Notebooks & Willow Trees

   Posted by: Faith   in Rye Thoughts

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. notebooks

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.

Wouldn't you love to sit here and just write? 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?

This entry was posted on Friday, January 28th, 2011 at 2:07 pm and is filed under Rye Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

12 comments so far


I uhm… finished my entire rough draft in two note books. I wrote with pen in a very small hand.

But I doubt I would have been able to finish it if I had been writing on the computer.

My inner censor is much too lively.


January 28th, 2011 at 2:16 pm

I’m just like you. I write a lot by hand, especially poetry. I have a harder time writing poetry on a computer, my mind just doesn’t flow the same.

January 28th, 2011 at 4:27 pm
Kittie Howard

I keep notebooks, can’t imagine how I’d save those fleeting ideas without a notebook. Also, what’s written on paper and what’s keyboarded on a screen don’t aways read the same.

January 28th, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I write everyting by hand in a notebook for I type it into the computer. I’m guessing it has something to do with that brain/hand & pen/paper phenomenom you speak of, because creativity flows a lot more freely that way than when I’m at the computer. I love my notebooks and I will never, ever, ever, ever, give them up.

January 29th, 2011 at 5:56 am

See, I should have written that comment out by hand before I typed it. Look at the errors!!!!

January 29th, 2011 at 5:57 am

I write in a notebook, of course! (Still, mine does have a battery and an open/shut screen and a keyboard *chortles*).



January 29th, 2011 at 8:39 pm

I love the idea of writing my novel long hand, but I could never physically do it. I do my planning and brainstorming in a notebook. Revision notes are done in a notebook as well. The rest is done on the computer.

January 30th, 2011 at 4:15 am

I’ve written stories and poems in a notebook (and still do) and some times rough ideas with outline questions, while in the car. It really does tap into a deeper level of creativity, I think. But on a longer work, I think more quickly on the computer, and my typing can keep up with my thoughts. I think both complement each other.

January 30th, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Misha – Your *entire* draft?! Wow! I am very impressed. That’s amazing.

Angela – I can’t even conceive of writing poetry on the computer! It doesn’t even make sense. Wonder why that is? Something to do with the flow of words, maybe…

Kittie – That’s very true! I notice different things depending on whether I’m doing a read-over on the computer or in a notebook.

Susan – Everything? That’s very commendable. I can’t do long amounts in a notebook as my hand/wrist will start to ache, but I wish I could! I like that ‘first round editing’ that happens when you type the words in from the notebook as well.

Rachel – Look at you, being all snarky! LOL :D

Kari – I like the physical act of writing down ideas and revision notes as well. It makes the concepts clearer, for some reason.

Elizabeth – While in the car! I wish I was able to do that, but I’d need a chauffeur or a robot car first, haha. That’s exactly it though, I do think both ways of doing things complement each other.

January 31st, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I love notebooks. They aren’t dead yet!

January 31st, 2011 at 3:14 pm

I’m not against writing in a notebook or by hand. In fact, at times, that’s how I’ve begun stories in the past (and even finished full first drafts). I didn’t have a computer to begin typing on, so instead of simply waiting to get home, I wrote my story with pen and paper (not necessarily a notebook).

But when I’d get home, I would transer the story to the computer and go from there. And instead of continuing to write it hand, I would only continue it by typing it on the computer.

So I use pen and paper to begin sometimes but not at all often to finish.

I do agree though with the censoring and researching. We do that much more on the computer than with pen and paper.

February 1st, 2011 at 2:08 pm

About the only pen and paper writing I do anymore is journal writing. It’s not because I don’t love or respect pen and paper writing, but because I can type 90+ words a minute. When I write longhand, I “lose” ideas before I can get them down, whereas I can type at the speed of thought, if that makes sense.

February 2nd, 2011 at 2:54 am

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