I'm addicted to my writer's notebooks. Have been since college. My writer's notebook is where the ideas that matter (to my books and to my life) start percolating.
How I use the notebooks has changed over time. In fact, when I flip through them, I can tell a lot about where I am in the writing process based on my handwriting and how I use the page. Loose script dashed diagonally across the page? Definitely a sudden inspiration, probably jotted down while walking. Tight lists with page numbers? I'm trying to get unstuck by analyzing a novel I admire. Entry that begins, "why do I always forget how hard this is?" Self talk during a first draft. Crazy cartoons and doodles surrounded by quotations? Me, at a reading (probably after a glass of wine)...
Now that I've been doing it for almost 10 years, keeping a writer's notebook is kind of like clicking on the Time Machine function on my Mac. I can see all those different writing Ashleys--and how they led me to my current place.
I have changed through these notebooks, but the most crucual benefit they offer me hasn't changed. My writer's notebook lets me take my writing anywhere. It turns every park bench, bus seat, or cafe table into a workable writing space.
Even when I'm working with Scrivener on my Mac, my writer's notebook is open. I move back and forth between the two, using the physical notebook as a safe space to think out an idea (and question it) before or even as I draft a scene.
My notebooks also save my butt via the reading lists I tuck inside them, lists of (with secret notations) every book that I read or listen to. They save my butt because I'm one of those people who blanks when asked their favorite book (I have too many!). Having the lists makes it easier to track down the right recommendations when asked, too.
P.S. Just click on the "writersnotebook" tab for my blog to see bits from many different notebooks. One of my favorite posts is here.
Today, our little boy Liam Miguel turns 2. He's traveled a lot of miles in his short life, and he seemed to enjoy his Paris birthday very well. I made his cake, and you'll notice the three languages (English, Spanish, French) there. Yes, he speaks them all a little; he's a very global little fellow! We're enjoying hearing him talk more every day.
Why "Monsieur Mono"? We sometimes call Liam that when he's being a little silly... or just as a term of endearment. He does an excellent monkey impression when he's in the mood.
Liam, thanks for bringing so many new kinds of joy into our lives. Feliz cumpleaños, joyeaux anniversaire, happy birthday!
I have two complaints to file today. These have been simmering--no, festering--for weeks, and it's time I said something.
(1) Reading on my iPad is NOT, NOT, NOT the f***ing same. Don't get me wrong, as a writer and PhD student in Paris, I don't know what I'd do without my ebooks and pdfs. Cry? Watch my creative stomach consume itself, Twila Tharp-style? But!! I miss holding books. I miss bookmarks. I miss feeling where I am in a book by the number of pages ahead and behind my present location. I miss writing in the margins. I miss flipping through the pages. Yes, a search function felt "handy" at first, but now I just wish I could follow my own mind's map through the physical pages in a physical book. Andrew Karre, those thoughts you had about discreteness? They're not just idle worries. They're the stuff of my current angst. By the way, I'm pretty sure the Andrew of August 18, 2011, did some time travel and read my (now) diary to be able to write this:
I love books for their self-contained universes. I worry about what happens to the discreteness of those universes when there is nothing to prevent me from barging through every thin place, every interdimensional wormhole I encounter. It seems that every step toward pervasive electronic books reveals another way in which paper books are perfect technology.
Me too!! I want paper baaaack!*
(2) The Twitter character limit that used to seem "fun" and "challenging" is currently pissing me off. I know, I know, I even said Twitter could make you a better writer by training you to self-edit. And probably it can. But who f***ing cares when they want to communicate a semi-nuanced thought? I'm sick of feeling like a bad Hemingway imitator. I'm embarrassed by my chronic two-tweet messages. Yes, yes, I know I can enable a "long message" linking feature, but that makes me feel like I have diarrhea of the keys. Or like I've signed up for a modification that I should be good enough not to need. Damn it, why isn't it 200 characters? Just give me that. Can't they base the bulk of a Twitter message on an overweight Paris pigeon instead of that skinny, too-damn-cute chickadee they used to weigh out our characters? Come on, guys...
*No friggin' surprise that Andrew called this one. He's brilliant, like I said here.