Blogging the Notebook / Noting the BlogJanuary 9, 2010
Last night before the start of our poetry workshop, we got onto the topic of notebooks and how we organise them.
This is something that has really interested me for a long time – notebooks and journals are traditionally the best documentary evidence we have for how people think. Whether it’s the only surviving complete draft of an Austen novel, Blake’s sketches and poems, or the discovery of Woolf’s “lost notebook”, the scribblings of our favourite writers fascinate us.
A notebook is seen as one of the writer’s basic tools, and most workshop leaders stress the importance of carrying one with us at all times so that whenever an idea or observation occurs we can instantly jot it down. Most of the writers I know have undertaken the tasks in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way which advocates writing “morning pages“, three pages of freewriting with which to start the day.
On top of this, we often have diaries stretching back to adolescence. The “teen angst poetry” they contain is even performed, in an ironic, tongue-in-cheek way across the globe.
The physicality of the journals themselves really matters to some people: I know one poet who writes only in cheap school exercise books, while moleskin is a common favourite amongst those in the glamorous, understated know (“Madness!” a close writer friend cried when he saw the price of the smallest size of moleskin in WH Smiths).
What interested me most in last night’s brief comparison of notetaking techniques was the point at which the computer becomes involved. That’s why in the photo at the top of this post you can see my home and work laptops as well my diaries and notebooks.
One of my friends, poet Naomi Woddis, said that she rarely returns to her notebooks: once something’s on the computer, she drafts from that. Maybe it’s the librarian in me, but even when a poem starts on the laptop, I copy the final draft into my notebook. And maybe it’s the antilibrarian in me, but I don’t bother much about the intervening drafts.
It all got me thinking about the blog as notebook. This is an issue that Karen McCarthy is exploring, with the help of guest bloggers, in her Spread the Word project Open Notebooks and I don’t want to cover her ground. However, one of the research questions I’m asking myself as a historical bibliographer is
WHERE WILL WE FIND THE EVIDENCE BASE FOR THE 21st CENTURY’S WOOLFS, BLAKES AND AUSTENS NOW THEY’RE ALL ONLINE AND BLOGGING LIKE WILD THINGS?