Tuesday, July 27

Posted by Laurel Garver on Tuesday, July 27, 2010 24 comments
Ah, it's that wonderful time of year--when school supplies are abundant and dirt cheap. I loves me a nice, thick stack of junky spiral notebooks that cost less than a pack of gum.

I know some of you friends handwrite only in leather-bound journals with artist-quality paper. Such a lovely thing calls you to lofty heights of imagination, you say. But don't you feel a certain performance pressure with that beautiful, costly journal in your lap?

Frankly, I seize up at the sight of a richly-textured page. It seems like hallowed ground where only the best of my best deserves to reside. I don't dare freewrite my garbled garbage and let it compost between covers that cost some poor cow its hide. The very niceness of a journal makes it a poor tool for me--it calls forth not my true creativity, but preciousness. You know, those affected sorts of words that sing in your brain on moonlit nights at a lakeside. The stuff of corny, cringe-worthy poetry.

Preciousness is to me an enemy of productivity. I need to be free to make an utter mess and not feel I've desecrated something in the process. So give me a stack of 6 for a $1 spiral notebooks and let me play.

What writing tools help you? Hinder you?

I'm trying out a Tuesday/Thursday posting schedule for the summer. How's that working for you, dear readers?


  1. After reading a beautifully written post such as this, I find it hard to believe you write anything not worthy of thick paper and embossed leather!

    I write almost exclusively on the computer and seize up when presented by an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper. But when creativity strikes at odd moments, I have no trouble filling napkins, the backs of receipts, and bits ripped off of menus.

  2. I'm just like you Laurel! I need to be able to spew forth the garbage that is usually what I write at first! But I do love the looks of those pretty journals, and it's kind of a nice fantasy sometimes. Makes me feel all Jane Austen :)

    But I agree with the first comment, how could you write anything but beautiful prose? You're awesome!

  3. Oh my gosh! This was so great. I love how eloqouently you wrote about writing on cheap paper.

    I have a new obsession that is stone paper and it comes cheap at Walgreens and it feels like you're writing on expensive paper. Great compromise! ;)

    I love shopping for school supplies, maybe b/c I'm a teacher. I get bizarre looks when I load up my cart with 44 of everything in every color.

  4. I'm a slave to the spiral bound, too. It's so easy to write it, for one--you can turn it every which way, flip it over on itself, write on both sides of the page...

    I feel the same performance anxiety with the fancy journals. I have several...and they're all empty. :)

  5. I love this time of year to I just bought 10 journals for 1.50 it is so much fun!

  6. Ha! Love this. I actually found old school notebooks from my days in high school and at WCU (my Mom doesn't throw anything out) and have been using them- yes, I'm that cheap. But, besides using the old, old notebooks, I do a ton of brainstorming on my computer, or on any scrap of paper I find (and hopefully I don't misplace it before I transfer it to the macbook).

  7. oh, will you be going to the SCBWI Fall Philly Conference?

  8. I love cheap school supplies!! But my most important tools are my netbook, dictionary, and thesaurus.

    But have you ever wondered why precious words inspired by moonlit, lakeside nights are cringe-worthy? It can't be because the emotion isn't real. It's real at that moment. Kind of a curious thing.

  9. I love school supplies! Probably why I became a teacher :)

    But I do ALL of my writing on my laptop. I hoard most of my pretty notebooks. As you say, I don't want to mess it up :)

  10. I love cheap notebooks too and went crazy just a few days ago. The only thing I will spurge on is the pens. I have to have the fine tip gel rollers (in blue not black) with the spongy hand grip. Ah, bliss.

  11. Me, too. I'm with cheap spiral notebooks and yellow legal pads, and an ink pen that really spills out ink, with that spongy hand grip Anne mentions above.

  12. I'm with you. Gimme a spiral notebook and a cool pen and I'm set!

  13. I'll write on anything. Scrap paper, napkins, whatever. I'm a bit loose that way.... :)

  14. I'm a big fan of the notebook. I have one for each book. It becomes my bible for the story, though I don't write my story in it. The notebook is where I write down chapter titles, character bios, and little details I want right there as I'm writing so I don't have to click away from my work.


