I have to admit something. I have this fetish for notebooks. From my childhood, I have always been intrigued with the promise of an empty notebook just waiting to be filled. As a little girl, I loved to make books of my own by stapling typing or notebook paper together between construction paper covers. Often, I would peruse the office supply aisle at the grocery store looking for the “perfect” pocket-sized spiral notebook to spend my pocket money on. Eagerly, I would spend hours filling the tiny pages with my big ideas. Drawings, poetry, and stories poured out, unrestrained.
Now, my own two daughters, ages 8 and 12, follow in my footsteps. My older daughter has begun journaling and logging her pre-teen experiences in a snazzy, spiral-bound book while my younger daughter’s stapled or ribbon-tied “books” can be found on countertops and bedrooms under various stages of construction. I recognize that familiar sparkle in their eyes, the compulsion to create and express oneself on the holy medium of paper. Many books are started but few, if any, are ever completed. Every time I help my girls deep clean their rooms, we come across their stash of personal notebooks. Too sacred to toss, we always find a convenient drawer or compartment to store them in.
Like my daughters, my own collection of notebooks and journals has grown over the years and come in varying sizes and shapes (though I seem to gravitate towards the basic 70-sheet, wide-ruled, one-subject spiral notebook or the more durable, hard-cover, 100-sheet composition book.) Some notebooks, filled from cover to cover, are my “morning pages” or freewriting ramblings (see Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way.) Other notebooks which started out as places to write book reviews, travel experiences, letter boxing expeditions or favorite quotes remain unfinished. But even in their unfinished state, the notebooks’ blank pages are a symbol of hope, reminding me of the realm of possibility beneath my fingertips. Currently, a tiny hardcover book with lilacs on the cover nestles in the bottom of my purse to catch those fleeting writing ideas or “seeds of thought” and a recycled spiral notebook, rescued from a child’s backpack, lays in the bottom of my desk drawer to hold my sporadic morning musings.
And now the urge to fill yet another notebook, a “Mother’s Notebook,” as recommended by author Lisa Garrigues in her new book Writing Motherhood: Tapping Into Your Creativity as a Mother and a Writer, is too tempting to resist. I was intrigued to read Garrigues’ description of the differences between a diary and a Mother’s Notebook. She says, “Think of your Mother’s Notebook as an open space for contemplation, reflection, and meandering…Let it be experimental…Let it be colorful…Let it be collaborative…The Mother’s Notebook, finally, is where we can write down our experience in our voice…this is where we take ourselves and our writing seriously.” Then she quotes Georgia Heard who said, “My notebook is a constant weight in my already-too-heavy black bag…Its presence always reminds me I’m a writer, and it helps me live a considered life that doesn’t spin by focused only on groceries, dinner, and car repairs. A notebook is fertilizer for my writing, not just a record of daily events. It’s a place to dream, to explore, to play. It’s a companion.” I can hardly wait to go shopping this afternoon for my first Mother’s Notebook. And whether I fill it or not is irrelevant. I know that it’s the personal journey of expression that matters, the discovery of self. Like Garrigues, I believe that “just as mothering gives us material for writing, so writing gives us tools for mothering.” Who knows if this new attempt will help me work out my maternal salvation, but for a couple of dollars, it never hurts to buy another notebook.