I’ve become obsessed with notebooks.

I have nothing against loose-leaf paper. Loose-leaf gives me freedom to abandon the stories that aren’t showing me any love. As Margaret Atwood says…

The wastebasket is your friend.

But the ease of tossing loose paper gives me an upfront excuse to avoid commitment and opens the door to starting over and over and never writing through to the core. Don’t invest. He’s just a temporary lover

I’ve tried compromising with legal pads, but the pages crumple and rip. It’s also hard to write on the back of the page using a pad— unless I rip the page off, but then I’m back to the loose-leaf. Plus, when you flip over a legal pad and lift your non-writing hand off the page, the page puffs up and needs to be smoothed down. It’s a bloody distraction. I have enough ticks to overcome without adding more.

Another problem is disengagement. The action of flipping over a legal pad or a piece of loose-leaf makes me feel that whatever I just wrote doesn’t matter because I’m now squashing it under the pad. I do understand— thanks to Natalie Goldberg— that this “logic” is nothing more than monkey mind preventing me from writing deep. I could counter punch and force myself to commit. But why spend excessive time and energy when the solution is in front of me?

Notebooks, of the composition variety, lay flat on the desk. The flatness of the pages encourages me to open and uncoil the emotional landscape that’s nattering at me. Two pages side-by-side give my feelings and observations more room to breathe before I turn the page. And when I do turn the page, it’s as if I’m folding the words together, so they can fertilize each other and fuel the rest of my writing. I do not disengage.

That said, there is a place for loose-leaf and, for me, that’s the revision process. It often takes a lot of scratching to sharpen sentences, restructure paragraphs and clarify thoughts so they can harmonize with the rest of a WIP. This scratching could be done in a notebook. But scratching is a chaotic mess of starts and stops that are often peppered with the energy of the Whores of Negativity that dance in my head in their flashy red shoes. These pages are a necessary evil, but once they serve their purpose they belong in the circular file— not in my notebook.

I could never toss a notebook. Those bound pages cradle a different kind of chaos— sloppy handwriting, long arcing arrows to remind me of the new sequence of the story, and blocked off sections of text that require deletion. But most of all my notebooks hold the energy of the raw ugly fire that set my pen in motion. I love that.

I love having proof that creativity is never lost. It may need a lot of reshaping, but it’s always available as long as I show up.