I started carrying a notebook when I was about 15. Not for any particular class or reason, it was just kind of a spare that I doodled in, wrote bits and scraps of stories, and mindlessly penned song lyrics in. That notebook would eventually become what I referred to as, “My Journal” - the first edition, anyway. There were many editions – I called all of them, “My Journal”.
I always had one – loose leaf, spiral bound, whatever color suited my fancy when the last page of my previous journal was filled. Of course, this was before you had phones that were basically little computers. Back when handwriting was what you did to get the idea down somewhere until you could get to your computer.
On each of these editions I scrawled, “My Journal” – it was written in permanent marker or scratched so deep into the laminated colorful exterior of the notebook in ballpoint pen as to make it permanent. The outside of the journal would get decorated over the course of its use in a myriad of ways. Phone numbers would be jotted down on the fly, little doodles of characters or scenery peaked from this tattered corner or that. I remember one journal specifically having a sticker on the front that read, “Hot and Spicy Italian”. It was from a package of sausage, but I thought it was amusing. Yes, I’ve always been easily amused.
I carried it with me everywhere. No, literally, everywhere. When I started driving, it was with me – I might leave it in the car, but only when I was somewhere that the journal might be compromised (read as beer soaked or otherwise degraded). There was a box, and each edition would be placed on top of its predecessors as it was retired. And a bright sparkly new journal would take its place in my every day.
My first novel was penned in notebooks. Three of them. The entire rough draft was hand written. The first revision was the one that I keyed in to my computer. That’s the only time I’ve handwritten a long piece. It was crap. But the process was slightly cathartic. Even when I was writing that novel, I had a “Journal” – separate from the novel notebooks, all its own.
See, that’s what the journal is for me. It’s not a place to write out long fiction. It’s a place to play. To write rough ideas of whatever it is I’m working on – outlines, character sketches, sometimes just bits of dialogue that pop into my head and I don’t know where to put them… but they’re too cool to just chalk up to nothing. To noodle ideas, draft silliness, and otherwise spark my mind into action – most especially when it’s sluggish and unwilling to stop procrastinating.
My journals in the last few years never seem to get finished. I still have one. My current edition is blue. The outside cover does not proclaim that it is “MY JOURNAL”. It’s a run of the mill notebook in every conceivable way – except that it’s mine. There are bits of query letters. Notes from resumes I’ve written freelance (a mark of the economy, I suppose). Notes of markets to check and checklists of tasks that are writing and home related in a hodgepodge that I may or may not get back to… but the act of writing it down somehow cements it in my head. Because that’s how I am – I’m a words person. I think in words, not pictures. I kind of miss the stickers and doodles, though… the bits proclaiming to the outside world that it’s mine, and I’m weird… and raspberries to you if you don’t get me.
Last week, I went to grab my notebook off the dining room table before leaving for work. I do that, still. Grab it and keep it in the car, so that I can jot things down if I have time on my lunch break. Only, my notebook was gone. Of course, I could have found another notebook to use, but I didn’t want another one. I wanted mine. Because it’s mine. Funny the things you’re hard pressed to relinquish. I almost made myself late for work looking for it, and came up empty handed.
Two more days passed and I still couldn’t find it. And then, I walked into my daughter’s room to put her laundry on her bed and noticed a notebook open on her pillow. The top two pages were handwritten – what looked like song lyrics but I didn’t read them, because they weren’t mine. The notebook, however was mine. I tore the pages out and left them on her bed. When she came home, I mentioned it to her:
Me: Hey, I left your work on your bed. But that notebook is mine.
Gracie Girl: Huh? You didn’t read it, did you?
Me: No. That’s yours. The notebook’s mine.
Gracie Girl: Well, don’t read it. It’s a song and it’s not done. And I didn’t know it was YOUR notebook. It just looked like a notebook. And I needed one.
Me: You’ve got a ton of notebooks.
Gracie Girl: Those are school notebooks. Or music notebooks. I needed a different notebook.
Okay, that sounded familiar. When I went out to the store that night, I grabbed a little something extra. I knocked on Gracie’s door when I got home.
Gracie Girl: Yeah.
Me: (opening the door) Here, I got this for you.
I held up a brand new shiny notebook. Plain, college ruled loose leaf, spiral bound.
Gracie Girl: *Jumping off the bed* Yay! For me? Yay!
She literally hugged it. She’s had it with her every day. When she goes to sleep, it’s next to her pillow. When she leaves for school, it’s in her arm, not in her bookbag with the boring, old school notebooks. Apparently that “My Journal” thing is hereditary.