two for | Keeping a Notebook

In my desk I have a file folder titled "unfinished thoughts". It's full of writing on restaurant pads and receipt papers.

there are notes about the things I saw : Henri Edmond Cross painting Beach at Cabasson.  
notes about the things I heard : song from Girls ... I Make the Same Mistakes (?)
notes about remembering : buy tweezers.  
notes even about forgetting : "what was that phrase that infuriated me? how did they like their coffee? It's all been eroded, and all that's left is a caricature of who they are ... or, were. A hazy figment - recognizable but sad in it's flatness. No longer part of the living"

Maybe it's that scratch paper is low commitment or that there's no pressure to write well on the back of brown paper bag.  I hestitate, though, to write in my notebook. I let a thought roll around in my head until I can tease something out. I wait for ideas in full form. But, there are countless observations that are lost and dissipate into others - never making it to paper because I think they're too mundane or murky. 

in my first reading for grad school Joseph A. Maxwell writes that the key to good research is keeping a notebook.
"You should think of them as a way to help you understand, not just as a way of recording or presenting an understanding you've already reached; writing is thinking on paper." Qualitative Research Design

It reminded me of Joan Didion's essay On Keeping a Notebook, Joan Didion : 
"See enough and write it down, I tell myself, and then some morning when the world seems drained of wonder, some day when I am only going through the motions of doing what I am supposed to do, which is write - on that bankrupt morning I will simply open my notebook and there it will all be."

A notebook can be a place for one to return to, a reserve of inspiration. 
How do you use your notebook?

(p.s) two thoughts : the end of life | the length of life


  1. Love the post. I have two notebooks. One I use as a journal(I recently started journaling and haven't done so since high school and surprisingly I found it extremely therapeutic) and one I use to write down phrases that come to mind (might use in a poem later), random thoughts, as well as beginning forms of poems with their revisions close behind.

  2. I have a notebook too but I only jot down the new words that I've come across in them so that I can refer to it time and again. I'm also writing a letter everyday to my boyfriend and plan on giving it to him on our anniversary. Writing on a paper is so much better than typing a message or email :) What you do is also pretty cool :)
    I Love your blog and the way you write is subtle and touching :)

    ❤Not Just My Allegories❤

  3. i bought a notebook, i keep it in my purse.. i bring it everywhere with me. i've had it over a year yet barely 10 pages are filled. i also hesitate to write in my notebook. incomplete thoughts are not written down in the notebook.. they are added to the notepad on my phone or written on the back of a receipt. unlike you, i never keep these receipts, i end up cleaning out my purse and/or wallet and shred hold receipts.
    thank you! this post may help me. those quotes are inspiring - writing is thinking on paper. the thoughts in my head are often scattered and incomplete, why cant my notebook be! :)
    i hope you are enjoying being back in classes!

    1. chrissy, yes! let's challenge ourselves to put those thoughts - even the partially formed ones - in our notebooks. After all, what is a small seed now can grow into something great.

  4. I am a walking post-it... It seems that whenever I buy a nice notebook, I never write in it because it is just too perfect for my jumbled thoughts and crossed-out words... So, instead, I write upwards to 5 post-its a day, which then collect by my nightstand. Wouldn't it be grand to write legible to-dos, quotes, etc...? Although, it's SO rewarding to throw them all out in a month's time!

    1. Kate, I am the exact same way. That is totally where I was coming from in writing this - my notebooks go empty, while every piece of paper in my purse becomes an important memo. You're right, throwing them out is so satisfying though (... assuming I actually do it!)

  5. I've journaled in a notebook for most of my life, but I go through phases where it's almost like I am afraid to write in my journal because my thoughts seem so haphazard. I think that's why Anne Lamott in 'Bird by Bird' suggests using notecards, because it makes you feel less like you're charged with the responsibility of writing a book, and more like you're just capturing thoughts. Less responsibility, more freedom.

    Lately I'm just trying to write wherever and whenever the words will come - in my journal, on the back of my lunch receipt, in notes on my phone, in a plethora of little emails to myself.

  6. I'm definitely a journal-er, but I agree, I feel like my notebooks should be filled with perfectly though-out and well written ideas. It really keeps me from writing anything genuine. It's a pity that I love my newest neon yellow notebook too much to fill it with my own thoughts.


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