Wrong Turn, Right Path

I am a planner. I like to have at least some idea of where I’m going, or I’m going to feel edgy (and not in the good way) until I have some sort of boundary clearly marked. Once I know, okay, good. That’s settled. Now I can go nuts within those boundaries, if desired. This is one of the reasons that I have added planning to my morning routine, after morning pages. Two pages of whatever is in my brain, with the right pen for the right page spread (this is an important part of the process, trust me on this one)  then open my planning notebook.

The notebook I use for this purpose, a magenta leatherette Markings notebook, with grid pages, has been through a few wrong turns itself, before it found its true use. I’d originally purchased it to be my all purpose notebook, the one that would go with me everywhere, catch the brain droppings as the came to me, and I had every expectation that it would. After all, I’d used three other notebooks with the same format, from the same maker, same sort of pages, one after the other. Burgundy leatherette was first, then black, then turquoise, and I was most excited to try the pink one. The cover felt all buttery soft in my hands, I loved the grid pages, soft grey on a soothing ivory, and I’d used those three notebooks prior without a hiccup, so this one had to be the best of them all, right?

Wrong. El wrong-o. Nicht, nein, nope, no way, nuh-uh, sorry, Charlie, not going to happen. To this day, I have no idea why. I did everything “right.” Hacked it to a fare-thee-well, with color coordinated end papers, the proper sizes and colors of sticky notes, even put pertinent information on the front and back pages, so it would be right there when I needed it, but, within days, my enthusiasm stopped dead in its tracks. As in pining for the fjords, the whole deal. This was not how things were supposed to go.

I tried drawing black and white top and bottom borders on the pages, hoping that would give me the structure I needed. Still boring. No connection. I tried drawing zentangle-ish dangles from the top border, adding a dash of color. Who was I kidding? Not me. I tried steering into the skid…er, grid. Break up those pages into boxes, I said. That would fix everything, I said. More boundaries, I said. It would be fun, I said. Once again, nope. Le sigh. Though I hated to do it, I put the book aside. It wasn’t happening. No reason. It wasn’t, and that’s all I needed to know. I can’t tell you what book took that book’s place, but one did, and another, and another, and, in time, I moved it to the special area for notebooks I wasn’t feeling anymore.

The books that were still blank, I culled. Moved them on to new homes, where they could be loved and written in, or at least used for grocery lists and doctors’ appointments. Anything would be better than sitting there, mouldering in resentment. Having cleaned out my dad’s house after he passed, I don’t want to hoard. I want to use. I want to love. The notebooks that already have writing in them, well, they aren’t as easily passed along. Those, I taped together the already-written-in pages, and set them aside. The magenta Markings book was among those, until last week. That was when I wanted a place where I could keep my daily tasks, check them off, and move along, while, at the same time, keeping a record of what actually got done, what got modified, what got carried over to another day.

At first, I looked at the shelf I have of pristine new notebooks. All right, case. All right, cases. I really, really, really love notebooks. Yes, I do plan on using all of them. Yes, I do still need more. Nothing felt right. Then I looked through the stash of notebooks-at-rest. Grid paper? Check. (Pun unintended, but I’ll take it.) Buttery soft cover I have loved and missed, with added benefit of a crack along the spine (notebook wabi-sabi; it’s a thing) and…yes. I took a black fountain pen and wrote the day’s date at the top of one page, which had a two-colored border I’d already drawn, back in that long-ago phase of thinking maybe I could salvage the book for its original purpose. I couldn’t, back then, but this time? Yes. I wrote the date. I drew my swirly-cornered box around the date, set down my headings and bullet points, and yes. Yes. This is what it was supposed to be, maybe all along. Now it’s an essential part of my daily routine.

This is the part where I bring my ramble back around to writing. There are ideas, stories, characters, places, all the flotsam and jetsam of a writer’s brain, things I had hoped at one time would work out, but never did, still floating around, and, now that I’m at a place in both WIPs that I’m comfortable and ready to ask “what’s next?” those floating bits may be arranging themselves into some semblance or order.

I kind of like that, and I kind of don’t. I like it because I like knowing what’s going to happen before it happens, and knowing that there is some sort of writerly primordial ooze in my head is actually an encouraging thought. I don’t like it, because it’s not in my control. That’s not how it works. If that was how it worked, I would not be writing the story of a practical-minded mistress, who is half Russian, and a second son turned not terribly successful portrait painter. If that was how it worked, I would not be co-writing my first category romance, and I would not know that historical-adjacent is a thing (partly because I am making it a thing, but more on that later.)

Time to wrap this, because I’ve gone on long enough already, and the rest of the day will soon be demanding my attention, but there it is. Blog entry written, albeit slightly behind schedule. I can now check it off the list and move on to what’s next. That part, I absolutely do like.

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