My one hundred plus notebooks and journals, some of them more than thirty years old, bear witness to my inability to curb my writing habit. As witnesses, they serve me well. As antidotes to blank screen syndrome, they serve me best.
In the dark ages before I got my first personal computer, I did my typing on an old manual typewriter. In those days, Wite Out was my best friend. However, using the typewriter was reserved strictly for preparing stories for submission. The stories were written first in a notebook. Always.
Eventually my computer programmer husband bought me a computer, probably one of the first personal computers off the assembly line. This little gem had an amber display monitor if that tells you anything. After an initial period of whining about how a low tech woman could not possibly master this machine, I gave in and learned the joys of the backspace key.
But I still typed from my notebooks into the computer. I don’t care what anyone says—that’s double work. I then spent a painful few months learning to bypass pen and ink and write directly into the computer. And though this happened some years back, there’s something about that blank screen that tends to paralyze my thoughts at times. Doesn't matter that yesterday and the day before I plunked myself down in front of the whirring machine and filled page after page with sentences. Doesn't matter that my fingers tapped out letters almost faster than I could think of the words. What matters today is that sometimes the screen stays blank no matter how many times I poise my fingers over the keys and prod myself to write something.
Here is where I pick up a pen and my latest notebook—most recently a spiral bound beauty with a shiny, navy blue cover and the wide ruled pages I need to accommodate my generous scrawl. When the words won’t appear on screen, I allow myself to turn to my notebook. So what if my heroine doesn’t know yet she is going to be roped into solving a murder where the only witness is a palomino mare. Who cares if I can’t seem to figure out who sneaked into the stable and offed a friend of the mare’s family? Or maybe a character is trapped in the guesthouse while the villain busily sets fire to the roof, and I have no idea how she is going to free herself. Today my notebook is my freedom to write anything I wish. Sentence fragments, titles that tantalize, character sketches, outlines, catchy phrases, bits of conversation overheard in the grocery line, and whatever other words flow from my pen.
Most often before I've written a full page, my pen starts to move faster and my thoughts turn to the latest plot twist. When that happens, I know exactly what comes next and soon I am well on my way to completing my scene and thinking about the next. But when the pen and notebook don’t help, I keep writing anyway until I’ve written my word count. And that’s why I’m still accumulating notebooks.