There is often a mighty contest between a writer and his strongest opponent, the blank page.
Laptop computers, digital tape recorders and cameras, pocket digital whatevers, they all offer to help us tame that wild and wily beast, the empty page that dares us to proceed, to show our mettle, to endeavor to fill the page with something worthwhile.
I am a notebook lover. I revere them. The blank pages no longer frighten me. They beckon me, enticing me, promising me that this time what I write will be important. Right now, on my person or in my bag, I have two pocket-sized reporters’ notebooks, a steno-sized pad in a zippered case, a Miquelrius notebook made in Spain and a Moleskine notebook.
Moleskines are my all-time favorites. They’re made in Italy and the name is pronounced “mol-a-skeen-a.” The little pocket-sized notebook is covered in black oilskin, has a ribbon bookmark, a little pocket in the back to hold snippets of paper and an elastic band to hold it all together. The manufacturer claims the books were favored by the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Henry Matisse, Vincent van Gogh, André Breton, Pablo Picasso and travel writer Bruce Chatwin.
Indiana Jones carried a little book like this with a rubber band around it and, in one of his movies, a similar journal was filled with notes about the search for the Holy Grail.
I don’t care if any of it is true. I just like the Moleskine notebooks. The paper is cool — acid-free, whatever that means — the books feel and look classy and, most importantly, I really like writing in them. We have had this discussion before, I think, about how much I am in love with writing, by keyboard, but even more in longhand.
I discovered these pricey little books about 11 volumes ago. I jot down all sorts of things — some paranoid colleagues wonder if I am writing stuff about them and, of course, I don’t show them.
It took me a while to be able to write in my first Moleskine notebook. Often I jottle — that’s a word I made up to describe the kind of doodling I do, a sort of stream-of-consciousness doodling with words instead of images. At first, I thought perhaps the Moleskine was just too good for jottling. Now, I am able to scribble away without reserve.
I am never without at least a reporters’ notebook and often have my current Moleskine journal with me, as well. Most of what’s in it, I acknowledge, is drivel. But it allows me to trap that one important thought or an idea for a column before it slips my mind. It’s there to be used. I have always been convinced that just the physical act of writing is important. It keeps me writing, using the tools I have and practicing the craft in which I labor. It keeps my hands and my mind limber, ready to go to work.
All that jottling could be called practicing, I suppose.
Practice makes it easier for me, for any writer, to not be afraid of the blank page, to not be intimidated by its often unfulfilled promises. The blank page is there to be filled by a writer. It’s just waiting for me, or you, to step up and take the challenge.