Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Writer's Notebooks
I am a notebook nut. In fact, I imposed a moratorium on my notebook purchases after a recent organization of my office revealed just how many brand new notebooks I already had in my possession.

In addition to my new, just-waiting-for-the-right-project notebooks and the many others in various stages of usage, there are three notebooks I use daily.

My Word Count Notebook. I chose an old steno notebook to record my daily word counts when I began Word Count Wednesday last spring. The two-column format is perfect for this: the date and the task go in the left-hand column and the number of words I wrote goes in the right hand column. In addition, I note writing tasks that did not yield new words (such as revisions) in the left hand column. For these tasks, time spent goes in the right-hand column.

This notebook has a place of honor on the right hand side of my desk. I leave it out because its very presence serves as a nudge to tackle my writing and revisions.

My Sprint Journal. Ever since I attended Ramona DeFelice Long's workshop at the Pennwriters Conference in May, I have been trying to do a writing sprint at least five days a week. Ramona advocates sketching each sprint out in a notebook, but pantser that I am, I like keeping my options open, so I journal after I sprint. Weird, I know. Ramona's planning makes a lot more sense from a logical perspective, but I've found that journaling post-sprint works better for me.

I'm repurposing a calendar as my sprint journal, so each entry includes the date, the length of my sprint(s) and the number of words accomplished during the sprint. Because I make sure that I write in my sprint journal daily, this journal also includes what I did on the days I didn't sprint (e.g. class planning, family responsibilities, etc). This notebook is a companion to my word count notebook, and as such, sits underneath the WCN on my desk.

My Catch-All Notebook. Decades ago, when I took my first course through the Institute of Children's Literature, I was taught to carry a notebook everywhere I go to jot down ideas as they occur to me. Decades ago, this wasn't necessary. As I prepare to celebrate my 53rd birthday, it has become essential.

My catch-all notebook is just that -- a little bit of everything. Slightly smaller and much more beat-up than my WCN or my SJ, it goes almost everywhere I do. As a matter of fact, when I make my daily trip to Starbucks, I often have to remember which bag I used the day before so that I can locate it. Right now, it contains lists of boys' names (I am struggling to find character names I like for my work-in-progress), samples of my daughter's handwriting (guess what traveled to a medical appointment with us last week), lists, class planning notes, and partially written blogs…among other things. I buy these basic notebooks three to a pack at Staples when they go on sale because I like the size and the fact that the pages are perforated.

I don't think I'm alone in my notebook peculiarities; I think proper notebook selection is a quirk many writers (and students) share. It's all part of finding the right tool for the job. To some, the overlap among my notebooks might seem inefficient, but it's a system that works for me.

How about you? Are you picky about your notebooks? Big or small? Top spiral vs. side spiral (or no spiral at all)? Lined or unlined?

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