One of the first essays about creative writing I ever read was “On Keeping a Notebook” by Joan Didion. It’s one of the most influential pieces I’ve read. In the essay, Didion discusses how keeping a little notebook with her at all times has affected her writing life and overall creativity.
Your notebook, as a writer, is a private place where you can record novel ideas, snippets of conversation to recreate in dialogue, and wayward thoughts with no discernible shape that could come in handy some day. In Didion’s words: “We are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its maker” (3-4). The notebook is for your own personal benefit. You don’t have to show it to anyone else.
What do you think of keeping a writer’s notebook? Do you have one? What do you put in it? How do you think it has helped you as a writer?
Author’s note: The following post was taken from my other, more personal blog, Life After My Bachelor’s. If you like random bouts of insanity fueled by caffeine, yoga, and an unhealthy addiction to cheese, feel free to click over and follow me. On with the post!
“Yes, I’m an English major. “
“Yes, I enjoy it.”
“No, I haven’t been published.”
“No, I don’t want to teach.”
Sound familiar? If you got your bachelor’s degree in English, creative writing, or literature, it most definitely should. I get some pretty strange questions on a regular basis. Granted some of them come with the territory, but that doesn’t excuse the ignorance I come across at times. Troublesome questions about the future, your career, and inevitable poverty that every writer is damned to experience are a telltale sign that you might be an English major.
What are some of the others?
Well, you might be an English major if…
you’ve had a crush on a literary character (GATSBY) or long-dead author (heyyyyy Fitzgerald)
you’ve written fanfiction for Jane Eyre, The Age of Innocence, or Nineteen Eighty-Four
the coffee shop or library is your home away from home
you think Coleridge’s story about “Kubla Khan” is crap
you’ve contemplated getting a book quote tattoo
you love rereading books
you read classics for your own personal enjoyment
you have a Goodreads account
you’re skeptical of Sparknotes
you understand Moby Dick but still somehow hate it
your blood is 80% caffeine and 20% alcohol
deadlines are the best inspiration
you’ve taken a trip to a dead writer’s house
you love smelling old books
I could go on with this list for forever. If anyone’s interested, I might write more in another post down the road.
What do you think? Would you say these are accurate?
In a previous post, we discussed the importance of daily writing. Like athletes, we writers need to exercise our creative muscles in order to improve our performance. You don’t have to write much, but you need to write something.
I write at least 350 words each and every day, no matter how tightly my schedule is packed. Even if I don’t get anything down past the 350, I feel accomplished. 350 for 365 days ends up to be 127,750 words–which is nothing to sneeze at, if you ask me.
I refer to this technique as “the nifty 350.” I’m not sure who coined this term, but I’m going to borrow it. Basically, before your day has time to completely derail your creative consciousness, you sit down with your notebook or laptop and hammer out at least 350 words. That’s all there is to it.
You may write more than 350 words. Those morning pages may be the initial spark for a dozen more pages. The only rule is that you have to put down your nifty 350. And it’ll pay off–I can promise you that.