There are twenty-seven notebooks on a bookshelf above my bed. They’re all about the same size (A5) and the oldest was given to me as a Christmas present in 1996; it’s spiral bound with a clear plastic cover and it’s the only one that has something written on every page.
I haven’t filled another since and I’m not entirely sure why.
My insomnia allows me a lot of spare time to think these days, laying down in the dim light and letting my thoughts drift a few centimeters above my head. I’ll reach up and pick one of the notebooks from the shelf sometimes. Reading a book filled with different coloured, disjointed, fictional ideas always seems as good a substitute for dreaming as any.
It’s not so much learning things about yourself as it is remembering them. I went through a phase of writing about nothing but vampires and dingy heavy metal clubs in 1998. I blame Joss Whedon. I’ll jot down suggestions to my past self sometimes with a smile on my face. Most of them read something like “you stole that line from Independence Day, shame on you”.
I do confess to never having been a very linear sort of person, not when it comes to writing anyway. I don’t tend to use the pages of a notebook in any particular order and I don’t have the kind of self-discipline required to finish one before buying another. Over the years the shelf has become tightly packed, with smaller Field Note and Moleskine style journals dotted about at either end as well. They all have their fair share of blank lines too.
There are lots of empty pages on that shelf waiting for an idea to take shape on them, though I fear some of them will be forever bare.
But while I do feel a certain degree of guilt for leaving them unfinished, it is something of a comfort, knowing that they’re there. Those clear sheets nestled amongst examples of my gradually evolving handwriting, held upright between pages of broken dialogue and half-remembered places I’ve only seen in my dreams. It’s potential surrounded by quiet chaos and when I flick through them, looking for lost ideas, they are a reminder that there will always be a safe place to store my thoughts in.
Perhaps notebooks aren’t made to be entirely filled anyway? Maybe writing and writing until they’re full to bursting with so many undiscovered stories that no single writer could hope to tell, isn’t the point.
Whatever my unconscious reasoning, I doubt I’ll ever stop buying the damn things. There’s more than enough wall space to start stacking them anyway.