I love notebooks. I collect notebooks. I fill notebooks up with scribblings and lists and doodles and thoughts and all kinds of different things. I am never without a notebook and a pen – and if I am, I usually end up buying both “just in case”. As a result, I have pens and notebooks everywhere – a lot of the boxes I packed before coming to Singapore contained notebooks filled with writing over the many years since my constant need to have a notebook and not just a slip of paper was realised.
It was while wandering through a bookstore recently that I marvelled at the selection of notebooks now available. From the humble notepad and the ever-practical exercise book, to beautifully bound journals and decorated covers that are works of art in their own right, there’s a plethora of gathered paper in which one can write.
While I am a fan of writing in Moleskines (I like the quality of the paper and the simplicity in their design), I am constantly amazed by the beautiful notebooks that I can fill up with my very own words. I bought a few notebooks on this particular day and the excitement of turning to the first blank page a few days later was fortunately shared with someone who appreciated my little giggle and gleeful flourish of the pen.
I used to write little stories and tidbits in notebooks all the time – on the train, in between classes, sitting at the bus stop, biding time until a typically late person would arrive … Notebooks and writing journals were once integral to my develop as a writer. Somewhere along the way, however, my writing journal – once more important than remembering my house keys or my wallet – vanished not only from my handbag but also from existence.
Perhaps, as a writer, it is blasphemous to say such things, but as much as I still need my notebooks and I still crave a blank sheet of paper, it is my laptop I now crave when a story idea rushes at me while sitting on the bus.
It is in notebooks that I journal (I’ve tried keeping a digital journal but it just doesn’t work for me) and it is on blank paper that I prefer to write letters. Yes, handwritten letters. Old school, I know. While my letters are sent to my Grandparents, it is through my journals and my letters that I find I am most honest, most open, most … me. So why is it that, when it comes to writing (which I find to be so deeply personal), I prefer screen over paper?
I write very quickly, but I type even faster. And there’s something easy about being able to scroll back and delete and cut and paste and format as I write – it appeals to my inner perfectionist. I can simultaneously write and research – if I can’t remember a detail or a name or a word, I can look it up straight away! There is always a notebook and pen in my handbag, but I find that I write down ideas and plot outlines rather than whole chapters. I like to keep the big stuff for when I’m sitting at my desk with my laptop and keyboard – preferably around 2am with a cup of coffee or glass of red wine.
Rather than keep a journal full of scribblings and reflections on my process, I have used this blog as something of a substitute – I keep inspiration here, write about writing, and generally let my writing goals be known. And yet … something is missing. When I think of times when I’ve written something really good and times when I’ve spent energy and effort on writing that feels whole and complete, a writing journal has been involved.
Have you ever kept a writing journal? How have you found a writing journal supports your work (or doesn’t)?
So, as much as it makes me nervous, I’m realising that my laptop simply isn’t enough. I want more from my writing experience – and so I’m bringing back the writing journal. I better go and buy some more notebooks …