Monday, 9 May 2016

Things to Write with or The Notebook Dilemma

I'm not sure how old that makes me, but I really struggle with touch screens. They are the bane of my existence and one of the reasons why my Twitter updates feature the odd typo. Twitter... so short, so tempting to update from my phone... and it always manages to catch me out.

I also cannot, for the life of me, use my thumps to type (there, I said it!). I'm perfectly happy to touch type on a keyboard, but give me a touch screen and I revert back to right index finger searching for keys, even though I know exactly where they are -- at least on my beloved QWERTZ keyboard, though years of working on British PCs in British jobs have made me reasonably familiar with the QWERTY variety, at least when it comes to the most common symbols.

So, for all the times I am not anywhere near my PC (or too lazy to switch it on), I have my trusty notebook. My current one has been my loyal companion for several years, though more than half of its content came to be in the last year. It goes with me on the bus, gets steamed up while I'm having a bath, sits in my bag when I'm meeting friends, makes lunch breaks more interesting, watches TV beside, and sleeps on my bedside table for those 3 am bursts of creativity that I will not remember having had in the morning. In fact, I am lucky if I can decipher what I wrote while, essentially, asleep. Or if I got that far, understand what I meant to tell myself. Here's an example of what my semi-conscious mind produces: "Does Aidan do the thing? NO!!!!!" (this includes the many exclamation marks, the bold writing and the fact that it was underlined).

Unfortunately for me, my fully-conscious mind, even after several years of pondering, has no idea what thing Aidan does not do.

However, the notebook is mostly for notes and ideas. When it comes to actual writing, I write on the PC, touch typing speedily and producing far fewer typos without ever glancing at the keyboard than I do while staring at my phone to write the same sentence in 10 times the time. However, the PC has its own pitfalls. They're called internet. Well, really, they're called Facebook and Twitter which get rigorously blocked (thank you, Leechblock!) during a serious writing session, but even without social media, the internet is a place of distraction (look at the cute puppy video... or this random list of random things I don't even care about!). And yet I cannot quite function without it. LEO and the Thesaurus are always open while I write, because even 9 years in Scotland did not change the fact that sometimes words come to me in German first and I struggle to find the English equivalent. Or I just KNOW there is a better sounding synonym for frown, but scowl doesn't quite come to me until the thesaurus spits it out.

 So, some nights I have stared at the screen for 2 hours and been distracted by dogs and rabbits and memes for another, when I finally give up and just go to bed. Enter The Notebook (on those nights, it really deserves capitals). The moment my head hits the pillow, ideas will start tumbling over each other and what 3 hours of computer work could not achieve, are managed by one hour with The Notebook. Yes, the writing is slower, but I have managed 5 pages of notes (which translates to about 800 or 1000 words on screen) in under two hours, struggling to stay awake, when screen staring produced exactly zilch.

The notebook is nearing its final pages and part of me is sad to see it go. Another wishes I would fill those final pages more quickly, because all but one of my pens simply refuse to write on them. Also, I really like flicking through it quickly and admire the many pages filled in my hand. It's the one thing that can give me a real measure of the progress I have made. However, it also means I face the dilemma of replacing it. I have 4 options and about 30 notebook pages to figure out which one to go with.

 1. Large leather bound
This beautiful piece I bought while attending my first ever Ring*Con. It's blank pages bound in leather. Fairly thin, but it makes up for that in size as it is almost A4. Possibly a bit impractical to carry about in my bag?

2. Small leather bound 
This was a gift from two of my very best friends. A very thick, blank paged leather bound book with a dragon stencilled on the front. It's smaller than the other and perfect for the bag. If I can figure out the stitching pattern, I should even be able to replace the pages inside with brand new ones once they are filled. An all round 5* book (did I mention the dragon?), but possibly too beautiful for the rough handling it gets in my bag?

3. A standard WHSmith hardback notebook 
 I have this affliction that won't let me walk past a nice notebook without buying it, unless, of course, I buy a book, or paper to make one. This one I acquired several years ago. It is black and beautiful, with pink flowers, and silver edging on the pages. It is also the only notebook with lines. It would assure I actually fill the whole book rather than trail from the top of the page to the middle with one line.

 4. Getting Creative 
 Since I'm writing my own novels, why not write them in my own book? Complete creative freedom in terms of paper size and quality, as well as decorations (though I'd probably settle for standard A5). It would require that little bit of extra work, but it would be a nice change to make a book again after six months of writing. It also allows me to be twice as annoying. "Oh, you're a writer?" - "Yes, and I made the book too!" :p

 So many choices! At least I still have 30 notebook pages to come to a decision.


  1. Notebooks are a bliss! I've started carrying one around 1,5 years ago and now I seldom leave the house without it. It used to be a standard Paperblank A5, the kind you get in bookstores. They look all shiny and vintage-y and even come with a little ribbon.
    However, when I reached the last page two weeks ago, I decided to go with a flexible A5 ringbook. Why? Because, alas, I found out that I'm one of those monsters that sometimes rips pages out of notebooks. Cruel, isn't it? I never managed to do this to my paperblank. It looked too much like a real book, and I could never rip a page out of a book. Never. I can't even underline things in books. But I outline my novels on standard A4 ringbooks and re-arrange them in folders once the storyline is fully planned. So, whenever and idea for one of my current projects hits my head, I can now (slowly! cautiously!) rip out the page and put it in the project folder.
    I don't know if that is an option for you, especially since you have so many beautiful notebooks to choose from already! Personally, I think I would go for the standard WHSmith hardbook because it has lines. Blank paper and my handwriting? A mess, to put it nicely. But your handwriting is much more elegant and smaller than mine, so perhaps it's not so much trouble for you.

    1. Thanks, Susanne! Notebooks are amazing! I've carried one around ever since my fan fiction days which are now about 10 years in the past. It has always been a WHSmith style notebook for me, because the lines help to keep me straight. Believe me, the small and elegant handwriting (thanks for the compliment!) can become a large wobbly mess very quickly, especially when I write on the bus or have one of my middle of the night spontaneous idea sessions. Or my pen decides to be iffy.

      I can see the appeal of ringbooks, especially if you use physical folders. No pain involved when tearing out pages. :)
      I used to have this obsession even with my notebooks that I didn't want to cross anything out. I wrote only in pencil to make things look neat. I gave it up after about 10 pages, when I realised that these are NOTE books, not polished novels, and I inevitably ended up with crossed out bits and little asterisks for lines I had forgotten to include.

      I also find that nothing I write in the notebook ends up staying there for long. I mean, obviously, it stays there, but it gets copied into a computer file. I have a folder for each project and a file simply called "ideas", where all the unassigned stuff goes, even if it's just one line. It makes me paranoid about my computer files though (think back up of the backup of the backup).

      Physical folders would certainly save me spending hours leafing through the notebook to find that one thought I knew I had taken down somewhere but never copied, or that scene I abandoned in favour of an altered version of the same event. On that note, never write in more than one notebook at a time. It makes for long, desperate searches :)