Friday Links: Beginnings and Endings

Happy Friday, everyone! I’m hoping this will be my last very quiet week on the blog, as I’m back from my travels and I’m plowing through an enormous backlog of work, but by the end of the long weekend everything should be all caught up and properly on track. Which gives you something of a hint as to my plans for the Memorial Day holiday. May you all have something a little more beach and/or BBQ on your calendar.

This past week I spent much of my time away handling some ongoing family matters, which means I was not on the internet very much. As a result, this week’s links are a bit sparser than usual. This does nothing to diminish their quality, however, so I hope you find a bit of inspiration or great things to read when you click through. Wishing those of you celebrating a wonderful long weekend, and a lovely regular weekend to everyone else. Enjoy!

Taking Your Notebook for a Walk: An A to K of Places to Write – A fun list of suggestions to get you out of the house and noticing the world around you.

How the Writer Edits: Julian Barnes – The author discusses his editorial process and how his approach changes from book to book.

Celebrate Short Story Month with These 17 Stellar Short Stories by Contemporary Writers – A great collection of titles available online.

8 Books (and Advice) to Give a Recent Graduate – Some less-obvious choices for the new grad in your life.

Dear Novel: On Breaking Up with Your Manuscript – A funny look at making the decision to set aside a project that’s not working.

All the Words Count: Day 6 of the Writing Challenge

The author Joan Didion, whose birthday was yesterday, wrote a wonderful essay on the purpose of her own journal, “On Keeping a Notebook,” which can be found in Slouching Toward Bethlehem as well as her larger collected works of nonfiction, We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live. In it she discusses the difference between her own notebook keeping, which consisted primarily of jotting down impressions and thoughts as she had them, descriptions of interactions she witnessed, and so on, and regular diary keeping, which she claims to have never managed to do.

For Didion, the notebook served as a sounding board as well as an archive. She used it to unload, to work things out, and even though she considered it a hedge again a time when she might run out of ideas, the things she wrote were less story sparks and more snippets of things that were too short to use elsewhere. Her notebook was scratch paper, writing as stream of consciousness, getting things out of her head and down onto paper. It was a record of where her thoughts had been at various times in her life, rather than a chronicle of places she had been and people she’d met.

So if you’re finding it hard to write today, this sixth day of the December Writing Challenge, which also happens to fall on Sunday, consider pulling out a notebook and just letting your mind flow. Dump it all out. What you think, what you see, what you feel. No, it won’t move your current work in progress forward, but it will give your brain a bit of rest while still getting words down on paper. It all counts. Now go write.

 

Linkity Link

Greetings from beautiful Surrey, B.C., Canada. This is just a quick wave from the conference, as I have a full schedule ahead of me. But I promised some weekend reading, so here you go. Enjoy!

A good wrap up of the National Book Awards/Lauren Myracle Situation – courtesy of Publishers Weekly.

Julian Barnes Wins the Bookercourtesy of The Millions

Bram Stoker’s Notebooks Unearthed – A perfect follow up to my question about writers’ notebooks earlier this week.

On Reading North American Books in Cuba – Writer/translator Jose Manuel Prieto on the books he read while growing up in Cuba.

I Was No Longer Afraid to Die – A fabulous look at Joan Didion’s new memoir over at New York Books.

Keeping Notes

Lots of people keep notes, make lists, and otherwise track things they need to remember, whether they’re writers or not. But I’m most interested in how writers keep track of and organize their thoughts, because in addition to all those other things they need to recall — doctors’ appointments, play dates for the kids, due dates for work projects, dinner parties, shopping lists, birthdays, the annual flu shot, getting the gutters cleaned — writers have to keep track of their ideas.

There’s a myth that all writers keep a pen and paper on them wherever they go, be it a nice notebook and a pretty fountain pen or just some scrap paper and a stubby pencil, so when the muse strikes, they can jot down a few words or sentences to avoid forgetting what might be the germ of a poem or article or story. In reality, I know a lot of writers who do no such thing. You’d be amazed how often I attend a writers conference only to have someone borrow my penduring a pitch session so they can make a note of what I’ve asked them to send me.

credit: www.notebookstories.com

But many writers do have a system, generally some sort of small, portable notebook where they can accumulate bits and pieces over the course of their day, ideas or things they’ve seen or smidgens of dialogue that felt inspirational in the moment. I’ve heard of writers with notebooks for different purposes; one for actual writing of drafts, another for jotting ideas and notes, and separate notebooks to serve as story bibles for individual projects where all the details of the world are kept in one place.

In this electronic age, however, I see more and more writers who have gone digital. Notes are kept on tablets or laptops or even in smart phones. I acknowledge the convenience, but I can’t help but feel something is getting lost in the process this way. I like the idea of notes that include sketches or scribbled out bits, or of notebooks that have things slipped between their pages — maps or postcards or flyers from tourist spots. Yes, you can snap photos on your smart phone to serve as visual reminders of a particular landscape or site, but it’s not quite the same.

Charles Simic writes about his own adherence to the old fashioned way of tracking his day and his ideas for the New York Review of Books Blog. I love how for him the act of writing down his thoughts is partly about creating a lasting work, almost an art form in itself, that is in no danger of getting deleted or recycled when he upgrades his electronics. Of course, notebooks are not permanent in the sense that they can be damaged or lost, but these seem less of a danger.

How about you? Do you keep a notebook or journal of sorts, whether as a writer or just as an individual interested in keeping record of your life? What form do your ramblings and memories take? And do you ever go back through old writing to visit your past self?