As writers, we often find ourselves collecting notebooks in an attempt to fill them. Just as often, the ratio of empty notebooks to full starts to lean heavy on the “empty” side, but our compulsion to surround ourselves with empty pages is real. Curious that, for many of us, the empty page is a source of our anxiety. It’s like we need to live with our demons.
In an effort to help, and hopefully provide a laugh or two, please peruse this list of notebooks, many of which I am the sad owner of.
1. The classic composition notebook
Not only will the black marbling on its weak cover give you nostalgia-feels for a school life you never had, but the unyielding binding will have you leaning deep into your stories as you use your full weight to keep the pages from flapping back onto your pencil. Make sure to get the Wide Ruled for all your BIG ideas.
2. The Mole-rhod-tturm Hardcover with Dot-grid technology notebook
These notebooks in their natural state signal to the world that you’re serious about your writing. They also suggest you have much stronger forearms than the average composition writer (who we all know is probably a serial killer in disguise) as you wrestle to utilize every single dot in your grid. The trick to these notebooks is to make sure you don’t accidentally start bullet journaling.
3. The receipts in the bottom of your backpack
Probably the least known treasure trove of papery goodness, these tiny scraps of thermal paper, when assembled, can form the next quirky novel representing the voice of a generation – a generation that actually has money to buy stuff, that is. While each slippery slip is perfect for jotting down yet another novel idea, remember to keep a stock of cheap stick pens with you at all time and a soft surface to write on, preferably the cover of a better notebook.
4. The margins of a novel you would have written better
There’s no better way to shop in this economy than in your own home, reusing the items already at hand. Not only does it make the planet happy, but it’s a big boost of confidence for the fledgling writer when they can mark up a sub-par $8.99 novel with the critiques and marginalia of a much, much better book. The satisfaction of obliterating the text of this published author’s work with the genius that is your own, makes the initial purchase a wise investment.
5. The app-only notebook, but spread across a number of apps, some of which are no longer on your phone
Between a note-taking app, a reminder app, a to-do list app, a quick text app, a voice recording app, a grocery list app, a cloud-document app, a cloud-spreadsheet app, a journaling app, a novel-writing app, and a blogging app, there is absolutely no need to carry around reams of small paper in order to capture your thoughts or record bits of prose. You’re already paying out the nose for the small glass rectangle in your pocket, you should absent-mindedly funnel all of your best thoughts into it as well.
6. Dr. Jones’s Grail Diary
Let’s finally admit it. This is what we want. We want the feel of the thick pages, the soft leather, the years of research and work carefully curated, drawn, arranged, and connected in one space. We want a palace of the mind in a traveler’s notebook. We want the result of obsessive work held in the palm of our hand (with heft and texture, not that glass rectangle.) All bullet journals, writing notebooks, story bibles, strive for this – like a grail quest itself. The trouble is it takes a long time to get there, and sometimes, you never do.
A Suggestion That Might Actually Help…
The type of notebook matters little. We all know this, but I would suggest one thing: have a notebook that captures anything, something like a miscellany. Capture bits of prose, stories, overheard dialog, recipes, poems, leaves, sketches. Make this your one-stop shop for your tactile world. You don’t have to just have one – you can have a digital and analog version, catching inspiration on and off line. As I mentioned in my previous post, the key is not collection, but reflection, so take time regularly to look through what you’ve found and see how things connect. Often the fallen leaf and the stray song may pair up into something wonderful.