The Notebook

I found something on the train a few weeks ago.

I’d been deliberating on my way to the station about whether to buy a new notebook – I’d had an idea for a story, and it had taken hold like a limpet. It seemed like the fates had aligned to make a decision for me when I found one down the side of a seat.

When I flicked through it, I saw it wasn’t newly-bought,  an escapee from a plastic bag. It was full of what looked like study notes, tiny doodles of creatures I didn’t recognise, and intricate, swirling letters, scripted over and over again in various shades of ink.

It was suddenly awfully heavy in my hands. I was holding someone’s notes, sure, and it’s awful to lose them midway through a semester, but it was more than that.

I felt like I was holding someone’s soul as well.

notebook

I’ve got more notebooks than I really need, all because I thought I needed blank pages to be the conduit for what I felt. Most of them are half-filled, bought for some project that never came to fruition, one burst of creativity that moved me so fiercely that I felt I might die if I didn’t transfer it to paper.

I tend to want to keep them pristine. One smudged line or poorly formed letter and it takes me out of the mood.

This is why I mostly write on the computer. Mistakes are clean.

But in those scribbles on the train I saw more than just notes and doodles from a dry class. I saw that place where things come from, a place deep in your soul. Whoever owned that notebook had bared themselves on the pages, moved by some force that I can’t explain or even adequately describe, a force that transcends brain and mouth and motor function. And mistakes.

I’d forgotten what that felt like.

*

Looking in that book was like being caught in someone’s bathroom when you’re not supposed to be there. But it reminded me that those notebooks that I have stuffed in drawers aren’t just taking up space. I bought them because something was in me that was fighting to get out, something bigger than I am, and I wasn’t taking advantage of it. I was too bothered by making sure it was a work of art. A sign of one of my biggest flaws: if I don’t do it perfectly first time, it isn’t worth doing at all.

Which isn’t the way this game works. So thank you, whoever lost it, for reminding me of the beauty of filling a notebook, of carrying one around for when I need to catch my feelings.

I’ve got mine.

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