I’ve always been in love with notebooks. When I was younger it was hardcover notebooks in which I would write ENTIRE NOVELS, by hand, often in pencil. Later, especially when I graduated to the computer as a primary writing tool, they became smaller things I toted around in various purses and in which I scribbled quotes, ideas and half-finished poetry.
Some were set aside as dedicated “research journals” for particular projects, and are filled with scrawled notes culled from various research books read along the way, thoughts and ideas on applying facts discovered during research. As it got closer to the writing something, these notebooks often blossomed into colorful and chaotic proliferation of multi-hued Post-it tabs which guided me as to which bits belong in which chapter or section of the actual story I was trying to write.
I currently have a stash of these notebooks, bound in interesting textured covers, sitting in a small pile on a side table and waiting for their turn at glory. They don’t know yet what they are going to be, what they are going to build.
In a sense, this defines a writer. Scratch through a writer’s pockets or bags and you’ll always find these things, full of chicken scratches of half formed and barely coherent ideas, sometimes in shorthand which even the writer is hard-pressed to recognize a week or a month or a year after they had scritched it down for remembrance. If not a notebook, you’ll find old envelopes with scribbles on the back, napkins from fast-food restaurants, sale slips from stores which went out of business six months before but whose ghosts haunt the bottom of someone’s handbag because the back of of them contain the first inklings of a deathless idea.
I take my notebooks everywhere. I take them traveling and write down the things I see and hear and experience and taste. I write down the things that leave me gaping in awe and the things that make me laugh and the things that make me annoyed. I take them out to restaurants with friends, and scribble furtively in them when I happen to notice a strange character sitting at a table a little way away and am suddenly mugged by that person’s life story (or my version of it, anyway) which I just have to jot down and preserve because some day I might need a character JUST LIKE THAT for a story not yet born. I leave them lying by my bed when I go to sleep at night because who knows what dreams may come and need to be nailed down in ink on paper before they vanish like the ephemera that they are.
Blank journals represent a restless, exciting state of possibility and of Things To Come. They tremble with the yet-unborn spirits of stories still to be told. They whisper out of that inviting emptiness calling to me to come and fulfill them, to help them find their destinies, and along the way, pursue my own.
They are physical links to that place that lies Between, where the stories live and fly.