I carry a small writer’s notebook with me everywhere I go. It’s something I’ve done for nearly a decade, though for a long time I did it simply because I had a general feeling that I should. It wasn’t until 2010 that I got organized about it, and actually came to understand the importance of my writer’s notebook.
For me, the value is two-fold.
First, and most important, is practice. A teacher once told me that a writer should be able to describe the weather every day using different words, even here in LA where it doesn’t change much. Describing things in a way that is effective and interesting is actually something that takes practice. So I practice.
Second, it’s material. When I’m stuck in line or waiting for my kids to finish a soccer practice or karate class, I study someone and write down everything I can figure out about them from what I see.
The trick is that having all this material isn’t much good if I can’t find it. In THEORY, when my little notebook is all full, I type it up, saving each little snippet of brilliance in a separate Word file, organized by the type of note it is. I have a folder for landscapes, character studies, smells, sounds, tastes, weather, and parenting anecdotes. I also keep a file for story ideas, so that if I’m ever stuck, I can just go look over all the amazing ideas I’ve ever had.
I say “in theory” because in practice, I’ve been filling notebooks for years and haven’t transcribed any in a long time. They are piling up and not doing me any good. So my New Years resolution is to actually get through this entire stack by the end of January. Then I can toss the actual notebooks, so that they’re not cluttering up my shelves, and hang onto all the content.
It’s actually part of a larger, unofficial resolution to stop holding onto so much junk. Maybe it was having babies, or maybe it’s just that we haven’t moved in a long time, but I feel like the stuff is piling up in my life, and I’m over it. I just want it gone. Anything that can be thrown away, recycled, or put on my lap top will be dealt with accordingly in short order.