Yesterday in the mid-morning, I had this really excellent idea for a blog post. I remember the scene perfectly: I’d just done the dishes. I’d eaten a breakfast burrito. I felt satiated: full of beans and great ideas, and I decided to go for a pleasant weekend jaunt before returning back home to write.
“Ah,” thought I, “should I jot down my idea perchance?”
“Nay, nay: this idea’s so obvious, so utterly relatable to my current circumstances, that time and distance shall only strengthen its hold on my mind!”
You’ve read enough books to know that my carefully conceived introduction leads to only one conclusion: I forgot the brilliant, unforgettable idea.
And then I did all the things. Retracing my steps, I stood in my kitchen and imagined I had just eaten a breakfast burrito (there were no more left in the freezer, so I couldn’t recreate the scene exactly, much to my chagrin and hungriness). That didn’t work so I curled up in a ball on the floor, blocked out all sounds and sights and tried to focus my mind. All that resulted from that experiment was a bit of dustiness, and a half-hour long cleaning tangent based on how icky the floorboards were. My last and greatest hope, which was to write a bunch of keywords down blindly like a medium possessed by a literary spirit, also failed me.
In shame and a little bit of residual shock, I settled down instead to write this post. And here we are.
Reasons why every writer should have a notebook handy:
1.You will forget your brilliant idea
If the preceding story taught you NOTHING, then let me reiterate: no matter how wonderful and seemingly obvious your idea is, believe me, it’s forgettable. I’m convinced that there are portals constructed in the brain – have you ever awoken from a dream with an entire story already written by your subconscious, and in the next few minutes it disappeared entirely? What happened, scientifically speaking, it that it popped right through a portal in your brain into someone else’s. And you might get it back, eventually, but only once it pops back out of their brains and into yours.
The only way to seal the portal of an idea is to write.that.shit.down, squarely trapping it in the physical dimension.
2. Power outages
Yeah, it’s romantic to begin with. Candlelight and all that. But then you realize that you forgot to charge your laptop and if you write on your phone you’ll drain all the batteries, and you have a writing quota for the day and you have to meet it, dammit, before the tealights dim. It’s best, in this case, to have one designated notebook – one you’ve kept nearby, one that you’ve kept secure, that will be the first place you look the next day when you want to type out everything you’ve handwritten.
3. You are not Stephen King
I remember being struck when I read On Writing by Stephen King (such a good book, highly recommend), that he thinks it’s stupid to keep a notebook handy for ideas. His basic reasoning, though I can’t recall the exact wording and I’m too lazy to look it up, was that if the idea is good, you won’t forget it. So there’s no need to write it down. All I have to say in response to that is that you are not Stephen King. And while he has a lot of really brilliant writing advice to offer, that is one I simply can’t endorse for the average, non-Stephen King writer.
4. Dreams are occasionally useful
I do all my writing in the morning because by the time I’m done with work my brain feels like sodden oatmeal that’s been sitting on the counter for hours. I can squeeze some material from oatmeal-brain, but it is not good. It is not tasty. Writing in the morning has another benefit: if I keep a notebook right next to my bedside, I can write down any ideas that occured to me during the dreamy night. Sometimes they’re useless, i.e., “Must yell at sister for calling me fat in dream.” But sometimes my subconscious brain surprises me by doing something useful, and it’s really important to have paper nearby lest the ideas slip away as dreams are wont to do.
5. You will start noticing pretty things
Sometimes you’ll be out – on a lunch break at work, in a cafe, on a walk, and you’ll see, hear, or feel something particularly beautiful. It will be specific, something about the way ice melts first around the edges of a fallen leaf, or about how you can hear different bird songs in different places in your skull. When you get back home you’ll have forgotten it. You won’t look up the birdsong that haunted you, and you won’t remember the pretty image of the maple leaf in the snow. When you have a notebook on hand, it frees you up for further observation.
6. It’s therapeutic
I guess my notebooks are really free-for-alls when it comes to content: ideas, drawings, observations, lists of bills. Often, they’re the repository for things I can’t say aloud. If I’m in a bad or uncomfortable situation, having a notebook helps ease some of the trauma. I can tell it things that I can’t say out loud. Sure – you could use a laptop or a phone to equal effect, but there’s something therapeutic about forming the letters with swoops of your hand – there’s faint or deep handwriting, slanted or straight, and sometimes the way my words look from my own hand gives me greater insight into how I’m feeling.
If you think I’ve forgotten how upset I am about forgetting my great idea, you’re wrong. I’m completely miffed with myself and my errant brain portals. I can only hope that if one of you is the recipient of my thought, you’ll take more expedient action and write.that.shit.down.
What about you? Do you keep a writing notebook? Does it help?