A Notebook and a Pen

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 …


21 comments on “A Notebook and a Pen

  1. Good for you!
    Honestly, I’ve tried over the years to keep a journal (both digital and paper) but for some reason I’ve always gotten bored of it and fallen off the wagon.
    What I do love to do though it carry around this little pocket sized notebook in which I keep scribbling (neatly and sometimes in detail over several pages) ideas for stories, novels, short stories, movies – basically whatever strikes. Some of them I’ve actually converted in the last few years into short stories, but not enough for my liking. Working on it.
    I used to do all my writing by hand, in fact my first books first draft was all done by hand and THEN typed on my laptop for editing and the like. But now I think I type more than twice as fast as I write and for that and all the other reasons you’ve listed I tend to write more on my laptop than anywhere else.
    Am thinking of picking up a typewriter from a guy that restores and repairs them in my city, something I used to be as fond of as writing the story by hand. Felt more real if you know what I mean.
    Lets see…
    In the meantime: All the best with your new journal! 🙂

    • Thank you! I saw a great gadget the other day – it was a typewriter that plugs into your iPad so you type on a typewriter but the content goes digital. Pretty funky!

      • I saw that too – would have utterly loved to own it but for me it would be prohibitively expensive, not to mention the delivery charge for shipping it across the globe! 😀
        Besides which, I’d always know it was still digital typing, there’s something about plain ink to paper that’s a whole other feel.

  2. I scribble so much and on so many different materials! I even have a pen with a little blue light; this came into being in the days when my wife would not travel by air. We coached all over Eastern Europe after the Wall came down and after the last evening stop(10 pm) the coach lights would be doused and I would fish out my (then) groundbreaking lightpen to write down what I had seen that day. If left till tomorrow… well, any writer worth his or her salt knows that no matter how much we claim our memories are, the reality is a lot of it is irretrievable next day. I still have it, with myriad little notepads covered in jerky writing, done as we travelled over bumpy roads in Romania, Slovakia, Transylvania, etc. .

    • I remember those pens – I may have had one at one stage (or my Dad did and I used it), I’m not sure. I love my travel journals – I wish I brought them with me so I could go back over them and reminisce but there were so many I couldn’t fit them all! You’re right – so many of our memories fade within a few hours, let alone the years we leave between talking about certain experiences. Your travels sound amazing – you must have collected many stories on the pages of your notebooks by the light of your pen!

  3. I have the same feelings about notebooks. There’s a drawer under my bed full of notebooks with scribbles and notes. I also have a specific kind of pen I use.

    Typing is my favorite method of writing, but I just started journaling in a notebook, and what I noticed is that when I hand write, I have more time to construct my thoughts as I write them down. Although typing is great to get a lot out in a little time, especially when you get excited about a story idea, hand writing allows you to get a lot out, but with fewer words. At least that’s how it works with me.

    • I’m sure many will relate to that experience! Besides, when we’re all famous we NEED our notebooks so they can be published as “way back when” pieces 😉 I’ve never met a writer who doesn’t have a pile of old notebooks!

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  6. made me travle back in time when I used to maintain a diary… though now also as soon as the idea hits, I like to put it on paper but mostly slips, which do slip many times… 🙂

    • I’ve often found myself scribbling on the backs of receipts that I then had to handover for tax … If ever my accountant writes a bestselling novel, I’m scouring the pages for MY ideas, just in case …

  7. You captured perfectly why I love my laptop, too and use it most often in writing. But when inspiration hits, I can’t wait for it to boot up (which takes forever) so I also have a writing notebook for “very rough drafts” and a bunch of small index cards for ideas.

  8. I love notebooks!! and pens!!!! I never finish one because there is always the lure of the fresh one. I do keep a writing journal when I remember to use it. It does help a lot.

  9. I tend to write small things, notes and sometimes chapters in my journal. But for most of the big writing I do I use my laptop. I find that there is always something comforting about writing in a journal, though! 🙂

    • There is the convenience of a notebook, too – it’s harder to lug around a laptop and turn it on and THEN write but much easier to pull out the paper and pen. More than anything, I think I need single notebooks dedicated to the individual pieces I’m working on – a place to store images and ideas. I like touching and feeling my inspiration rather than having it in a folder on a hard drive. The comfort comes from the touchy-feely experience of a notebook, I think!

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