I read a blog post on MFA Confidential the other day about notebooks. The post was entitled: “Does Anyone Use a Notebook Anymore?”, and detailed the blogger’s concern over whether she had become too dependent on her computer…but also commenting on how antiquated the notion of writing in a notebook is.
One friend of the blogger told her: “What was good enough for Shakespeare should be good enough for you,” to which she replies that if Shakespeare had toilets available over chamber pots, he’d most likely have used that instead – same idea as laptop vs. notebook use.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I bristled a little at her comments about writing in a notebook being ‘Elizabethan’ or ‘totally anachronistic’. At one point in the blog post, she mentions that maybe there’s some kind of communion between the brain/hand & pen/paper that doesn’t happen when you’re typing on a computer.
I’d be inclined to agree with that! While it’s no longer practical to write entire novels in longhand (though I know a number of people who have), I use pen & paper to write many of my short stories. I find that the physical act of writing is somehow cathartic, and allows me to put my thoughts down much more freely than when I’m typing at a computer. I censor myself more on the computer. I get caught up ‘researching’ and avoid writing at all.
With a pen & notebook in hand, there’s nothing to do but write!
I also do all my round-one revisions in longhand. Sometimes that means re-writing nearly the entire manuscript in between the lines of the first draft. However, that physical act of crossing out, changing, moving things around keeps my mind focused on what I’m doing.
Planning, plotting – all longhand in a notebook.
Character descriptions / world maps – all longhand in a notebook.
For me, the physical process of creating something is what gives the notebook approach its power. And judging by the comments on that blog post, there’s plenty of other writers out there that feel the same way!
So, for Ms. Morrison who wondered, “who among us has every actually written anything under a willow tree?”
I have. And I’ve written on a bench, on the grass, in the house, with a mouse…oh wait, sorry, wrong train of thought. But you get the idea.
How about you? Notebook? Laptop? Indoor writing? Outside (preferably when it’s not snowing or raining, that is)? Do you find writing longhand ‘Elizabethan’ or freeing?