Empty Notebook Challenge

I talked for awhile at the DC Pen show with two ladies I know via an online fountain pen group. Part of our conversation was about how much we all love buying new notebooks but have yet to fill more than one or two of them. We either wait until something important/special enough comes to mind (because a notebook is too nice to waste) or fill a few pages, buy a new notebook, and give up on the old one.

As I was driving home, I realized that I should start a challenge to get us all our of our non-notebook-finishing ways. And, as usual, I turned to Natalie Goldberg. In Writing Down the Bones, she encourages readers to fill a notebook a month. Not fill it with artful prose or beautiful poetry, just fill it.

So, that’s the challenge. Thirty days, one notebook, fill it up. My friends and I started this on Sunday, so our last day is the US Labor Day, September 3. But feel free to join us and start whenever. (If you’re really into it, tag social media posts about your progress with #emptynotebookchallenge.)

Not sure what to write? I brainstormed and looked around for others’ recommendations about how to fill a notebook, start a journaling practice, and outline that novel that’s been bouncing around in your head for years.

  • See my posts referencing Ms. Goldberg, as she’s my main source. And read her books, especially Writing Down the Bones. Your local library is bound to have a copy or two.
  • Teach yourself Spencerian handwriting or brush lettering or to draw botanical drawings. You’ll use up lots of pages when you’re learning something new!
  • Every day before you go to sleep write clear your mind by writing about your worries, problems and good things that happened during the day. Not only will it make you sleep better you’ll be surprised how focused you’ll be in the morning! (From 10 Ways to Use a Blank Notebook)
  • Lots of great tips on Creating a Daily Journaling Practice
  • Start a bullet journal (Tiny Ray of Sunshine has a great summary printable and her posts are extremely inspirational)
  • Write your personal history (Text My Journal has a list of 50 questions)
  • Why you should write your novel on paper (Jenny Bravo Books)
  • Keep a commonplace book (See what someone else keeps and theirs here)

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes about writing:

“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up in your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” — Jack London

Rattling Around

I’ve got a million thoughts rattling around in my head today and all of them want to be allowed to escape. It’s like my fingers can’t type fast enough or writing fast enough to keep up with everything zooming around in there. I should just crack open a notebook and empty my head. I could even use a list or a diagram – I love my lists and diagrams – of the topics I need to think about or take action on. But despite having the time and the place, I can’t bring myself to actually do it.

These sort of rattlings thoughts drive me crazy because it means I do things like get distracted when I’m heating up my lunch (mac-n-cheese with tasso ham) and nearly melt the plastic container. They keep me from focusing on what I should be – like going through the online tutorial on common Java design patterns (singletons! builders! compose entities!).

See, I got myself this brand new, shiny notebook this weekend. Matt and I were at the Crate and Barrel outlet (all alone – gasp!) and I saw this little notebook that’s bound with thread and a hard paper cover. I held it in my head for the entire 20 minutes we were in the store, begging for an excuse to buy it. It was $3.50 and we’re not in such financial straights that buying was going to bankrupt us, but I felt guilty. Thing is, I always manage to buy myself a notebook when either Matt isn’t with me or he’s not in a mood to point out that I’ve already got a good dozen notebooks that are either totally blank or only partially filled. I’ve really got a problem when it comes to new notebooks. I buy them each time we travel, when I was in school and started a new semester, when I found out I was going to be induced (so Squirms would be joining the world soon), when I switched jobs. Just about any excuse or access to an inexpensive notebook will do.

And, right now, it’s still blank, even though I’ve had all sorts of time and opportunities to sit down and write in it. And I feel like writing. And I have a pen I really like that will probably work well on the paper in the notebook. And I had no other purpose for the notebook than to contain my actual day-to-day thoughts.

What’s my problem?I blame Natalie Goldberg. Yes, I blame an author of a famous book on writing (who’s also a writing teacher, novelist, and artist) who has zero idea I even exist.This is all her fault.

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