The Queen of Notebooks

19 Jun

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.

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4 Responses to “The Queen of Notebooks”

  1. Beebers31 June 20, 2007 at 9:18 am #

    I too have an addiction to notebooks and journals. There they sit beautifully stacked on top of each other, blank and unused. If only my handwriting was neat, and I had something profound to say! How do you get over this block, to write freely and not worry about correction and the ” what if someone read this, what would they think” mentality?

  2. SassyQuilter August 8, 2007 at 9:58 am #

    You know … spiral notebooks are 10 for $1 at Target this week! (grin)

  3. brainymama August 8, 2007 at 12:37 pm #

    Beeb, it sounds like you have the same disease as mom! As you know, I’ve tried to get her to keep a journal for years. I guess she figures that if she never writes anything down, we will never have anything to blackmail her with. Yes, it’s risky writing things down. At times, I’m paralyzed because I don’t want to write down (heaven forbid!) anything mediocre. It’s that perfectionistic tendency that plagues me. On the other hand, once I get past the hard part of just starting, then I don’t want to stop. Writing is thinking on paper and it’s a great way to sort out your problems and to get to know yourself better. If you’re worried about someone else reading it, hide it! Keep it entirely private. Don’t write for an audience if it inhibits you. Believe it or not, you DO NOT have to keep a journal for posterity. Write for YOURSELF and to preserve your own sanity! Keeping a notebook is cheaper than therapy. Don’t worry about your handwriting. Let it all hang out because this is one thing you can do for yourself and not feel guilty about.

    And Sassy, shopping for school supplies always gets me going! I’ve also discovered the spiral notebooks of all shapes and sizes and colors in the $1 bin at Michael’s. I recently splurged and bought a notebook for each child to be used as a journal to record my thoughts about them and to keep track of all the big and little things that are going on in their lives. It’s a great place to record the funny things they say or even to rant about their (or your) outrageous behavior. I don’t know if I’ll ever give my kids the notebooks I’m keeping on them but for me, it’s a way to savor the fleeting moments I have with them.

  4. SassyQuilter August 21, 2007 at 5:38 pm #

    Along these same lines, it is also hard for me to write online in response to people’s blog posts for fear of being chided or flat-out cussed out by people for my opinion. I never feel totally anonymous.

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