The notebooks, and why she needs a secret decoder ring

by Jennifer on August 25, 2008

I keep two books for writing things down. The first is a leather-bound journal into which I copy quotes or poetry that I love. I am careful with it, and have never lost it. If the house was on fire, and I had time (assuming everyone was safe, of course), it would be one of the things I would grab on my way out. My scripture. Sacred.

The other is a Moleskine notebook. This one is less sacred (though no less loved), and collects all sorts of notes. If I’m in my car and see a house I like and want to look up online when I get home, I’ll scribble the realtor’s information onto a page. If I think of a seed for a post or something I want to remember, that goes in, too. Music I’ve heard and want to download. A website I want to check out. A word, a line, a paragraph, the kitchen sink–it all goes in.

I jot notes down all over the place, though. I’m fairly indiscriminate about using any available scrap of paper. The result is a hodgepodge of scraps in need of a permanent home (often, the most fitting place would be the trash can), and those get stuck into the very handy pocket in the back of this notebook until I get a chance to copy them into it.

Tonight I was flipping through my Moleskine, looking for anything that might spark an idea for a guest post I’m supposed to have finished by tomorrow (shh, don’t tell JCK I haven’t started yet).

On one page, there was one word: Lost, underlined three times. I know it’s not a reference to the TV show, since I don’t watch it. But I have no idea why I wrote it down. Do you ever do that? It’s in your own handwriting, so you know it came from you, but you have no memory of writing it? Happens to me a lot. Whole paragraphs, sometimes, that I’ll find scribbled on the back of a utility bill envelope or a Starbucks napkin, that amount to little more than a blur in my memory.

On another page, there’s the name of a place near here that piques my interest every time I drive past, as I did a few days ago. Along Highway 188, a sign announces Mad As Hell Ranch. I just know there’s a good story there, and I think I might try to find out what it is sometime. But turning down that driveway doesn’t seem like the best idea, you know?

There’s this, that I wrote many years ago, thinking that I would write a story around it (I copied it into the notebook so that I would think to work on it sometime). So far, it’s all I’ve got:

“How much do you love me?” he asked her. He needed things from her.
Into the dark, she answered, “With all my heart.” He pulled her closer.
She did not tell him, and never would, how small her heart had become, how heavy. A stone.

Turn another page, and there’s a lame pickup line that I wrote down one evening when I was with the kids at Cracker Barrel. Behind us, at the next table I could hear a man going on about the country music career he was trying to create for himself, and in the window reflection I could see that he was bedecked in more turquoise and silver jewelry than I’ve ever seen on one person, let alone on a man. And then I heard him tell his friend, in reference to the waitress as she walked away, “I’d be all over her like snow on a mountainside.” That’s one I’ve never heard. Give the man points for originality, and then run like hell. I expect that line will come out of the mouth of an odd character in a book someday.

Maybe all of these notes will amount to something in time. Of course, the chances of that improve if I can remember why I wrote any of it down.

How about you? When you turn to pen and paper (you know, like in the olden days), where do you like to make notes? Legal pads? Post-it notes? Bound journals? Your hand? (Not paper, but useful. I do it, too.)

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

dragonfly August 25, 2008 at 2:01 am

I keep a journal, which gets pretty much everything written down in it. But if I’m at home and have the time, my tried and true method is to send an email to myself. And yes, I know how cheesy that is. I’m giggling at myself just reading it. 🙂

dragonflys last blog post..Will someone please wake me up?

dragonfly August 25, 2008 at 2:03 am

I didn’t mean to hit submit yet!! Oops..

I also wanted to say that the whole “snow on a mountainside” made me burst out laughing. Funny, and also horrible.

dragonflys last blog post..Will someone please wake me up?

jenrantsraves August 25, 2008 at 5:27 am

I am addicted to the written word, so I write stuff down everywhere, napkins, maps, torn pieces of magazines, sticky notes, whatever is handy. I used to keep a journal in my car and in my nightstand because those are 2 places poems usually come to me. I kept letters that were sent to me in college, and notes scribbled to me in high school study hall. All are a little glimpse into my past, that make me laugh. My problem is I have too many started ideas for stories or poems, not finished ones!

Manic Mommy August 25, 2008 at 5:46 am

I have a small notebook I keep in my purse that I write everything in. I found an old one that had an impromptu pool we decided to run at ‘our bar’ one night from before we had kids. Fun memories.

On the next page? Stuff about which I wanted to talk to my therapist.

