on notebooks

There’s a cliche (and it’s true for a lot of people but not all) that writers have a ton of notebooks around their homes. Most of them are not full to any extent. However, a writer is loathe to throw out a notebook. Like dragons on their piles of gold, they hoard them with the hopes that the perfect thought will find its way from their pencil to the notebook paper.

I am this cliche.

I am always very resistant to throwing out a notebook and I already have a ton of them. I downsized my notebook “collection” and still came to live in a tiny apartment with at least five different notebooks that have many different things written in them. And, yes. Most of them are not very full.

Now, I think I am stretching the truth a bit saying that I’m a writer. I’m kind of a writer. I still don’t get paid for writing. I’m thinking about buying the domain for this blog, which means that I would actually pay to write for this site. Ain’t that something.

But I write a lot. So, I guess I am in some way I am a writer. And I certainly fall into the trap of owning a lot of notebooks.

However, I want to take a moment to defend this cliche and my indulgence in the collecting of these empty pages.

Journals and empty notebooks are associated with the act of writing that typing is not. Now, typing is important. It is faster, more efficient, and, literally, the only way to write in our world. You can’t send a handwritten manuscript to an editor and expect them to decipher your chicken scratch. There is no modern writing without typing.

But writing (the actual act of pen to paper) is still important. It’s therapeutic in a way that typing is not. I thoroughly enjoy typing. It’s how I do my writing and it feels good to work through an article or story. There’s fulfillment and accomplishment in the task. However, typing comes with restraint.

I need battery power or an outlet. I need a word processor.

With a notebook, I have the freedom to write anywhere at any time. I need a pencil, a pen, or a marker and a sheet of paper. On the subway, in the car, outside away from the outlets and plugs. There’s value in that.

There’s also the freedom of the writing itself. To write something in a notebook now, in the age of technology, is to not commit it to the permanent record. Emails, social posts, even saved Word files have a permanency to them. They exist in the internet’s record. Hell. These blog posts exist in the public record.

If I burn a notebook or hide it away, no one will ever see it. It is something that is solely mine. I can make shitty doodles in the margins. I can write dumb thoughts that will turn into nothing and it’s okay because no one will see them. That’s something that doesn’t happen often anymore. It’s an intimacy with the writing that doesn’t often happen for me. I know when writing a story that I will (most likely) try to publish it. The act of writing it means that it exists for scrutiny.

The things I put in my various notebooks don’t exist in the same way. They’re created to be private, to be my own record of my thoughts. I find that to be important. We’re so focused on sharing now. Creating a space to be yourself without fear of criticism is rare.

One of my close friends journals. I’ve always admired that. She journals like I write. And she doesn’t share it. It exists in her notebook. It’s her collected thoughts and they’re not meant to be seen. The idea feels antiquated. But it also feels important. I don’t know how many people still journal. But there are significant mental health benefits to journaling.

So, hold your mostly empty notebooks high and be proud. They are a connection to ourselves. They’re a place for your mind to be alone. They’re a place to process and grieve and celebrate and create and speculate.


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