Monday 22 July 2019

Six tips for using notebooks, by Dan Metcalf

1. I love notebooks – they are the bedrock of the writing profession and the reason so many books come into being. I don't mind what shape or form they come in: high quality, expensive moleskines; earthy, organic field notes; or home-made pocket books. They all have the same, basic function – serving as my outboard brain.

2. Writers the world over rely on them as the starting points for their stories. Neil Gaiman writes all his first drafts in them, filling decorative tomes with his flowing script. David Almond scribbles his ideas and thoughts down in a notebook and describes his job as having to translate those notes into a fully-formed story. Paul Magrs uses school exercise books to write his novels.

3. The purpose of the notebook is whatever you make it. It can be a place for ideas, scribbles, doodles, cuttings, poems, photos, first drafts or a combination of them all. It is, most importantly, your own space, and a stranger looking into it should feel as though they are gazing on your pure, raw thoughts. A tidy notebook is a reflection of the owner's mind. A messy one, more so.

4. They are a way of capturing your thoughts, of trapping them in ink so they don't float away into the night. You won't use a lot of what goes into them, but that's okay. Eighty or ninety per cent of the pages will be covered in scrawl that is unusable (in my case, unreadable), but the remainder will be pure gold.

5. It is important to experiment with your favourite type of notebook, to find a fit with your writing, your way of life. Do you prefer A4, A5 or A6? Hard or softback? Spiral bound, perfect bound, saddle stitched or legal pad? Plain or decorative? There are as many variations as there are writers, so search for your soulmate.

6. Digital pretenders try to usurp the throne of the mighty notebook; the elephantine Evernote – the social Pinterest – the humble blog. None can take the place of the battered book in my pocket, waiting to be folded, felt, fondled, to be torn, scribbled on and abused. The tactility of the notebook its USP. An individual feel which can not be replaced.

image: Billy Alexander:


Nick Garlick said...

Could not agree more!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sue Bursztynski said...

I have a confession to make: I do most of my notes and writing on my iPad now. It’s so convenient! It fits nicely in my bag and I can read, write, research on it, even post to my blog, all before my train journey is over. I do love notebooks, but it will be a while before I need a new one, as I’ve unearthed huge piles of stationery while de-cluttering my home.

Nobody would call MY handwriting flowing or elegant! 😂

Alex English said...

I'm definitely a notebook and pen person, especially for picture books and shorter pieces. I found moving from lined to plain paper was a revelation - completely freeing! The main problem is making sure I'm disciplined enough about typing my notes up.

Anne Booth said...

I love notebooks - and I am ALWAYS pleased to be given one. I will be going into my local school this coming September to start the children off with writing journals, and I am going to bring lots of mine and pile them up to show just how much writing I do which doesn't end up as published!

catdownunder said...

Definitely notebooks...and more notebooks. Mine may be filled with illegible scrawl but they are MINE!
And I have just bought five more notebooks - for the youngest members of the family when they come to visit in November...along with the essential coloured biros of course.

Moira Butterfield said...

This made me smile, as I have just noticed a pile of notebooks on the floor - bought in a Paperchase sale for their tactile qualities. I love notebooks!

Ness Harbour said...

New novel, new notebook. I am with you on this totally. I love notebooks. I have a whole collection waiting to be used.