August 22nd, 2005


Getting it down on paper

I am more a listening Mrissa than a talking Mrissa tonight, and so:

Poll #557314 on paper

Do you write in a paper journal?

Yes, often
Yes, sometimes
Yes, rarely
No, but I sketch in a blank book
No, but I used to
No, never

Do you have strong opinions about what kind of book you use to write on paper?

Yes, it has to be a specific brand of book or paper or nothing at all
Yes, I have general requirements (lined/unlined pages, size) but nothing too restrictive
As long as it's pretty and/or functional, I'm happy.
I am a paper product slut.
I already told you, I don't do that stuff; I'm not that kind of girl [/guy/being of another gender].

Feel free to tell me about anything else related to writing or sketching "longhand." I'm not talking about lovely flowing prose compositions -- well, okay, I am, but I'm not limiting it to that. If you jot down working notes in a lab notebook, that's of interest, too, especially if you "think on paper."

As for me, I've been keeping a journal since February of 1997, when I started a creative writing class in college. It was the best thing to come out of that class for me: the professor was more of a cheerleader than a critic, and I needed a cheerleader at the time. (I should note that she was plenty critical of people who weren't serious about writing, but that's not the same thing.) But I started making notes to myself about stories, going off on tangents, and that way, as sort of a writing log and sort of a talisman and sort of a free zone, it worked for me. I'd never had any success at keeping a diary, because while I can write about my daily life, it varies for the audience, and frankly, I was not sure I wanted to leave written records of all the interesting bits.

So there's a lot that's between the lines in my journals. I will have two title ideas and a first line jotted down, then a two or three day gap, then a note of what I was reading, and maybe a line that things were pretty dire. Reckoning from the data I have about the time frame, I can figure out why they were dire and in what way and with whom, but an external reader couldn't tell whether I meant that my physics homework was particularly grim or whether I feared for one of my friends' sanity or something in the middle. (The marriage of the two -- fearing for a friend's sanity due to grim physics homework -- is not uncommon but also not likely to make the journal.) Every once in awhile I think I should give up my paper journals completely, but I never do. Every once in awhile, I think I should write more in them deliberately, and sometimes I do. The problem is that the brain has been trained. I can no longer freewrite without developing story ideas. If I let my pen wander and leave the monkey brain out of it, very soon I'm either neck deep in a scene of fiction, or else I'm outlining something. Sometimes this is useful, but sometimes not, really, and I've decided not to push it. When it's useful, hurrah; when it's not, oh well. There are other ways to bash my brain to knock things loose.

I finished a paper journal just before I left for England, and I still have to sort through it to get notes on various projects pulled out and put into useful files before I shelve the thing. It was the last of my 8 1/2" x 11" journals for awhile, I think: when I was writing entire novels in these, I needed that space or the scenes would be even more underwritten than my drafts usually are (writers are fruitbats, I know), but that's not a viable mode for my back or my brain now that I have other options, and porphyrin gave me one that's soft, small, blue. Ista keeps trying to chew on the attached bookmark, but this is not the worst problem that ever a paper journal has had.