Friday, March 5, 2010

permission to write junk: granted

I’ve written about this before, but some things are worth revisiting.

When I first read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and saw how she emphasized the importance of writing with pen in hand, I scoffed.  I can write best when I type.  I can type faster than I write.  I had a million thoughts about how this did not apply to me.  DSC_0077

Now, after more than a year and a half, hundreds of pages and dozens of pens, I’ve reformed.  In fact, you could say I’ve “converted”.  I am a notebook junkie.  Not in the sense that I buy notebooks everywhere and have pretty, fancy journals.  Although there is some truth to that as well.  But in the sense that I have at least four or five notebooks running at any given time.  What’s more, they’re usually with me – wherever I am.  In my car, in my work bag, in my purse, notebooks, notebooks, notebooks.  I even keep a pad of paper in the pocket of my car door. 

When I write at my keyboard, there is a pressure to publish.  I need to do something with these words.  Go somewhere with this message.  A notebook does not impose itself on my mind in that way.  Rather, it is a place for me to do with it what I choose.  It is a dumping point and a blank canvas simultaneously.

I wish I could say all these notebooks are neatly tabbed and organized, categorized by writing purpose or topic.  But, that would be a lie.  No, my notebooks are very much a mess, somewhat of a stream of consciousness.  Though, I don’t always work front to back or even chronologically.  My topic or purpose may be a sharp contrast to the last piece I wrote, so I find myself skipping twenty pages or so to isolate the entry.  At times, I open to the back page and start from there. 

In effect, I’m burying treasures for myself.  On many occasions, I’ve stumbled onto a forgotten page and thought, “Wow.  I like that.”  Other times I think, “Ugh.”  But, more often than not, I find within those lost words a piece of something I can use – some line or paragraph I can lift and rework or build upon.

DSC_0079 Many times, momentary regret leads me to feel I should be more organized and systematic with my spirals and pages.  However, I always decide – no.  That would take away the freedom of the page.  I never want to find myself sitting before a page reserved for Hank and Ione.  I don’t want to be faced with lines allocated to emotional tirades.  There is not a humor and sarcasm tab in my mind, nor is there a specific time of day or chair in which I sit for motherhood reflections.  I may dream in my bed, but perhaps I remember and ponder my dreams while pulling Pop-tarts or drying my hair.  I need an outlet that goes with my flow, or my flow won’t go.

And there’s one more great thing about these crisp white pages.  One day, when I’m good and ready, I’m going to burn them.


  1. Don't burn them -- hide them away in a trunk for your grandchildren to find and marvel over. Or do an Emily Dickinson and hide them away for people to find after your death, which is when the world will recognize your brilliance.

  2. Just remember to open the flue, dollface.

  3. I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I love this post. I have many writing books on my shelf, but Writing Down the Bones is the one I revisit most often. I am a HUGE notebook person. They're littered all throughout the house, and I just love stumbling across a page from years ago. I'm with Kelly; keep the treasure buried for another generation to find.


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