The Writer’s Notebook

At one point, do we cease being people who simply like to write and become bonafide writers? Is it after we’ve published a book? Two books? Do we have to get a MFA? Do we have to have a poem appear in the Atlantic Monthly?

I suppose everyone has their own answer to that question. I, personally, decided that that I was a writer when the act of writing (and reading to write) became an integral part of my daily life. Once, I asked a friend of mine who had an excellent physique and went to the gym everyday how he did it. He said “I go to the gym just like I go to work or lunch or anything else I know I have to do.” That’s how I’ve started to think about writing.

This isn’t to say that if you haven’t written a sonnet by sundown everyday, you’re slacking. The point is that you are actively engaged in the creative process at all times. One way to get into that kind of rhythm is to keep a writer’s notebook. Find a good quality notebook (I’m a moleskine man myself) and keep it with you at all times.

Poet Kim Addonizio treats her notebook like a collage of images & words she encounters throughout the day. When I come across a poem that really moves me, I copy it down in my notebook so that I can feel how the poem moves, how the lines work. I also write down ideas for poem titles, possible first lines, or even words that I would like to work into a poem one day. Sometimes I jot down notes for a personal essay I have in mind. Sometimes I just write about what I’ve been writing about lately (or haven’t been writing about).

When I have a creative block, one of the first things I do is read through old notebooks from beginning to end. It’s like going through a junkyard of my own making, looking for something to salvage among the wreckage.

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9 responses to “The Writer’s Notebook

  1. Great post, Saaed. I’m a firm believer in the writer’s notebook, and I also copy out poems I admire so I can “feel” the way the lines move and break.

    Also like the redesign of the blog.

  2. A prof of mine swore by having a writer’s notebook. It really is a good tool, especially for someone like me who has these sporadic bouts of creativity in the bed right before falling asleep, driving, or out in the public (evidently always the most inconvenient places).

  3. I’m not a poet, but I write often, either on my blog..or elsewhere.

    I remember another writer/blogger referred to me as, “…a person who calls herself a writer”…which really struck a nerve…but then some people feel as though being published in a major outlet, justifies they’re ‘writer’ status.

  4. *their ‘writer’ status.

    apparently i’m not a proofreader either..lol

  5. I love that old saying, “Writers write!” Often I lose good lines, or write them on receipts, or on the backs of loan applications, or other such inappropriate places. I have numerous pens and notebooks but always end up with the line at the wrong place and time!

  6. Funny. Sister Act 2 was my starting point on the way to claiming my role as a writer. When Whoopi gave L. Hill the Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke, I ran out to read it. It helped me to understand that my proclamation as a writer was justified in my actions and not in quanitative success.

    I am because I am. That is settling knowledge for anyone like myself with deep-routed control issues.

    Happy Wednesday. Be well.

  7. i have a notebook as well but i find i do more on the computer now than i used to. perhaps reading back over notes might get me over a dry spell i’m having right now.

    i love that you actually write out poems you like. i’ve had that suggested to me before but i’ve never actually done it.

    i agree with you on when you become a writer. i like to use the term author for the whole publication thing 🙂

  8. So how long have you felt you were a writer?

  9. I claim the title writer, with each sentence & poet, which each poem. I spent years trying to quantify or qualify it. Now I just claim it as an identity. It works for me. Still, a published book is the key to claim that title.

    Ole Ellison wrote just 1 during his livelihood and held firmly to that title.

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