December blog

December has just suddenly appeared and I know I’m late in posting this. My apologies. Life has just got in the way. This month my blog and writing article are combined – below; I’ve posted some writing prompts and new competition links, and I’ll try to add book recommendations and writing hints in the next few days.

            Most people have family responsibilities this time of year so writing does tend to take a bit of a back seat. Don’t worry about it. Just set some resolutions – five is a good number – once everything quietens down and I’ll be back in January with a new-look website and more ideas for the new Year.

Happy Writing!


The Writer’s Notebook

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. That’s for my friends who give me notebooks at Christmas and birthdays. A writer can NEVER have too many notebooks. Really! I know I have a cupboardful already but the gift of a notebook, of any size, colour, design or style, ALWAYS makes me feel like writing.

            There’s something so special about being given a writer’s notebook: that ever so tiny crack as the book is opened for the first time and the spine is released; the smell of the pristine pages – like going into an old-fashioned bookshop! And then the thought of what I can use this particular notebook for – idle jottings, planning my latest project, research notes, ideas for my classes, the start of a blog, character profiles, overheard conversations, zig-zag plot lines……..

            I’m sure I’m not the only writer who finds it impossible to walk past any stationery counter – in supermarkets, department stores, pound shops and market stalls. I just can’t resist. I am drawn there “just to have a look” as I tell my shopping companion. But, inevitably, I end up with another notebook to take home, seduced by its stylish cover and empty pages.   

            Some notebooks just FEEL so good: ones with suede or leather covers; decorated with jewels and beads; embossed in gold. And ones that come from special places – from friends, writing buddies, holidays, days out.

            Don’t worry, I am in no way decrying the standard spiral-bound reporter’s notebook – how many of those have I filled over the years? If I see a bargain-priced pack, then that’s another addition to my over-flowing cupboard.

            There’s just one problem for me: writing something on the first page. I don’t want to spoil it. I know my handwriting’s deteriorated over the years and the first page is SO important. Do I use pencil, biro, fountain pen or roller-ball? What colour? Am I going to write sentences and paragraphs? Or will this be a book just for notes? And perhaps drawings?

            If I go to a workshop, class or seminar, I usually take a new notebook with me. The first few pages get used and the book is put away, waiting weeks or months before I look at it again and try to decipher my scribble, the occasional hieroglyph of shorthand plus personal abbreviations.

            I’ve tried other devices to make notes: different apps on my tablet and phone; and a whole variety of recording devices, from tiny palm-sized recorders to spy pens and watches. Most of the time I feel self-conscious.  I was once stopped as I walked and talked in a car park outside a hospital by someone who thought I was a doctor. Good disguise, I thought, for a future story.screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-10-37-41

            But nothing will ever replace the notebook for me. You may recognise some of the notebooks in the picture here, but please don’t think I have enough. Notebooks are just the best present ever for a writer.

            Many famous writers are known for their use of their notebooks:

  • Mark Twain had leather-bound notebooks made to his own design. Each page had a tab which he tore off when that page had been used so he could easily find the next blank page.
  • Ernest Hemingway was one of the greatest advocates of the writer’s notebook, a habit he started whilst still at school. Later, he would sit in the cafes of Paris, often all day long, until inspiration struck. “I belong to this notebook and this pencil,” he wrote once.
  • Sue Townsend: “I’m spectacularly disorganised. I wrote my latest book in seven different notebooks scattered throughout my house.”
  • Quentin Tarantino: “My ritual is I never use a typewriter or computer. I just write it all by hand. It’s a ceremony. I go to a stationery store and buy a notebook and then fill it up.”
  • Possibly the most famous notebooks of all were written by Leonardo da Vinci. At first he wrote on loose sheets of paper, thousands of which are thought to be lost. But later he wrote in tiny leather-bound books that were tied to his belt, always at hand for his ideas, observations and drawings.
  • Will Self: “Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.” 
  • J.K.Rowling: “The idea of just wandering off to a café with a notebook and writing and seeing where that takes me for a while is just bliss.”
  • Hilary Mantel: “Insights don’t usually arrive at my desk, but go into notebooks when I’m on the move. Or half-asleep.”
  • Colm Tobin: “I write in longhand using disposable fountain pens on the right-hand side of the notebook for the first draft, then I rewrite some of the sentences and paragraphs on the left-hand side.”
  • Walt Whitman: “My little notebooks were beginnings – they were the ground into which I dropped the seed. I would work in this way when I was out in the crowds, then put the stuff together at home.”
  • Freya Stark: “A pen and a notebook and a reasonable amount of discrimination will change a journey from a mere annual into a perennial, its pleasures and pains renewable at will.”
  • A slight detour from Charles Palahniuk: “When I’m with people and somebody says a really fascinating anecdote, or fact, or phrase, I’ll write it on the inside of my arm. At the end of the day, I’ll take the very best things that are on my arm and I’ll copy them into a notebook that I always carry and only when the weather is absolutely terrible will I really key the very best of that notebook into the computer. At that point, it’s all sort of censored twice – only the best things go from the arm to the book and only the best things go from the book to the computer.”
  • And a writer who laments the advance of the digital age – Paul Theroux: “I can’t predict how reading habits will change. But I will say that the greatest loss is the paper archive – no more a great stack of manuscripts, letters and notebooks from a writer’s life. But only a tiny pile of disks, little plastic cookies where once were calligraphic marvels.”


One Comment on “December blog

  1. I agree that you can never have enough notebooks, especially if you can’t remember where you left them!


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