On carrying a notebook around

A recent attempt at "carrying a notebook around"
A recent attempt at “carrying a notebook around”

Carrying a pocket notebook everywhere with me is my favorite hobby.

– Person on annoying blog about being a better writer

Take Care of Your Little Notebook

Charles Simic, New York Times

There are rules:

  • One must carry a notebook around at all times.
  • Twain carried a notebook around. So did Hemingway. Lewis and Clark wrote things and drew pictures in the notebooks they carried around. ALWAYS CARRY A NOTEBOOK AROUND. What the hell is the matter with you?
  • It doesn’t matter what kind of notebook, but an orangey-red spiral bound Warwick 3B1 one is best because it’s practical and won’t be too fancy that you’ll be afraid to write your notes in it. A Moleskine is a bit tedious as notebooks go, but fine, OK.
  • Two pens and/or pencils in case one runs out or breaks.
  • “Jot” down any thoughts that come to you or any overheard snatches of conversations (e.g. ‘We’re doing the video for a new Coldplay song at work, God, it’s tedious’) and curious street signs (e.g. Turnagain Lane, Shoot Up Hill) or names of shops (e.g. The Mixed Blessings Bakery, Wake and Paine Undertakers, Chickpizz)
  • You never know when certain ideas, lines, and memories will come to you. You could be anywhere, doing anything. You could be brushing your teeth or in the bath! What if you don’t have a notebook to write them down? You’ll have to try to write your notes in toothpaste foam or bath foam, but the letters will disintegrate and it will be a disaster. Always have your notebook at the ready.
  • Start with a single Notebook, but build up to multiple notebooks: a “Morning Pages
    Journal”, an “Official Writer’s Notebook”, a “Lists” Book, a “Pocket Notebook”, and “Other Types of Notebooks” (Dream Journal, Personal Journal or Diary, Gratitude Journal, Achievements journal, “Manifesting Beliefs” Journal). You could also have a “display” notebook in the pocket of your suit for everyone to see, and another, secret one in the pocket inside.
  • Take notes all the time, even and especially at funerals, like Helen Garner that time. If you don’t carry a notebook around, you’ll almost definitely end up in a noteworthy situation. People are forever finding themselves without a notebook when the lyrics from the hit song they sleep-composed come back to them, or they’ve fallen down a hole, or they’ve seen an outstandingly vacuous bit of advertising copy that they want to steal for a poem (“Almonds: anytime, anywhere”). It’s really not worth the risk. Forgetting notes is like driving home from the library and forgetting your kids. The edge of your memory is littered with notes panicking as they realise they’ve been forgotten.

Well, I used to carry a notebook around all the time.

But now, days go by when I don’t. A solitary biro rolls around in my bag. Sometimes I don’t write anything in my notebook for over a week. The other day I couldn’t even find my notebook for ages – it was buried in a pile of old bills, bank statements, adapter cord things, toasty-pie-maker manuals etc..

I’m nervous about what this means. Maybe my notebook avoidance suggests some kind of psychic blockage. Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck, mosquito-like, inside an impenetrable block of audio, visual, meta data and even if I did have a notebook, I wouldn’t be able to make any notes about any of it. I guess that’s purely a failure of imagination. I keep letting the days, weeks, months wash over me, turning my mind to a prune. The city in late winter has a numbing effect: you wait and wait for the sun to hurry up (“I’ll write when I feel better”) and it stops moving completely and reverses back into the dark again.

So, I’m going to start carrying a notebook around again. Maybe just the sight of the notebook, like a leash held out to a dog, might be enough.

About ashleighlou

Person, usually on bike
This entry was posted in Memory, Working. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to On carrying a notebook around

  1. carol says:

    Nice, because I’m notebooking again myself. You’ve bolstered it for me.


  2. Steve Braunias says:

    Warwick 3B1 notebooks are always with me.


  3. ehjc says:

    I used to carry 3B1s and a pen in my cargoes in the 90s when I was a baby dyke and it was acceptable to wear stompy boots and cargo pants. Now I always have at least two notebooks in my handbag and at least four pens. I’m of the moleskine crowd but still don’t end up using notebooks the way I oughta.


  4. skbainbridge says:

    Here’s my tip: fill out the first few pages of your notebook with work-related stuff, then you can add to it during the day without worrying about your employer becoming concerned you are wasting work time with personal stuff. I guess this depends on 1. whether you have the kind of employer who blocks a large proportion of web-sites, doesn’t allow cell phones to be carried etc, and 2. that you are not being paid to write.


  5. Tim says:

    I bought my daughter a moleskine. She took her revenge by writing lots of pretentious “thoughts” in it, like Pascal. Now, when she sees or hears anything noteworthy, she cries, “To the moleskine!”


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