Manic Mommys last blog post..You Can’t Go Om Again…

Kacey August 25, 2008 at 6:29 am

I jot stuff down on paper everywhere. Especially when I’m at the computer…which is weird, why use paper when the computer is right there?

I keep thinking I’ll buy a notebook to use…but I’ve never really been disciplined enough to keep using it.

Kaceys last blog post..By the Time a Woman turns 50

we_be_toys August 25, 2008 at 6:59 am

I really need to start taking a pad of paper around with me, because I always have great ideas when I’m paperless!
That and in the shower. My god, the novels I’ve written in the shower. You should see our water bill! But then I get out, and towel off both water and ideas. What was that idea again?
Do they make waterproof notepads? Anyone?

Ann August 25, 2008 at 7:00 am

Ah, notes. Yes, I keep one spiral bound notebook with me at all times for the “kitchen sink” type stuff; it also is stuffed with post-its here and there. There is another notebook upstairs, where I spend my time on my laptop.

As far as mysterious notes? Once I woke up in the middle of the night with an idea for a blog post – scrawled “Jack Daniels” on a yellow post-it – woke up the next day – I still have NO idea what in creation THAT was supposed to be all about….

Emily R August 25, 2008 at 7:05 am

Mostly scrap paper, but if it is anything I want to remember to write about, I type it and keep it on my hard drive.

Emily Rs last blog post..Because usually we deny him speaking privileges

Louise August 25, 2008 at 7:19 am

I can’t believe you write notes on your hand. That must be part of the rebellious spark in you!

My notes are all on my computer. Which says something about my creativity, doesn’t it. I clearly don’t have a computer with me all the time. In a time of desperation, I’ll call Prince Charming and tell him to send me an e-mail with a thought in it.

The line at Cracker Barrel? Well, that reminds me of your “people watching” post. Really, the funniest things we hear in life are often overheard in places like that. And yes, run like hell!

Oh, and I do look at things and sometimes wonder exactly why I wrote it down (typed it).

Louises last blog post..Congratulations and Awards

apathy lounge August 25, 2008 at 8:27 am

If only you could see the inside of my backpack. As I’m scrambling for my keys I always come up with a handful of paper scraps. Backs of envelopes, post-its, torn halves of notebook paper. All of my To-Do lists. Useless now, but so important back whenever it was that I needed them.

apathy lounges last blog post..Summer’s officially over but she left some heat behind as a lovely parting gift…

Csquaredplus3 August 25, 2008 at 10:17 am

I have one notepad with ongoing topic/project ideas. For blog posts, I write on a piece of unlined paper that lays by the computer. I pitch it when the idea comes to life.

Thanks for sharing – always interesting to know how others work…

Csquaredplus3s last blog post..Hey. That was my idea.

Daryl August 25, 2008 at 10:18 am

Funny you should ask because this morning on the bus I had this idea for a post and scrambled through my bag for a pen AND paper .. ended up using the post it that was serving as a bookmark .. AND if I hadnt read your post I would have forgotten about it until I had a chance to read my book … so thanks for the reminder!

Daryls last blog post..

RiverPoet August 25, 2008 at 11:03 am

I have notebooks all over the place, and they tend to get set aside and forgotten. Life runs over me like a drinking man on his way to the first open bar.

I should start keeping notebooks, though. I come across some amazing stuff in my life. Your blog, for one….

Peace – D

RiverPoets last blog post..Falling Behind

ByJane August 25, 2008 at 11:56 am

I buy Moleskines. I have several because I’m never sure which one will be the perfect receptacle for my great ideas. I have one by my sofa. And I carry one in my purse.

And I almost never do anything with them. No idea is quite good enough for the creamy pages that are Moleskines. And my handwriting is bound to be crappy that day that I have THAT idea. Handwriting is so important, don’t you think? Yes, you do, and you have that fantastic Moleskine penmanship.

I am, indeed, envious.

ByJanes last blog post..It’s The Economy, Stupid!

Tina August 25, 2008 at 12:58 pm

Scraps of paper. My purse looks like it’s full of confetti.

Tinas last blog post..Blogapalooza: Kids taking it on the road…

flutter August 25, 2008 at 1:34 pm

I have sticky notes of a million shades of pink

JCK August 25, 2008 at 1:52 pm

WHAT!!! You haven’t STARTED yet! heehee Just kidding. I’m a last minute gal myself.

I loved this post, Jennifer. I jot down notes on post-its and in a notebook, too. Although the notebook changes from week to week. I often hear the sentence to what becomes a blog post or a line in a poem that I write and then go from there.

Like snow all over a mountain…too funny!

