"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." -Vladimir Nobokov

Sunday, January 20, 2013

From a Writer's Notebook: Old Photographs and Toxic Language Dumps

My typewriter and my notebook make a lovely pair

One of the first series of posts I did on this blog was about my obsession with notebooks. A short recap of those posts is as follows: I have way too many notebooks for my own good. The From a Writer's Notebook series was a later attempt to get me writing in my notebooks more often and sharing with you what many writers don't: the everyday notes and observations that go into their notebooks. While these posts haven't been as frequent as I hoped, I thought I would use 2013 as an opportunity to start fresh. So without further ado, here are some of things that have been going into my notebook lately:

 First there's this picture. I found it in a pile of other old photographs at an antique store called Uncommon Objects in Austin, Tx. There is so much interesting stuff there and I just know it all has a story. The inscription at the bottom of this photo says "St. Louis, MS. 1925." I guess I bought it because I had so many questions about it. Who is this woman, and why is she all dressed up? Is she going to a wedding, or a house party, or maybe a picnic? Whose idea was it to take the picture next to those hedges? How did it end up at this antique store? The list goes on. I wasn't planning to keep it tucked between the pages of my notebook but that's where it ended up and that's where it's staying (until I find a better place for it, that is.)

 Next up, the Toxic Language Dump. I wrote this down during my creative writing class while my teacher was reading a passage from The Poet's Companion. Here's what I wrote down: "Poetry, which deals not in cliched, worn out expressions, but in new ones that reveal something not before seen in that way." And then, underneath it: "BE THOUGHTFUL" and a drawing of the Toxic Language Dump sign. If I'm remembering correctly, the Toxic Language Dump is the place where all the overused expressions and cliches are kept (or go to die, if you prefer). I remember really liking this idea, and I'm glad I have something in my notebook to remind me of it.

Also on this page I've written several quotes from the poetry we've read in class:
"his beard like matted sea grass"- "Feared Drowned" by Sharon Olds
"fog hanging like old coats between the trees"- "Oranges" by Gary Soto

Finally, I'm going to share with you another temporary installation in my notebook. The index cards in this picture are my notes for a two minute presentation that I had to do on the poem "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" for English. Like the photograph, I'm not sure how long they'll stay in my notebook, but I like looking them over occasionally, just to remind myself about the things I've been learning recently.

I hope you've enjoyed this glimpse into my notebook, and I plan to do more posts like this in the future. Obviously I can't share with you everything I write, but it feels good to let people into my creative space once in a while. The thing about chronicling things like this is that you don't know if any of it will ever be useful to you. Some people use that as an excuse not to keep a notebook, but to me that's all the more reason to continue writing things down.

Do you keep a notebook? What's the last thing you wrote in it?

1 comment:

  1. "fog hanging like old coats between the trees"- "Oranges" by Gary Soto

    I really like that, too! -
    Also I know you do this because as my daughter, you have been nagged about it so much, but I am hereby reminding your readers to be sure and date everything in the notebook. They will thank themselves someday!