How I start a new notebook

by DRM

I want to assure you with all earnestness that no writing is a waste of time — no creative work where the feelings, the imagination, the intelligence must work. With every sentence you write, you have learned something. It has done you good. It has stretched your understanding. I know that. Even if I knew for certain that I would never have anything published again, and would never make a cent from it, I would still keep on writing.

If You Want To Write, Barbara Euland

I have just started a new workbook. I use a large, soft-covered Moleskine notebook with unlined pages as a place to record ideas, research, sketches and other marginalia that make up the things I do as a writer. The notebook was the inspiration for this blog, in fact. I thought that it would be interesting to share some of the things that I encountered and created while working on different projects.

When I begin a new notebook, I sit down at my old typewriter and type out excerpts from Barbara Euland’s book about writing. The one at the top of this post is the first I type and maybe the most evocative for me.

When I am done typing the excerpts, I re-type the last paragraph of Joyce’s The Dead. Then I take a scissor, cut the pages to the size of the notebook and paste them in with a glue stick.

As I type, the old keys clicking and clacking, I get happy. I feel centered and purposeful. The joy is childish. Euland’s words are my permission, my affirmation, my launching point.

Joyce’s paragraph is a reminder about what can take your breath away. Music lives in words. The images, the connotations, the memories, the associations all build together to bring you to a moment of clarity, an understanding of what life is about.

These are my two starting points: joyful exuberance that comes with being given permission to play and breathless desire to move someone else that way that Joyce’s story moved me.

Those two points capture the purpose of my workbook. Part of what I need is a place to keep track of ideas. But I also need the workbook to remind me what I am reaching for when I write, the simultaneous experience of comfort and exertion, the ever-deepening understanding of what Life is.

If you have ever thought about writing, or desire to be confident and excited about creating new things, you should read Euland’s book. It’s been a great friend to me.