Madge August 25, 2008 at 3:22 pm

I LOVE that paragraph you wrote. shit, that is good (sorry for swearing on your blog).

BTW — just because I read your post and commented DOES NOT mean you have to stop by my blog and comment on my latest post….

Madges last blog post..Confessions

anymommy August 25, 2008 at 3:39 pm

My leatherbound calendar. It’s a mess. I also have an old school wide rule school notebook. I would panic if it ever went missing. Hope inspiration strikes for your guest post.

anymommys last blog post..Blog and Marriage, Blog and Marriage

david mcmahon August 25, 2008 at 4:09 pm

I write notes in my mind. I reckon it works, because I can still tell you what I did in Alaska nine years ago!

david mcmahons last blog post..Witch Hunt

catnip August 25, 2008 at 6:17 pm

I have a million little spiral notebooks so I can jot things down where ever I am. Then when I need the info, I can never figure out which notebook it’s in! So dumb!

catnips last blog post..3.14 or 42?

the mama bird diaries August 25, 2008 at 8:40 pm

loving that pick up line.

i always have a notebook in my purse to write ideas down, grocery items, things not to forget. i’ve never been able to embrace the electronic notes thing. Just not for me.

the mama bird diariess last blog post..the olympics are not on

Suzanne August 25, 2008 at 9:45 pm

I love Moleskine notebooks……I just bought my first one recently, a small lined black one which I carry with me everywhere in my purse and use as a gratitude journal.

It also sometimes becomes one of those repositories of random thoughts and grocery lists.

I also have numerous journals that I’ve collected over the years. There is something still magical about the written word.

Suzannes last blog post..Out of Synch with the Natural Order of Things

Hatchet August 25, 2008 at 9:46 pm

If I had a minute, while I had the thought, I’d write stuff down. As it currently stands, I have fabulous ideas while I’m in the shower or just as I fall asleep at night.

Then…the ideas fade away as the hunger screams start from the tiny twosome ramps up.

Hatchets last blog post..Toofies!

maggie, dammit August 26, 2008 at 5:26 am

I do this, too. This exact same thing.

I call the paragraphs — the sentences, even words like ‘Lost’ — I call them ‘nuggets.’

I hope to mine them someday, but then I’d have to stop blogging for a minute. 😉

reluctantfarmchik August 26, 2008 at 6:38 am

I have a moleskine too – LOVE IT. But it’s sometimes too special to write in (how ridiculous is that?) I’m starting to get over that though. It even has last week’s shopping list in there (the only paper I could find in my car after a cleaning spree). I have spiral notebooks that I write everything in. But they’re all over the house. And then when I’m looking for something, I have to page through a bazillion books. It’s much more fun reading YOUR notes though. Thanks for sharing. And I really love that paragraph. I would have written it down too. Brilliant.

Ree August 26, 2008 at 7:49 am

I have a beautiful lilac covered journal-y thing that is too big to fit in my current purse – but it’s going to be used for exactly the purpose you use your moleskine. Everything I think needs to be in a single place or it’s _poof_ gone from my addled brain.

Rees last blog post..Teachers – Past in Polaroids 3

Gwen August 26, 2008 at 8:19 am

I have a collection of bits of paper and notebooks filled with jottings that don’t always makes sense. And then, in the middle of the notebook, I’ll find a picture one of my children has drawn. Because they share my love for notebooks and are always trying to abscond with mine.

Lisa Milton August 26, 2008 at 11:03 am

I love those snippets, the moments captured and trying to write around the inspiration, long past.

(It took me a minute to get over the ‘I don’t watch Lost’ comment. Have you seen Sawyer? JCK will have to fill you in.)

cindy August 26, 2008 at 11:20 am

PostIts. It’s all on PostIts that I steal from work (they don’t pay me enough, so I consider it part of my employee benefits program). Usually I throw them away when I think I’m done with them, but sometimes they get stuck under mountains of paper on my desk. I just found one this morning that says “cake, grad. cards, coffee, whipped cream.” It would be fun to have a note book so I could look back on these and smile like I did with this one. Thanks for the inspiration.

cindys last blog post..The Olympics are over, but I’m not

manager mom August 26, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Oh lordy. I have three notebooks of different sizes, plus a collection of random pieces of scrap paper, scribbled-on receipts, and random crossword puzzles with notes in the margins.

I have another pickup line for you, from my days as a DJ in Chicago- “I’d be on you like a hobo on a ham sandwich.”

