The great Stephen King once said that a notebook is a great way to capture bad ideas. He might be right. He’s definitely right about his own writing process. There are writers that need notebooks and there are those that don’t. I don’t believe that one way is superior. Do whatever you need to get the words out.
I need a notebook. If you feel like you need one too, read on.
On the Wrong Foot
When I started out, I didn’t know how to use a notebook. This sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? I mean, you write in it, what more can there be to it?
But the trouble was that I wrote it as if there would one day be a reader. Everything was neat, structured, and well considered. Some inner arrogance told me that this notebook would – one day – be an artifact of literature. People would come to a museum to see an author’s life distilled on the page.
It’s hard to describe the depths of this stupidity.
Worst of all, this resulted in me not writing very much. What was there was stiff and lifeless. This was really the wrong foot to start out on.
You might have some of this too. Okay, you probably don’t have the same delusions of grandeur that the teenage me had, but it is likely that we have something in common: the feeling of being judged. This insecurity is what holds your writing back.
Okay. First things first. A notebook is yours and yours alone. It is sacred ground – not because what is written there is genius (there is no such thing, and it’s way too much pressure anyway), but because it is your safe place. Make sure that family and significant others know this. Once they page through it, the magic will be dispelled.
No One Reads Your Notebook.
This will remove the pressure from the entire situation – trust me. A notebook is a place where you only write for yourself, not other people. You write for other people on your laptop, PC, tablet, typewriter, or cave wall – wherever you write your finished product.
This will give you license to do the next part.
Messy Notebooks are the Best!
Be very messy. Suffer typos. Cross things out. Doodle. Write out of sequence. Anything goes.
A notebook is a place for experimentation. If things don’t work, then they don’t work. It is much less frustrating to make mistakes in your (never-to-be-seen) notebook than it is on a typed document. It’s something psychological.
Solidify all your ideas in the notebook. You can decide later if they are good or bad ideas – it is something that will only be clear later anyway.
My notebooks are horribly messy. I thought about posting a screenshot here, but that would be entirely hypocritical. No one will ever see my notebooks. They won’t see how many times I changed this character’s name, or rewrote this scene. No one will know that I catabolized an old, dead story of mine and reused the cool bits here and there.
This gives me the freedom to write my way.
This works for me. It might not work for you. Give it a try. If a messy notebook gives you anxiety, then try something else.
How do you treat your notebook? Please let me know down in the comments.