Of Notebooks and Novels

Today, the temperature may get as high as seventy degrees. The votive candle on my desk is burning low, in a funny shape, because of all the months it spent stashed in a place it shouldn’t be (I’m sure sticking it in one of my art supply boxes made sense at the time, but do not ask me how, now, because I have no earthly idea.) Hipster Kitty is still on my desk, even though I’m still not sure how I want to use him, (this notebook is apparently a boy) and don’t want to put him away quite yet, either. This morning, I finished my current morning pages book, and am down to the final two candidates for its successor. This also reminds me that it is crunch time for my daily planner book, because the month will be ending soon, and I need to set up March, though I am still seeing candidates for the next planner notebook.

There’s a second decision related to starting a new daily planner book, more important than whether I want dot grid paper, kraft paper (but then what about my already planned pastel color scheme for the start of spring?) or admit to myself that I am a Leuctrumm 1917 convert, and that’s what I really want, even though I am trying to be good and use what I already have. Do I want to use my daily planner as the fourth insert in Big Pink, or do I want it to live on my desk? If I want it to live on my desk, then my options are wide open. If I want it to be insert number four, then it needs to fit inside the notebook cover, and will change the weight and heft of Big Pink in general.

“Um, Anna,” some of you may be saying right about now, “this is all very interesting for notebook people, who would totally follow you to a notebook-only blog, by the way, but some of us are writers and/or readers, who are not into notebooks, and could you please talk about writing or reading now? Kthanx.” I hear you, and I can bring this around. Right now, as a matter of fact.

Yesterday, at my weekly breakfast with N, N made me write. Okay, technically, she said she was going to write, which I knew she was going to do, and she took out notebook and pen and started doing exactly that. Well. I can’t resist that sort of thing. I had debated bringing along a variety of notebooks and/or one legal pad, for when this moment came, but it was also one of those mornings when getting out the door was complicated by a fuzzy shadow that thought everything I was doing was A) extremely interesting, and B) might possibly involve cat food. What I had on hand was the current fourth insert of Big Pink, a Moleskine Volant, which has detachable pages, and is, theoretically in Big Pink for exactly that reason, so I can write on the fly and then remove pages to go where they actually go, or transcribe and recycle.

Well, okay then. I put pen to paper and worked on a scene for Her Last First Kiss, making notes of opportunities to go deeper in an early chapter. I ended up having to prep more pages than I thought I would (prepping, in this case, means a bold line of marker or washi tape (this time, it was marker) at the top and bottom of the page. This gets around the blank page problem, because voila, the page is no longer blank.) Is it perfect? No. Is it written? Yes. Do I get to transcribe it today, and take those pages out of the book? Yes, sir or ma’am, I do. Longhand works best for me, and longhand under pressure, with an audience, works even better. Clearly, this insert needs to stay, but is it maybe making the other lined insert, which does not have detachable pages (okay, it has a few, but only in the back) redundant? Maybe so.

The evolution of a notebook system is kind of like the evolution of a writer, especially the writer who is using the notebook system. Trial and error is a big part of the process, and there are going to be times we get halfway through a project, or even make that first mark on the paper, and get the immediate “nope,” or that zing of recognition. That “Yes. This,” that picks us up from uncertainty and carries us until we’ve got our bearings. For the first time, or again; it works well both ways.

Starting new books, and redoing Big Pink feel appropriate for where I am, writing-wise, these days. It’s kind of like the back to school feel of new school supplies, which never gets old, even decades after any sort of connection to any sort of school. The fact that it hits around the same time as spring cleaning, well, that’s kind of one of the big holidays for us organizational types. Organizing writing makes perfect sense. It feels right. I’m excited to reclaim tools and space and energy. I’m excited to be reading historical romance again, and keeping my focus where it belongs. Not on the market (although of course that’s important, for those of us doing the whole writing career thingyboo) or what anybody else is doing, but what I’m doing, and what works best for me. If that involves stationery, all that much better.

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