  15. Shame on you, Laurel, for bringing up the forbidden back-to-school reminder. *runs screaming, begging for summer to slow down!*

    Tues/Thurs. = okey-dokey! :-)

  16. Jenna: It's kind of you to say so. Honestly though, it's the years of making incredible word messes that slowly matured my voice. And I still have to make a lot of mud to be able to create a finished vase, metaphorically speaking.

    Interestingly, blank screens are also intimidating to me--I prefer to scribble a while so I have something to type.

    Crystal: There's the rub--those journals seem like they belong to someone else, so I don't write like ME in them. And thanks for your encouraging words.

    Tiffany: The words just flow when I feel passionately, I guess. I'm exceptionally passionate about bargains. :-) Your special paper sounds lovely, and if it helps you sound like you (and not an idealized image) kudos to you for finding it--especially on sale!

  17. Summer: I love being able to flip around through my notes and scribbles while composing at the keyboard too. Having everything electronic doesn't allow for that. I mostly use the pretty journals to taking note of others' eloquence (conferences and sermons and such). :-)

    Swimmer: You're going to laugh, but I was a bit miffed my grocery store raised its price on the spiral bounds from 10/$1.00 to 10/$1.50. I only bought four in protest. :-D

    Kelly: Wow, and I thought I was thrifty! :-D I wrote my first novel at 17 on defective copy paper my dad had salvaged from his office (it was beige on one side). It's fun to look back on those early efforts, huh?

    I'm pretty sure I won't make it to SCBWI fall Philly because we usually attend a Celtic music festival that weekend to celebrate my birthday.

  18. Jill: Oh dear, you shouldn't ask me philosophical questions like that! My brain is now spinning off into heady lit-crit land, like the journal I edit.

    My short answer would be the love of things dark and veiled is something of a throwback to the worst excesses of the Romantic era, of which modernism was downright mocking. I guess it's just a sign of the times that moolit lakes feel cloying. What a postmodern writer can bring to that moment is a small slice of grittiness that would temper the too-sweet--the distant squawk of prey being caught by an owl, perhaps.

  19. Jemi: I almost went into teaching because I love school stuff so much. Then I discovered I hate public speaking. :-D

    Notebooks help me get past my blank-screen phobia--having notes to type up gets the flow going. But I do a bulk of "real writing" on screen.

    Anne: I also recently splurged on pens that actually write. Bargain pens peter out too fast! Doesn't that new stack of notebooks make your heart leap? Ah, the possibilities!

    Ann: I've become a recent convert to the decent pen camp. Non working cheapo pens were driving me nuts! Oh, and I love steno pads too when I can find them on sale. The two columns cry out to organize my thoughts into tidy lists.

    Vicki: Kewl. I think we should make T-shirts! "Unbound by spiral bound"! LOL.

    Simon: I'm no stranger to scribbling on scraps either. But for periods I know I have to wait/sit (like my train commute) it's nice to have a special go-to place to jot things.

    Kathi: Ooh, I'm loving the "novel bible" idea. My notes are usually a huge mess, spread over multiple notebooks. I'm going to set aside one notebook to use the way you describe.

    Shannon: really, it's shame on the retailers! They always have the very best school supply bargains in July. By August, they'll trot out the Halloween candy. LOL.

    Glad to hear my 2-day schedule seems good. Didn't want to give the whole song and dance about my time limits when hobbit girl isn't in school.

  20. Multi-colored pens! I don't like the spirals as much for daily journaling, but I do use them for brainstorming, rough drafts, and notes on my writing. I do love a pretty journal or one that I've made. Happy writing!

  21. I love those cheap notebooks, too - and I definitely stock up on them when I take my kids school supply shopping. I also love mechanical pencils - I'm so spoiled now I can't use regular No. 2's anymore. :)

  22. I have that exact notebook!!! Everything you said rings perfectly true for me. I used to buy journals cheap at Sam's Club, but then I discovered these wire-bounds. Thanks for reminding me to run by and pick some up!

    ~that rebel, Olivia

  23. Mary: I imagine one would be more tidy in a personal journal than in a drafting notebook. And handmade paper is lovely--I love making cards with it.

    Susan: Mechanical pencils are spiffy. I was especially addicted to them in college.

    Olivia: the grocery stores often offer them as special promotionals in late July, so I stock up from my messy scribbling all year long.

  24. I love to write out ideas, bits of dialogue, and just brainstorm on paper - or, more specifically, in Moleskine notebooks. I know, I know... they're pricey - but the colours make me happy!