Wednesday, April 15, 2009

DAY 8: Begin your 100 Day Notebook

Originally uploaded by John Althouse Cohen
Notebooks have been an addiction for me ever since the night before I started first grade when I lined up my pencil case and my blank spiral pad in preparation for something BIG. I couldn't read or write yet, but soon I would. The sight of my shiny red notebook practically guaranteed it!

My notebooks are different these days, but a new one, a blank one, the perfect notebook for the task, still fills me with that first-day-of-school-excitement, that wild sense of promise. I like to believe that the person who fills in the last page of the notebook is not the same one who opened it on the first day. Through the writing and the dreaming and the planning the notebook contains, I've grown. I've gotten better in some way.

The perfect 100 Day notebook can be sumptuous and unique and expensive, but it doesn't have to be. The one I'm using is sturdy, but not clunky, and for me, pleasingly utilitarian. The paper has the right weight; the pages are the perfect size, and the lines are neither too wide nor too narrow. The wire spirals are the durable kind that do not catch. (If this sounds like a fetish, it probably is.)

We'll use the notebook not only to record our progress, but also to create the routines and habits that will allow us to do something as miraculous and real as learning to read and write: we will build the life we want. A working writer's life.

Eventually, we'll break our routines into segments, but tonight, I just recorded the seven disciplines we're trying to adopt so far, and put a check next to the ones I accomplished.

Then I set up my work place, now including timer, notebook, and talisman for tomorrow.


  1. Gotta have the notebook. I've been jotting notes on every scrap I can find lately...time to pull it all together.

  2. “The Muse is a jealous mistress” said Louisa M Alcott in A Modern Mephistopheles, implying the need for a Faustian contract; only this time it is not your soul but your life that’s being traded. I wonder what is the motivator here. If it is money or fame, as opposed to something more inwardly compelling, the trappings of celebrity will be no recompense for the lost integrity.

  3. K: Hope you found your perfect notebook!

    Vincent: I could probably make more money if I went back to my old waitressing job; and in every important way, celebrity is anathema to the writer. For me, and I believe for most readers here, it's all about following the mysterious inner compulsion as truly and effectively as possible. Athletes, students, and anyone else who is committed to a vocation alter their lives to pursue their goals. Why is it a Faustian bargain when writers do it?

  4. Hi Patry, I have no axe to grind, nor fixed opinion on this. The mysterious inner compulsion moves me too, but I don't feel that making myself sit and write can possibly do it. In fact the ideas mainly come when out walking, or (less reliably) in the bath or at 3am if I wake in the night.

    "Why is it a Faustian bargain?" I like the question, because I have no answer. Thanks.

  5. What about a digital voice recorder? that's what I use.

  6. So true that ideas crop up when our subconscious is freed to unearth them, but how are we to capture them if we don't write every day?

  7. How bout a picture - i need a visual; especially that mysterious talisman ( is it chocolate?) :D

  8. Vincent: There's something about the rhythmic movement of walking that makes the ideas flow. I will have to write something about that at some point. Thanks for the suggestion.

    As far as the digital voice recorder goes, I'm sure they have a lot of advantages. I'm a notebook person, but whatever works for you is best.

    K: I've lost so many intriguing ideas by failing to capture them when they are "hot."

  9. r: I was thinking that I should start posting real photos. As for the talisman being chocolate--it wouldn't last a day!

  10. I used "google translate" on the Chineese characters.
    Its spam all the way.