Tag Archives: writing

Bradford Morrow’s Boorum & Pease Ledger

An excellent article at LitHub by Bradford Morrow, author of the just-published Prague Sonata, among other books. Really interesting look at a writer’s process and why he prefers physical note-taking to digital methods. Big thanks to reader Raymond for sending me the tip!

“My memory is good, but capricious at times. My scraps of paper get misplaced or wind up in the laundry. I don’t want to figure out dictation software. And my thumbs are hopeless, which is only part of the reason I hate texting. In an era of smart phones, palm-sized digital cameras, and featherweight laptops—also known as “notebooks”—the very idea of lugging around a heavy, folio-sized, hardcover Boorum & Pease record-ruled 9-300-R ledger or oversized black spiral-bound artist sketchbook, would seem at once masochistic and medieval. Yet, these behemoths, straight out of some Dickensian accountant’s office or landscape architect’s atelier, have served as my notebooks of choice for well over 20 years.”

Read more (and see lots more notebook images) at: Why Digital Note-Taking Will Never Replace the Physical Journal | Literary Hub


Notebook Addict of the Week: Abigoliah Schamaun

British comedian Abigoliah Schamaun has done 2000 comedy gigs, and filled lots of notebooks with her material. She talks about them below, accompanied by photographs by her boyfriend Tom Watts:

“…I’ve written jokes and setlists into vast numbers of notebooks. I have a notebook on me at all times. They are my security blanket. It doesn’t matter where I’m going or whether I plan on doing some writing once I get there, there is always a notebook in my bag. Gym, vacation, coffee shop; doesn’t matter. If there’s an afterlife I’ll carry one into that. I always have a notebook.

Abigoliah Schamaun's notebooks. Copyright: Tom Watts.

And I’ve always used a notebook, I’ve never switched to using some sort of spreadsheet or phone app. It’s just easier for me. Besides, if I drop my notebook in a puddle on the way to a gig it’ll be soggy but it still works. Notebooks are reliable, sturdy creatures. Writing a premise on a tangible object somehow makes the premise itself more tangible. It’s no longer just a thought in my head; I can now see it on white unlined paper and black ink. It’s real.

I LOVE new notebook day. It’s my favourite day. I usually buy moleskins, but sometimes I use notebooks that have been gifted to me. Every time I buy a notebook, there’s so much excitement and hope for that new notebook. I always think “This is the one! This is the one my first Live At The Apollo set will go into! This is the notebook my defining ‘bit’ will go into. Eddie Izzard has Cake vs Death, George Carlin has 7 Dirty Words, John Mulaney has The Salt and Pepper Diner. And I’m about to write mine.”

Abigoliah Schamaun's notebooks. Copyright: Tom Watts.

This level of glee and hope might be seen as childish and unrealistic. But no one goes into show-business because they have realistic expectations. Comics are dreamers who say funny things, it’s as simple as that.

When I’m done with them, they get tucked up on a shelf behind my whisky collection. I’ll be honest, I don’t look at them much once they’re put away.

To commemorate gig number 2,000 my boyfriend, Tom Watts, loaned me his photography skills and we did a photoshoot. And, for the first time in years, I pulled the notebooks down and looked through them…

My notebooks are multi-functional. I use them not just for sets but for everything. In there amongst the one-liners and story ideas are shopping lists, to-do lists, lists of lists. I taped my airline ticket into the beginning of one notebook from when I moved to London. In another is my father’s eulogy. Not a set, and not counted as one, but written out exactly how I write sets – because that’s how my brain works now.”


Read more at: Abigoliah Schamaun: 22 notebooks and 2,000 gigs – British Comedy Guide

Lanford Wilson’s Notebooks

I had never heard of this Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, but I like the looks of his notebooks!

[Playwright Lanford Wilson] passed away in 2011 and left his papers to the University of Missouri Libraries. The collection includes correspondence, working notebooks, drafts and proof copies, and well as work related to Wilson’s personal interests, such as gardening and art collecting.

Source: Monday Manuscript: Notebooks from a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright – Library News Hub



Student Writers and their Notebooks

I always love seeing kids with notebooks:


“Standing in line to go back to class Thursday, Oct. 20, Ekole Azah jotted a few more lines of a ghostly encounter in her notebook. Her Halloween tale was one of many stories written by students at Bethany School as they joined in the National Day of Writing with a “flash mob” of writers on the school playground.

“I liked writing — it just felt so good,” Kayleigh Savage said after the project. “I told people I was a writer.”

Students in Devon Jurcso’s third-grade class have been honing their writing skills all year, penning short stories daily during class. Jurcso attended a four-week long Great Valley Writing Project course over the summer and took their ideas into her classroom, where she works to instill a passion for writing in her students.

The class gathers thoughts and ideas in small pocket notebooks, and at the end of each writing session, girls and boys take turns in an author’s chair to share their creations.”

Read more at Tracy Press – Students let the ink out.

Review: Dream Atlas

Recording one’s dreams is a common use for a journal. It’s easy to just take any blank page and write down a dream you’ve remembered. But the Dream Atlas is a specialized journal that has been created for people who really want to delve deeply into their dreaming. The creators are aiming to help people remember their dreams better, take advantage of insights from dreams, and even control lucid dreams.

