I’ve been keeping a journal in a composition book for a while but it reminds me of my middle school diaries–it’s full of angst and the daily existential crises I seem to be having all the time.
I’ve decided that I need a writer’s notebook–a place where I make observations about the world, record snippets of conversation, and generally spy on the people and places around me. No personal catastrophes allowed! If I feel the need to write about how scared I am that I can’t write–that no one will want to read my writing–I’ll put that in my composition book and NOT in my writer’s notebook.
So what does a writer’s notebook look like? Here’s an excerpt from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s unpublished notebook (1839):
“The first day, I walked the wharf, suffering not a little from cold; yesterday, I sat in the cabin whence I could look through the interstices of the bulkhead, or whatever they call it, into the hold. My eyes, what a cabin! Three paces would more than measure it in any direction, and it was filled with barrels, not clean and new, but black, and containing probably the provender of the vessel; jugs, firkins, the cook’s utensils and kitchen furniture–everything grimy and sable with coal dust. There were two or three tiers of berths; and the blankets, etc. are not to be thought of. A cooking stove, wherein was burning some of the coal–excellent fuel, burning as freely as wood, and without the bituminous melting of Newcastle coal. The cook of the vessel, grimy, unshaven, middle-aged man, trimming the fire at need, and sometimes washing his dishes in water that seemed to have cleansed the whole world beforehand–the draining of gutters, or caught at sink-spouts.”
Hawthorne’s notebooks read exotically because the time is so different from my own. Mine read like so much pedestrian brew-ha ha. But it is my brew ha ha. Right now I have “calm meditation” radio playing through pandora on my computer. The rain has been soaking the ground for nigh on an hour, and I’m worried that the pool will overflow. Otherwise it’s a dark and house-bound Saturday afternoon. And I’m loving it! Even the cat is bedded-down, staying close because of the thunder. He doesn’t like thunder.
Do you keep a writer’s notebook? If so, what do you write about in it? Is it the source of character sketches, snippets of conversation, sketches of oddities, and plot diagrams?