Monday, August 20, 2012

Better Writing?

Would I write better if I had a moleskine journal or an econote or a yellow pad of paper? As I study writing, it makes me uncomfortable to see how many writers refer to their moleskines, or their econotes, or their yellow pads.

 Didn't even know what those were. Had to go to Barnes and Noble to see what they were talking about. Felt uneasy with the price tags. If this is what "real writers" are using, should I be using them too?

I use inexpensive spiral notebooks for my journals. Not the very cheapest, but a particular size I am comfortable holding, stuffing in my purse or carrying in my beat-up briefcase, using every day. Natalie Goldberg, in Writing Down the Bones, tells of buying the cheapest spirals, a year's worth, at the beginning of the school year when the supplies are all on sale, and filling one a month. She literally fills her pages, no margins, no headers, writing all over the pages. To me, it was refreshing to read that, to no longer be intimidated by someone with "better" supplies.

The nicer notebooks I do have were all gifts, for which I am very grateful. What I put in them, my gifts list, my short story ideas, my blog post sketches, won't be any better because they are written in beautiful books.

I remember reading about Jonathan Edwards, the revival preacher and theologian of the seventeen hundreds. He wrote his powerful sermons on envelopes, letters he received, any piece of paper he could find, and he wrote sideways and across the page, both sides, to make the most of each piece of paper. If I tried that, I don't think I could ever figure out what I had written. No idea how he managed with the long-hand flowing script they used. His words, his writings, have been effective across centuries, no matter what they were written on.

After all, the heart of the matter is to do the work. Whether it is writing or gardening or sewing or cooking or designing a building, the true work is in the art, the beauty, the soul behind the creativity. Good tools help, yes. For me, a big step in traveling lighter came when I accepted the tools I have, and understood that the creativity comes from me, not some magic from using a special notebook. 

I do love the feel of a fresh piece of paper. Raw material. Potential. Expectancy. What will unfold? What words will flow on to this page? What discoveries? The beauty of an empty page, waiting to be filled.

What do you use?


  1. I love beautiful journals, but I always have a hard time beginning to use them. A notebook allows me to write thoughts without wondering if my words are "worth" it. I have to admit, when the school supplies come out I hear them calling my name!

    1. I, too, am (almost) happier in a stationary/office supply type store than a candy shop! I can relate to the school supplies calling my name. This year, we have enough, I didn't need to buy any school supplies. Kind of disappointing, actually.

  2. Oh Gosh, why have we not crossed paths yet? My fellow Journal Keeper,I so relate. I have written on anything that makes itself available. If I am ready for a poem to spill out, any open space available that can be mobile will be my journal. I have had them fancy, plain, and three ring bound loose! I write. An where there is the slimmest of papers available I will cover with my meanderings. Oh, and I got to enjoy Natalie for a coffe shop group one night. It was so awesome, years ago...I think I will go dig that book out - I think she signed my copy. Gotta go dig. Nice post!

  3. I also use inexpensive notebooks (black & white composition or purse-size notebooks) but only to jot down an idea, record little stories or conversations. My desk is a mess of scrap paper notes, too. Word-processing on computer is such a luxury where sentences can be moved around and words made to disappear. This is my favorite way to write. I don't know what moleskins, econotes or yellow pads are. I guess I need to visit Barnes and Nobles, too, to find out. Thanks for sharing about Jonathan Edwards' notes. It amazes me, too, how the ancients wrote extensively with quill pen and ink pot.
    Keep writing,
    Karen A.

  4. Hey, we're soul sisters too! I love schools supplies. I write my plot & scene sketches, blog ideas, lists and misc. notes in composition books. My Bible study journal is always a thick spiral just slightly bigger than my Bible.
    My bro-in-law gave me a lovely distressed leather journal with hand-cut pages. I save it for quotes. That way, I know the words I write in it are worthy!
    I also have legal pads squirreled away in the car and in my travel computer bag, memo pads in my purse... you name it, I'll write on it!
    I really like this post. Thanks for reminding me that it isn't all about the tools.