Thursday, May 3, 2012

notebooks and travels

When I travel, I buy notebooks. I take them home with me and use them for writing. I'm able to compose on my laptop, but I prefer longhand for that first encounter with the characters, where and how they live, what develops. Maybe it's a superstition, but to me the process of writing feels more organic. I especially like the scratchy-scrawly feel of a fountain pen. The notebooks too. They're special because they come from... over the rainbow. I have notebooks from Spain, Germany, Italy, Morocco, Tunisia, Mexico. The notebooks bought in Tunisia and Morocco are from France because the level of literacy is--or was--so low in those countries that mostly only people with European pretensions were shopping in the stores that sold stationary and paper. I hope that's no longer true.
Quite apart from the story developing as I write, I get pleasure from remembering the country where I bought the notebook. Often--as this morning--there's an extra surprise.
Because another thing I do when travelling is pick a flower here and there--often no more than a weed--and slip it between the pages of a notebook. I'm Canadian. You bet, I notice flowers when it's winter and back home I know there's snow heaped along the sidewalk. Lipstick hot hibiscus, tangerine bougainvillea!
Since I buy four or five notebooks in a country, and only get a new story idea maybe once or twice a year, time can pass before I turn the page where I find a pressed flower. This morning I flipped a page of  a notebook bought in Mexico.


  1. Oh, I love this! And I'm sorry I didn't read it before I left on holiday. I would have taken pleasure in bringing back some notebooks. I'll steal this tradition of yours if you don't mind!

    As for pressed flowers. I used to do that... haven't in a while, but still come across the odd blossom. Recently a whole field gathered in England decades ago.

    Thanks for inspiring such beautiful thoughts.

  2. Notebooks from other places are wonderful to fill with stories or lines or observations. It links the travel and the writing. Both are ways to be away.
    Now I want to ask where you went.

  3. British Virgin Islands. We were married there 20 years ago; also lived six months on Virgin Gorda. I made tons of notes, but I love the idea of using a notebook from the place, something typical, or something special. In this case, it would have been nothing more than whatever the schoolchildren use. (Only one grammar school on the island; older kids must take boat to neighbouring island.)

    BTW, I like your sentence: 'Both are ways to be away.' I've been thinking a lot about why we travel...

  4. A lot of my notebooks are exercise books school kids would use--which fits how I feel about first-draft writing.

    Nice to make an anniversary trip. Happy Anniversary!

    Why we travel... yeah...