the writer’s notebook

I’ve returned to making use of my physical notebooks–to writing down notes and thoughts longhand, and to thinking through projects, as well as taking notes from lectures or books that I’ve been attending or reading. My favourites are unlined notebooks with thick paper and while a lot of it is note-taking and recording of thoughts and possible scenarios, I also unabashedly include mundane lists for daily tasks or groceries or things to remember. I also like to draw diagrams because visuals help me a lot and that act of capturing something in a drawing even if I’m not great at it, helps me as I process through to what I want to say or write about.

I shared this process with the nibling during our once-a-week scheduled convo and as the nibling is a budding artist, I decided to send them a couple of journals like mine as I totally get how attention can drift when you’re listening to a lecture online and sometimes diagramming the lectures or drawing a weird head speaking the lecturer’s words will help make things more interesting.

I also showed them some of my awkward attempts at visualising stuff from inside my head which was funny and fun to do. As I said to them, I have all these images in my head, but I’m not good at drawing, so I write because I want to get them out of my head onto the page.

Anyway, the notebook is a hodgepodge. It’s not neat or academic. It’s more of a collection of all the things that catch my attention–things I obsess about–subjects I hunt down as I try to figure out what it is my brain is obsessing about.

I’m thinking again about Jeremy Kamal talking about how we may think we’re obsessed with the apple until we find ourselves obsessed by a fire hydrant or a firetruck and then as we track these obsessions we realise that what we’re really obsessed with is the color red.

It’s a thought I’ve taken with me in my process and the truth in those words is reflected in the search and the resulting pieces. For instance, in a recently completed piece, I thought I was obsessed with black holes, when in fact, what I was obsessed with was grief and saying goodbye. This is something that had me sitting back a bit as it’s something I still struggle with although it is true that time takes the sharp edges away.

What is personal to us or what comes from that place where our emotions reside can be scary, but as Kiini Ibura Salam in her book, Finding Your Voice, says it can also be the place where some of our strongest work comes from (I am saying it as I understood it). I am thinking of this as I work on various pieces and the notebooks help a lot as I find that creating diagrams of my thoughts or simply just wrestling with ideas using actual pen and paper does help me find some resolution or some direction when it comes to what I am working on.

I find myself thinking too about the instrument to body connection and what it represents or what it means for makers–writers, visual artists–all of us who make things. Perhaps, it’s this connection–the slowing down of process, the taking time to reflect and think and be in the moment with the work in progress that has made me feel less anxious and more capable of believing in what it is that I want to bring into the world.

During one of the lectures I recently attended, the speaker spoke of how what’s important isn’t having or finding all the answers, but rather finding the questions that we want to ask. This speaks too to what Jeremy Kamal has said about finding what it is you’re obsessed with.

As we enter the fall season, I’ve started working together with various makers. Writers and artists. Thinkers and creators whose work excites me and makes me see how the boundaries between the worlds of making are more porous than we imagine them to be. There is a lot waiting to be discovered and a lot of questions waiting to be asked. For the time I have been given and the opportunities that arise, I am truly grateful.

To you who are on the journey, don’t be afraid to ask questions. As has been said: curiosity is the mother of invention.

Some of my most recent notebooks. The smallest one fits easily in any purse, the purple one is already full, the open one is the current notebook but I am close to the end of it, so I have a new one waiting for when the current one is full.