A New Writer’s Notebook


Shopping for a new writer’s notebook always takes time.  It’s not easy to find just the right one: the right weight, the right cover, the right feel of the paper and look of the lines on the page.  

When I was in junior high, a package of loose-leaf was my favorite choice for writing.  At back-to-school sales, Mom would buy reams of notebook paper, and it was perfect for my creative efforts:  no page count limits, no chad-messy margins, no stiff binding to limit the movement of pencil and pen across the page.  

Loose-leaf paper offered fresh starts, a seemingly endless supply of them!  A new day with new ideas? Just grab another stack of paper and get started.  College-ruled was best for creating rosters of starship crews and planning their voyages into space, that final frontier, always with a captain who was strangely similar to James Kirk.  Wide-ruled paper was best for drawing the floor plans of the ranch houses my fictional families lived in, families that always had a girl in them named Jamie or Jodie and a neighbor strangely similar to Ken McLaughlin, complete with a horse named Flicka.

Planning what I was going to write was as much fun as the writing itself, each blank page holding the promise of escape into another time and place.  Not a word of the writing that came before was there to remind me of abandoned efforts or unfinished ideas, and each new writing project seemed like it would be the best one, the one I’d take to completion.  I wish I still had those loose-leaf pages from decades ago, but of course, they are long gone.

I didn’t start using composition books until after I became a teacher. I soon found that it was easier to manage 150 uniformly sized writers’ notebooks than it was to collect and carry home 150 spirals of different proportions and weights, so eventually every school supply list I sent out had “composition book” as a requirement. I started using one for my own writing, and I’ve never looked back.

Now dozens of composition books sit on my office shelves, preserving my ideas and musings and messy drafts for days when I’m ready to revisit old thoughts and find in them new beginnings.  Most of the posts in my personal blog come from composition books that I’ve gone back to and excavated. I try to teach my students what I’ve learned about “old” writing: that it’s worth keeping, a valuable glimpse into who we once were, and who we’re becoming.

In fact, this post began in 2009 as a writer’s notebook entry.  That summer, I sat on my back porch swing writing about the fun of having a brand new writer’s notebook, one with just the right cover, just the right pages, just the right look, weight, and feel. I’m glad I captured my thinking on that summer morning, and I’m glad I saved that old notebook.

What do you look for in a writer’s notebook? Do you revisit your old writing? Share your thoughts in a comment here.