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The Dream Atlas, which I received as a free sample, comes from the makers of DreamLeaf herbal supplement pills that claim to change your sleep cycle to enhance your dreaming. I can’t vouch for any of that, but the Dream Atlas should work whether you are taking pills to dream or just doing it the old-fashioned way!


The Dream Atlas notebook is at first glance quite similar to the larger size Moleskine. 5.5 x 8.5″, hardcover, with a ribbon marker and elastic closure. There is no back pocket, but you do get a pen loop. The actual feel of the cover reminds me of the Pen & Ink journals– the black cover material has a somewhat softer texture and slightly rounded spine. The whole notebook is less stiff than a Moleskine– you can bend it slightly, though it is not as flexible as a softcover. The front cover has an embossed Dream Atlas logo, and a smaller embossed logo and brand name appear in the  usual spot on the lower back cover.

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The distinguishing characteristics of this notebook are less in the outer form than in the inner content. At the beginning there are a few pages with advice on how to improve your dreaming and how to have lucid dreams.

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Then the body of the journal contains page spreads for recording each dream, with a section for describing what happened in the dream, recording symbols and their meanings, drawing an image from the dream, and making notes about your interpretation of the dream’s meaning.There’s also a checkbox for recording whether the dream was a lucid one, and each spread has a quote about sleeping or dreams, from authors such as James Baldwin, Erich Fromm, Aristotle, Benjamin Franklin, and many others.

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At the end of the notebook are a few pages for recapping common dream themes and signs and other notes.

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I didn’t do a full range of pen tests in this notebook, but I did happen to have a very appropriate dream to record in my sample notebook! I used a Uniball Signo RT 0.38 pen, and found the paper to be pleasantly smooth, with an average amount of show-through.

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I often jot down notes about dreams in my regular notebooks, so I found it quite fun to record this dream in more detail, and be prompted to look into its meanings. If you are really committed to recording your dreams, the prompts in this journal should be quite helpful, and it would make a great gift for any dreamer. You can buy the Dream Atlas on Amazon, or at the DreamLeaf website.

Writers’ Notebooks

I love these photos, from a blog post by Jackie Morris where she’s collected a wide variety of images of writers’ notebooks:
David Almond‘s notebook for Counting Stars:

Robert MacFarlane’s notebooks:

See lots more at Writer’s notebooks in pictures.

A Fourth Grader Who Writes Novels in Notebooks

I love this kid! Such a cute story, and I bet she will be filling many more notebooks in the years to come!

“One budding author at Aldrich Intermediate School has written so many novels, she has to lug them around in a Dora the Explorer suitcase. Fourth grader Amari Morton not only fills spiral notebooks faster than her parents can buy them, but skipped a grade and is reading at the sixth grade level….

“You know how kids ask for toys? Well Amari asked for notebooks,” added father Sean.”

Read more at: Fourth grader a novelist in the making – Beloit Daily News: News

Notebook Addict of the Week: Jake Seliger

Jake Seliger is a novelist, (see his novels here) and blogs at The Story’s Story, where he has a variety of posts about using notebooks and reviewing various brands, some of which I’ve linked to before. I think this photo of his notebook stack qualifies for addiction!

Some of Jake’s very valuable reminders about the benefits of notebooks:

“A notebook is the written equivalent of a face-to-face meeting. It has no distractions, no pop-up icons, and no software upgrades. For a notebook, fewer features are better and fewer options are more. If you take a notebook out of your pocket to record an idea, you won’t see nude photos of your significant other. You’re going to see the page where you left off. Maybe you’ll see another idea that reminds you of the one you’re working on, and you’ll combine the two in a novel way. If you want to flip back to an earlier page, it’s easy.

The lack of editability is a feature, not a bug, and the notebook is an enigma of stopped time. Similar writing in a computer can function this way but doesn’t for me: the text is too open and too malleable. Which is wonderful in its own way, and that way opens many new possibilities. But those possibilities are different from the notebook’s. It’s become a cliche to argue that the technologies we use affect the thoughts we have and the way we express those thoughts, but despite being cliche the basic power of that observation remains. I have complete confidence that, unless I misplace them, I’ll still be able to read my notebooks in 20 years, regardless of changes in technology.”

Read more at: Why little black books instead of phones and computers « The Story’s Story

Notebook Addict of the Week: Sara

This week’s addict blogs at Crawford Writing Blog. She emailed me a link to her post about what’s she learned from journaling, which included the photo below of some of her collection. It must only show a very small fraction if she’s on journal #98!

“I’ve been keeping a journal since I learned how to write. I’ve been numbering my journals since I was 12, and I’m currently in the middle of journal #98. I’ve written in classy Moleskine journals, gothic faerie journals from Hot Topic, ordinary spiral notebooks that I’ve pasted pictures of my best friends and favorite movies or bands on, handmade journals my artist friends have made for me, and everything in between. I write everything down: my thoughts, feelings, hopes, aspirations, dreams, fears. I document inside jokes and the details of my life that I might otherwise forget. I use it to work out how I feel, to process my thoughts when I have a big decision to make, or to focus on the positive aspects of life with gratitude lists.”

Read more for some great thoughts on journaling at  What I’ve Learned from Keeping a Journal | Crawford Writing Blog

Ingmar Bergman’s Notebook

Found this via a great tip from commenter Johan– Ingmar Bergman’s notebook kept during the filming of Persona in 1965:


Source: Archival object of the day | Ingmar Bergman