Being a writer (I can’t claim to be an author since I don’t make a living at it) is like being a radio receiver. You pick up signals, or so it seems, and it’s your job to try to make sense of them. That’s why I always carry a notebook. Specifically a Moleskine volant extra small plain notebook (I can’t abide lined paper). I’ve been using them for years and I’ve got quite a little stack of them in my writing nook, battered, taped, and well-used. There’s part of my soul in those little things. But they’re getting increasingly difficult to find. More than once I’ve come to the last page only to have searched in vain all the local bookstores and speciality shops without finding a replacement. (Big boxes like Staples appeal to the lowest common denominator and writers demand special treatment.)
Sometimes they’re not even available on Amazon, surprising as it may seem. You see, I’m particular about where I store my thoughts. People have suggested to me that I use my phone, but by the time I get it out of my pocket, turn it on, type in the passcode, and open the app, the thought is gone. They travel quickly. My notebook, always with me, has a pen companion. It’s refillable and I take great care to buy refills that write instantly, without having to scribble to get them going. I keep careful note of the brands that are reliable. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching a great thought flee as you’re furiously scribbling to get your pen to capture it in your Moleskine. No, this is an area where there can be no compromise. If only notebook sellers saw it that way!
The trouble with being a receiver is you have no control over when the signal comes. You wouldn’t know it from my publication record, but I have many, many unpublished pieces. Most of them, regrettably, have to be reduced to electronic form so they can be submitted and rejected via email or Submittable. I would have nothing with which to build, however, if my zibaldone were absent. After my brain this is the first filter. And when they’re full it’s time for another. The next time I find them in my favorite indie bookstore I’m going to buy them out. I’ll store them in the attic—I can find space up there, along with my pen refills—against a time of need. Somethings a writer just can’t do without.