a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I do not have a writer’s notebook. 

I have notebooks, sure.  I mean, I LOVE notebooks.  But I have never filled a single notebook with a hodgepodge of writerly goods. 

Instead, I collect things with plans to notebook them when I get something I have always heard about, but never seen in person: FREE TIME.

As a result, I seem to have begun a lot of notebooks.  I guess I am more interested in the launching, less astute at maintaining momentum, interest, inspiration. 

In fact, you know that notebook challenge Ruth posted about last summer?  I collected her posts in a notebook.  Yup.  I planned to take the challenge.  I thought about her posts.  I marinated in them.  Yet, I never followed through on a single one. 

Recently, Deb posted about sharing her notebook with her students.  I have always shared “entries” with my students.  You see, that kind of mini-lesson doesn’t require having an entire notebook filled.  I am pathetic. 

Even more recently, Ruth posted about her notebook project.  Did you see that basket filled with notebooks?  I am sure those were NOT just beginnings of writer’s notebooks.  Those notebooks were oozing with the stuff of a WRITER.  It was obvious. 

Deb and Ruth got me to thinking.  What stops me from filling a notebook?  Am I really NOT living like a writer?  Have I been fooling myself all this time?  Maybe it is just my desperation to avoid having to admit I am not a REAL writer, but I really don’t think this is the case.  I thought about what kinds of things I would/should include in a filled to the brim writer’s notebook: writer’s ephemera, project plans, brainstorms, responses to prompts, reactions to books, reactions to life, word play, word collections, lists, quotes, mentor sentences, character sketches. 

I have that stuff!  It may not be in a notebook, but I have it.  Some of it is scattered on my desk.  Some of it is somewhere in that stack of papers I tucked in the basket in my office.  Some of it is stored in a file on my computer.  Some of it is in that notebook I have been using just to keep track of my daily life and lists of things to do.  Some of it is in my nightstand.  But I have it. 

Now, I am realizing the value of having all of those tools, muses, and beginnings all in one place.  If I want to be able to reflect and utilize what I’ve bothered to collect, I need to make it accessible.  So, I am on a quest to collect and compile.  And maybe, just maybe, one day soon I will be able to say that I FILLED a writer’s notebook.  Because I think there are few things to say that are more gratifying than that.


  1. You are not alone, I have never filled a notebook either. I have started one (actually two) to model it for teachers so they can model it and share with their students. I have a little notebook I carry to jot something that I don't want to forget to use on the blog. Does that count? It's far from full. I love reading about others notebooks and it makes me wonder, can I do that too? I just never thought I was a writer, so if I'm not really a writer . . . I think I want to grow up and be a writer. But then the question is what would I write about?

  2. LOL you are not alone. It is only recently that I really began a writer's notebook. This is only the second one I have really started. Before that, they were journals or diaries or ....I don't know what. Now, I practice in them--and I think that writer's notebooks are what you want them to be...and if your's are scattered about then, that's the way you work. But it is nice when it's all in one place, I have found!

  3. The only notebooks I have filled are thin ones. And even then,there are pages torn out. I have scrapbooks and boxes and drawers-- all filled with things that COULD go in notebooks...but don't. The important thing that YOU need to know is that you are a writer. I know...I just read your words. And smiled. Learn your process. Know your process. And then embrace it. :)

  4. Nice post, Christy --- I love your honesty. Right now, I'm without my specially decorated WNB because I left it in Chicago at NCTE. {Truth: I don't have a filled notebook either, but many that are started just like you.} Go forth and prosper. Build that complete notebook!!!

  5. OH MY GOSH--I think I am your writer's notebook soul mate! The entire time I read, I was saying "me too--totally and completely me too!"
    I am not kidding. The many incomplete notebooks, high hopes and good intentions, envy (and more than a bit of awe) over Ruth's basket of notebooks, the slips of papers tucked here and there...it's all me.
    Wanna be 'wanna-be-notebook-filler' buddies???

  6. I'm also right with you there, as you could probably tell from my post today! I must admit I kept wondering what EXACTLY a "writer's notebook" was when I started reading Ruth & Stacey's posts at TWT this past summer. Then I thought like elsie -- well, I'm not a REAL writer. I mean, I had journals (sometimes) like Deb says, but this "writer's notebook" didn't really sound like a journal... I think really though, it doesn't matter if all that stuff is in a notebook. You ARE a real writer because you write, and because you do all the writerly things you just described -- there's no rule that you have to keep them in a writer's notebook! (By the way, I LOVE your line about "free time" being "something you have heard about but never seen".)It is a good goal though, one that I've been mulling over myself lately. Maybe some of us notebook-less slicers can all try together! :-)

  7. I guess with all the things you collect & have on your desk, etc. that you could fill many, many notebooks. I had a friend a while ago who was a writer & had published a few things. His 'notebooks' were those small plastic baskets in an extra room in his house, filled with writing ideas. He had them organized (in his particular fashion) & loved them. He said he would take out a basket just to re-visit ideas & perhaps work with one. So-I say whatever works for you in your writing life works! And, like Jennifer, I love that line about free time too.

  8. Christy, you had me shaking my head in agreement too! I love buying pretty little notebooks, eager to start each one. But I have never filled one. Then to get motivated again, I go out and buy a new pretty notebook! I'm trying something new this year though -- I purchased a 10 year journal that has 4 lines for each day. Just enough to capture a moment. I ordered it through Amazon and should arrive any day now. We'll see how it goes -- but that's a commitment for me -- 10 years!?!

  9. Love your honesty. I'm with you. I do have some filled notebooks, but not recently. I have small ones I carry with me to grab thought. They are the ones that I use the most. I guess that's what a writer's notebook is, isn't it?

  10. I was just about to suggest what Linda said. It looks like you should start with a Writer's Basket. Fill that. A basketful of ideas is as good as a notebook...and better than a bunch of partially filled books...although you could put those partially filled books in the basket, too! I think I'm going to get a basket started myself. I love notebooks, but they don't get filled by me either. About 3 hours ago, while I was eating breakfast, I wrote down a list of ideas on the back of a printout. I have some writing ideas on old envelopes. These fit into a basket or scrapbook better than a notebook! I guess I need to start learning to adapt to my way, instead of continuing to fail at adapting to others'!

  11. I love the basket idea...it's brilliant...I have notebooks tucked in baskets all over the house...even in guest rooms for guests!!!

    I love random writing, notebooks...have you ever seen Russell and Hazel ones and Moleskin...and even Target ones...and notebooks with grid lined paper....love those!!!

  12. The previous commenters have said so much. When you finally get your writer's basket or a box or a folder or ... would you please take a picture and share.

  13. Christy...
    I'm not sure how I missed this post (I always scan for yours on Tuesdays). Thank you for the nods to me. Thank you for your honesty. I hope you are enjoying filling your notebook. I have lots of "active" notebooks at one time. I tend to stick with them until their filled. I like having filled notebooks --- almost as much as I like starting them. :)

    Never doubt that YOU are a writer. This little space is proof.