"A writer's notebook is a junkyard of the mind."
A few months ago, I went to an amazing workshop run by author Tessa Hadley. There were many lightbulb moments (which I dutifully noted down in my notebook), but the thing I most remember is capable, brilliant Tessa taking my notepad to read aloud my paragraph (potential squirm factor = high) only for said notepad to fall apart in her hands... Pages fluttered covered in scruffy handwriting scrawled at jaunty angles, sketches half-sketched, water-stained, ink smudged... Basically, a mess of thoughts, semi-started ramblings and notes about stories long-since ditched.
So am I a disorganised arty-type with no sellotape in the house? Well, yes. But is something else going on with this ever-expanding (and ever-falling apart) notebook?
Having got to know a fair few writers, there is, among many, a bit of a stationary-obsession epidemic. A new notepad will be commented upon, even fawned over. It's frankly weird. Having studied art, many artists have a similar, disturbing fondness for a decent pencil and pad of paper. I admit it; I am not immune to a beautiful sketchpad in Paperchase and there's plenty of articles, books and exhibitions concerning famous writers and artists and their notebooks.
But what are they for? Yes, notes. Yes, sketches, ideas, a turn of phrase. Author Stephen Norfolk described them as a junkyard for the mind This is close to it. Maybe, if I look carefully, there are some gems in my junk-filled notebook. However, I don't tend to keep my junk. I put it out in the dustbin for collection each Friday. I would NEVER chuck my notebook! I don't imagine many writers would. So notebooks are more than a junkyard; they're also a creative force in themselves. Each time I take mine along to my writing group, I have evidence that I've done this before, that I've dreamed and written and drawn and (even if 98% of it is unused) my notebook tells me I can do it.
I love my notebook because it's a messy, senseless, falling apart creature. I love my notebook because it's as much an expression of me as any finished story or painting or illustration. I'd go so far as to say, it's probably better.