that or I may have done it but not on a conscious level. I tend to soak up my surroundings and recall the experience and observation when needed.

At present, I’m still keeping a notebook in my bag out of habit and to satisfy the natural worry-er in me. (You know, the "just in case" theory.) But I found the most convenient notepad is the index card. I learn this from Anne Lamott, author of "Bird by Bird – Some Instructions on Writing and Life", which is one of my favourite books on writing. These cards are small and easy to store. Like when I walk my dog, I just get 2 or 3 of the index cards, fold them in half plus a pen, stuff them in my jean’s pocket and off I go. I also keep 2 in my purse.

All of these notes taking business also reflect the way I write my stories. Before computers became affordable to most people, I relied on paper and pen to write. But since computers have become a lot cheaper and more users friendly, I have given up the traditional way and right now could only write with my laptop. In fact I found the idea to write a story with pen and paper alien!

How about you, fellow writers (and extends to fellow creatives as well)? Do you use a notebook? And what do you put in it?


Ben Zen said...

I take a notebook and pens with me everywhere (if I can remember them!). The train can be a great place for sketching. Sometimes if I have time to kill in the city I'll go to a Starbucks and sketch for a while. I know there's millions of better cafes in Melbourne, but it's really interesting for all the different people coming and going, for ideas for new characters etc. I guess it's notetaking in a way, just a more visual form :)

sophie said...

I've always got a notebook. My issue has always been what the best TYPE of notebook is. I have a different one to carry in my bag, and then another two at home (one for uni stuff, one for actual writing). I need the notebook to be the right size, the cover to be the right thickness etc etc. Hence the notebooks I made from paper that would otherwise have been recycled at my work a few months ago.

Speaking of which, I have another ten or so of those sitting on my desk to bind...

And no, you haven't missed this month's project. Kate and I have both had quite a few other things on, so we have set one yet. Hopefully we'll set on this weekend and we can have a super-fast monthly (fortnightly) project this month.

miruspeg said...

Great minds think alike Hybrid. I am a huge fan of Anne Lamott and did a post about this book in March.

I always carry a notebook and pen whereever I go. As I am getting older I find my interesting thoughts don't stay with me unless I write them down.

I never plan what I am going to write in my blog, I usually get inspired from the posts I read of other bloggers or their comments.

Great thought provoking post.

Barbara/myth maker said...

I used to carry a notebook and pen with me everywhere, but I stopped doing that along the way somewhere. I stopped writing a lot, too, and wish I would get back into it with some consistency.
Could you tell me what "uni" is??

laughingwolf said...

i use scraps of paper i either misplace or lose; i have yet to use my voice recorder :O lol

Angie said...

I have just started to use a small note book to write ideas for drawings or paintings,to doodle in,lists of music/movies/and books i want to read, and also to collect inspiring quotes.
I love writing lists on all things.
I also have a larger book and use as a visual diary and collect drawings and pictures in it from magazines, cards etc., its like an inspiring visual book to jog my memory.
I would like to start using a note book that I can take out and about with me, once I get the courage and not feel so self consciuos!

Hybrid J said...

Hi Ben,

I think visual artist is also like us writer, you also need to "take note" for creative purposes. Pen & paper seem more important to visual artist.

And Starbuck is a good place to watch people. If I'm in the city, I tend to sit on the benches alongside Swanston St or Bourke St to do my people watching. :)

Thanks for sharing!

Hybrid J said...

Hi Sophie,

I can see the "particular" in your choice of notebook. ;) Mine is more about the pen. At the moment, my favourite is Uni-Ball Vision Needle (0.5) in Violet. And use BIC multi-color pen to do editing. I like to use different color to highlight the text to remind myself which part needs rewriting or more research etc.

Hybrid J said...

Hi Peggy,

How wonderful to know that you also enjoyed Anne Lamott's book! Will check out your earlier post on her later.

Oh, and you're not the only one who's forgetful at times! As I get older, I have the same problem! So pen and paper is still handy and important to us! :)

Hybrid J said...

Hi Laughing Wolf,

Great minds think alike! I've been pondering to get a MP3 Voice Recorder for note taking. Should really get it done! ;)

Hybrid J said...

Hi Angie,

Thanks for droppoing by. I'm impressed by various notebooks you keep for different things. And what a great idea to keep an inspiring viusal book! I should keep one as well. Do go ahead to use your notebook anywhere you want. You can do it!!! :)

Hybrid J said...

Hi Barbara,

There was a long period that I stopped note taking and writing. Then somehow, it all came back again. So with time and intention, I'm sure your writing and note taking will become more consistent.

Uni is short for university in Australia. I'm sorry if it caused you trouble to understand. I should be more careful and considerate to fellow bloggers from other countries. ;)

KnittingJourneyman said...

I have notebooks and pens everywhere. It doesn't help. I scribble wherever I am-usually notes for titles or things I am writing in my head that I don't want to forget.

I don't take notes per se. I don't go places, record conversations, observations, nada. I use what I see/hear based on memory-I'd never find my notes again anyway if I needed them. I can't figure out where I write down my grocery list most of the time.

Now I mostly doodle in my notebooks.... :-)

Hybrid J said...

Hi Tabitha,

In certain way, I'm like you as well. I have papers and pen in different parts of my house, but I seldom use them. And most of the time, I either keep the "notes" in my head til I type them up in my laptop or I simply forget about them.

Hmmm ... note taking, I love and hate them. :)