Future husband material, not so much.

manager moms last blog post..Saving The Drama For Her Mama

Bruce August 26, 2008 at 4:16 pm

Same principle, only more practical. I used to look to technology to try and find ways of jotting things down, voice records, palm pilots, etc….and finallly settled ona basic small notepad. The kind you buy for 99 cents. I keep in my pocket and fill up about 2 of them a year. Once full, I never throw them away, because they have too many ideas in them. They will be my epitah some day, I am sure.

Bruces last blog post..Not Being Subtle

Stacie August 26, 2008 at 4:47 pm

If I wrote stuff down I might be less nuts…no, i’d still be nuts…more organized, but just as insane.

Stacies last blog post..I Smite Thee O Jackass Who Parketh in the School Car Line!

Jan August 26, 2008 at 5:06 pm

Any bit of blank piece of paper I can find. There are notes on odd scraps of paper all over my house, my office, my purse, my car and my person.

And yeah – the whole name and phone number on the palm of the hand thing is quite…well, handy, too.

Jans last blog post..Fahrenheit 45…and a Half

melissa August 26, 2008 at 6:29 pm

The randomness of those pages delight me. I write in a decent journal and in a spiral notebook–I keep things in various locations because, well, you never know.

melissas last blog post..Indifferent

Kimberly August 26, 2008 at 7:10 pm

I keep a journal to write down thoughts, feelings and anecdotes from my life. I’ve kept one for years. Random notes, lists, etc. go into notebooks or onto post-it notes.

My husband keeps something similar to your moleskine book and refers to it often.

Kimberlys last blog post..This post has been brought to you by the letter A for Annoying

Elaine August 27, 2008 at 11:45 am

I SO need a journal/scrap notebook myself. Right now it’s Post-Its for “to do” lists, ideas for posts, etc, etc. And that’s just not good.

I am a little curious about the Mad as Hell Ranch myself…

Elaines last blog post..Wordless Wednesday #30 – Cute But Stinky

carol August 28, 2008 at 4:16 am

I write down things everywhere…..on napkins, post it notes, back of my little rip-off desk calendar pages. sigh. I really need to get a notebook. However….I love finding those little notes, and like you, I often have no idea what they mean. But I love them. Every single one of them. Wierd!

And that pick-up line? I spit coffee all over my keyboard when I read it! You’re right: Run. Before it’s too late!

(Congrats on making David’s blog-of-the-day!)

carols last blog post..~Beyond the ‘Drive’~

Deb August 28, 2008 at 10:23 am

Hi. I wandered over here from Authorblog – and I am so glad that I did! I have so many journals – some empty, some half-full – I need to become more dedicated since I do love writing. I frequently write notes on the back of envelopes (often bills that I rather ignore) but that is not a good idea since I have been known to ‘misplace’ the bill. This post has certainly caused me to think about my need to reorganize. And that pick up line – potential country western song!

Debs last blog post..Let’s Get Physical!

moannie August 28, 2008 at 1:14 pm

I too have found you through the excellent, redoubtable, admirable David.
I have been writing for years and have kept every scrap of paper, every draft and every rejection slip, and when I say years, I mean YEARS! I have a cupboard full of files, folders full of scraps of paper,Mss, half finished, finished, thrown in the trash and retrieved Mss and when I have nothing special to do I pull something out, reread it and think…Oh boy, that stinks, and push it back in the pile. But my worst fault is writing down a phone number and forgetting to put a name against it. Loved your posts and as the great Arnie said ‘I’ll be back’.

Annie August 28, 2008 at 1:44 pm

It is so nice to hear that so many others do the same as me..notes everywhere in books on pieces of paper, backs of envelopes…and yes, I have a special book (two, now, actually) that I write down famous quotes etc from books, whereever. Thank God I am not alone! I also reach into my backpack or handbag, esp when travelling, and find heaps of bits of papers. I envy people who are a little more organised.


ps I have just started wondering about electronic gizmos…esp as my son-in-law has written their own software for a notebook type thingy I think is the site. Costs a bit, wonder if it would help people like me, I should give it a try sometime!

Annies last blog post..Skywatch Friday

Crazycath August 30, 2008 at 1:11 pm

In my head. Which is fatal because I have a memory like a sieve right now…

Crazycaths last blog post..My thoughts for today

Hilary September 1, 2008 at 7:47 am

I tend to collect thoughts on my computer. I just open up a blank memo page and add things there. I need to get out more, eh?

Hilarys last blog post..Splashing With Benny

Andrew March 10, 2009 at 1:18 am

I use this one:

Created it for myself, actually

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