Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Stop Hoarding Notebooks (Either Use Them, or Lose Them!)

There is one obsession that 99 percent of writers all share... we can never have enough notebooks. Whether it's the traditional moleskine (on sale at Amazon Warehouse, by the by), spiral notebooks, composition books, or just those yellow legal pads, they sing a siren's song that we cannot ignore. Even if we have literal boxes of fresh pages at home waiting to be filled, we just can't resist the desire for one more to add to the collection.

I'm here to tell you my friends, for our collective sanity, to stop. We are not dragons, and thus we are not allowed to have a hoard, even for such great treasures. If you've got notebooks that you're not using, then it's time to start brainstorming!

Seriously, though, buy online if you're going to get these. Barnes and Noble is ridiculous

A Notebook Goes A Lot Further Than You Think

I'll be the first to admit that I've had my own growing stash of notebooks for years. Hell, I still have salvaged day planners from back when I was in high school because they conveniently fit in a jacket pocket, which makes them ideal as an on-the-go idea repository. However, even when I was a legitimate journalist writing for my local paper, a good reporter's notebook could last for months of steady use. The same was true of my work pen.

I won't even get started on how many cups full of pens I have at my desk as I write this.

The numbers just didn't work out in my favor. Even if I only got a new notebook once or twice a year, it would take me a year or two to actually fill that notebook. So the supply rapidly outpaced the demand. Even giving away a few of my notebooks to friends and fellow writers wasn't enough to legitimately put a dent in my hoard.

I found a solution to the habit, though, and it's one of the most obvious solutions you've ever heard. In short, I picked up a fresh pad of paper, grabbed one of my several hundred pens, and started working on a new project. And then I kept working on it a little more every day. Then when it was finished, I started a new one.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

It's all about forming steady, regular habits.
I didn't use the pad to map out a new novel, or to hand-write a short story, though. That's not really my jam. What I did do, though, was map out the rough draft for A Baker's Dozen Pieces of Lore. I'd been writing supplements for Azukail Games for a while, and they took a lot more effort when I sat down at the keyboard and tried to come up with a dozen fresh names, descriptions, legends, etc. all at once. So instead of trying to do all the heavy lifting in a single go, I wrote out the basic list first over a week or so, then took that list and typed up a second draft. It made the whole process go a lot smoother, and I've since used it for gaming projects like 100 Random Taverns, 100 Random Mercenary Companies, and even 100 Get of Fenris Kinfolk for the Werewolf the Apocalypse fans out there.

It's taken me about a year so far, but simply dedicating one, regular project to be hand-written has done a lot to keep my burgeoning hoard under control. It's by no means reduced it down to the point that I need to go out and buy new notebooks just yet, but the corner of my room has floor space in it again. And as long as I keep working on gaming supplements like these (something neither I nor the companies I write for have an intention of stopping in the near future), then I should be able to stop the notebooks from engulfing me while I sit at my desk.

That's all it takes, really. If you love the feeling of a pen scrawling across paper, then all you need to do to keep your collection from getting too big is to sit down once a day (or even just a few times a week), and work on a dedicated project. Maybe you write a few poems, maybe you sketch out the skeleton of the next chapter in your novel, or maybe you jot down the names and backstories of ten or so characters you're going to include in your next Dungeons and Dragons game. Maybe you write the next script for a YouTube show, which is what I do for episodes of Dungeon Keeper Radio, for those who want something new and nerdy to go listen to.

The key is that you need to stay consistent with it. And, in the end, be honest with yourself. If you just like collecting notebooks, but you're never going to use them, make a friend of yours happy by giving them a work present.

There is no faster way to a writer's heart. You can take that to the bank.

That's all for this week's Craft of Writing! For more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, or at My Amazon Author Page where you can find books like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife!

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