Thursday, July 24, 2008

Notebooks

I recently returned from a few weeks driving around Mexico, visiting the very cool cities of Guadalajara, Guanajuato, Tepic, Matahuela, and Guyamas, Culiacan, and Mazatlan in the great state of Sinaloa, which is reportedly at war. It seemed as verdant and pastoral as eastern Kansas, however, despite reports in local papers with front-page photos of beheaded police, but we saw no beheadings, only an endlessness of highway and frijoles.

I meant, of course, to do a lot of writing while I was traveling, but ended up mostly sketching, drawing strange offshore islands and a pot of begonias on the hotel railing.

My notebook has become an increasingly important thing in my life. I've never had a process of writing, have, in fact, fought against any sort of routine. But I've reached the notebook stage that I notice informs high-school visual art students, with the notebook serving as sketchbook, commonplace book, to-do list, general weirding-out place, and a sifter. If something is not important enough to write in/tape in/spray adhesive in to my notebook, it will probably dissolve into the deep wells of my forgetting.

Perhaps a note here that nods towards a poem or story I might someday write. And lists of things. I've been assembling a list of two-word alliterative phrases such as Bee Beard, Car Cube, Tube Top, because they are awesome, especially in lengthy rows. Any suggestions are welcome.

Attitude Adjustment
Exiled Ex-Executioner
Zombie Zone

etc.

14 comments:

Pale Ramón said...

I found this in my notebook: Parade Parasols.

Let me know if you need any names for fictional bands.

ed said...

I am not sure if there is anything but overlap between these two lists.

Minute Men
cIrkle jErks
Bad Brains
aGent oranGe

jrlennon said...

Really this is the ideal band-name-generating exercise.

Gopher Gulch
Maggot Manicure
Teabag Trepidation
Pummeling Primroses

I can't seem to keep a notebook, I just don't understand why. About twice I year I resolve to use one, carry it on my person at all times, but I never manage it. Even when I have it with me, I record nothing in it, and when I don't, I get ideas and forget them. Almost every single thing I've ever written consists of only those ideas I've managed to remember without writing them down, or stuff I thought up on the spot. And when I do manage to write things down, and bring these ideas to my writing session, I usually don't use them. They seem stale or used, somehow.

Is this abnormal? I think maybe it is abnormal. For a writer, I mean.

Anonymous said...

jrl, i understand exactly how you feel. i used to write all my prose longhand. i'd start on a yellow reporter-style flip pad, then move to a computer, editing in the process.

i keep on telling myself i should be writing in a journal, taking down scraps: ideas, information. i just can't do it. i've bought numerous notebooks: moleskines to cheap meads and even expensive handmade journals. nothing works. i write a line or two, decry it for its flatness or stupidity and rip the pages out.

as an in-between i started using a typewriter, an olivetti lettera from the 50s, because it had less give than a keyboard on a laptop, gave it a real sense of working, and also because i couldn't erase the work.

that worked for a short while until i had to move across the country and had to leave the typewriter at my parents' house.

still, no journaling. i've been trying to get back into it, feels unnatural somehow.

ed said...

I bought an Olivetti such as you describe two summers ago, a beautiful machine, sky blue, lightweight, with a mod case, but a few keys don't work, and it now lives under the bed, along with the shadows.

jrlennon said...

the funny thing is I adore those moleskine notebooks...they are so beautiful. I have about a dozen, all empty except for the first page...

bigscarygiraffe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bigscarygiraffe said...

I'm unpacking/moving right now and suddenly, I find myself with about twenty unused-to-slightly-used expensive-ass notebooks. Most of my stuff comes from backs of receipts, ripped out pages of expensive-ass notebooks...not napkins though..they disintegrate too quickly. In fact, this all reminds me of Frank O'Hara, who I think really takes the cake in the anti-notebook department:

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/
critics/books/2008/04/07/
080407crbo_books_chiasson

Mr. Saflo said...

I have Goldilocks syndrome. I own Moleskines (large and small, notebook and cahier, black and brown), bargain notebooks found at Borders, spiral, composition, as well as these lovely off-white ruled pads, and none of them seem to do the trick. They're scattered all over my room, in my cabinet, in piles on my desk, on the bookshelf, on the corner table, behind my pillow. Some of them are empty, some contain a few idiot scribblings. When I had money, I was drunk on the idea of buying one of those beautiful, shockingly expensive refurbished typewriters. I was absolutely sure that this would get me hammering the words out. I think the prevalence of that reaction is why they can charge so much. Oh, and

Bamboozled Bumblebee

Mr. Saflo said...

I guess "none of them are just right" would have fit better.

e. e. reid said...

maybe not all those ideas would have made good writing anyway. i mean, once you'd put them down on paper. last week i saw a man standing under a stop sign ripping pages out of a notebook - they were getting caught up in the wheels of the cars that drove by. i didn't think of it then but maybe these were all the ideas he went to the time and trouble of writing down, only to find out they looked badly or were uninspiring on the page. maybe we're saving time.

bloglily.com said...

e.e. reid, I love that scene of the man ripping pages out of his notebook -- it's the kind of thing some writers would scribble down in their own notebook. maybe that's what the comments section can be used for.

Like many people, I have a million notebooks, mostly empty. So one day I made up a blog about them, and every once in a while I'll post stuff I've written in them, which for some reason makes me feel good although now that I've typed that I'm pretty sure it shouldn't.

jrlennon said...

e. e., I hope you're right. That's what I'm counting on, anyway. Good ideas seem to stick...I've been thinking over new this novel idea for almost a year, and I haven't written anything down yet. But I already feel as though I have a fairly full picture of a couple of characters. The important details have come to inhabit the mental space where they live...I even have a few set pieces for them. No notes!

I will have to write some notes eventually...I generally work with a spare outline. But perhaps what I've lost so far wasn't worth remembering.

jrlennon said...

BTW, giraffe, I liked that O'Hara piece, thanks!