Writers Use Notebooks, Don’t They?

A notebook is a permanent fixture in the bag I take to work. Writers often talk about using notebooks: when you have an idea you write it down, ideas can come from anywhere at any time and you should be prepared. Yet I do not use it. Well … not much – or not in the correct manner, to be more accurate. I’m more likely to keep notes about footy tipping competitions (very important to me), and write little shopping lists and things of that sort which could easily be forgotten. Menial things. Banal. Not ideas. Not “What if Geoff was an undercover agent and so was Electra – but working for opposing governments?” I could do what I do with my notebook if I used a personal organiser – do they still have them? – electronic things with phone numbers and memo functions and a type of diary. I suppose you can do all of that with your iPhone now. (My mobile has a very low rent version of internet connectivity – you can log on to most websites, and from there navigation is impossible, so when I was planning to find a score for the Arsenal-Spurs game tomorrow morning on the way to the office, and went to a few websites to test if it was possible, I realised it wouldn’t be and I would need to wait until I arrived at work and used an actual computer, with keyboard, monitor, and mouse to find the result I so desperately crave now and will crave then.)

But back to the notebook. It seems indicative of an overall unwillingness to engage with the very nub of writerliness that I cannot do the very small of act of at least taking the bloody thing out of its little cranny in my bag when I’m on the train, get out the pencil, and hold it and be ready to jot something down as it occurs. Ernest Hemingway wrote a lot about writing, and notebooks, and pencils in A Moveable Feast, a book de didn’t want published, but which was published after he died anyway. Ordinarily I don’t like the wishes of people being dishonoured after they die, but I must say I like this book at lot, and I don’t want to admit it – or part of me doesn’t want to – but I am so glad that his estate did publish it. (By the way, ‘gallimaufry’ means a jumble or hodgepodge. I know this as I used my pencil to circle this word in the biography of Handel I am reading and looked it up later. Perhaps my pencil could be put to better use.)

Have many great or even good writers written on the train? Not sure. Ideas can come from anywhere, and all I have to do is be ready for when that happens. Time to get out the little book, sharpen my pencil and be prepared for what might happen.

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Published in: on April 14, 2010 at 7:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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