Friday 3 February 2012

My notebooks

I don't carry around a notebook in the way that some artists keep a sketchpad with them, but I (like most writers, I suspect) have a place where I record scraps. I read through them when I'm short of ideas. Here are my last 8 entries to give you a flavour - typically short, so I've added some explanations

  • "I can tell you that ..." (after noticing that people on TV sometimes start sentences that way)
  • "writers sublet their poems to readers"
  • "a poem with a large catchment area" (I think I meant like a river rather than a school)
  • "her tits really get on my tits"
  • "love's austere wound"
  • "Recently my parents have started staying separately with us"
  • "basketball hoops over garage doors"
  • "Golden Brain Award from the Californian-based Minerva Foundation" (a Cambridge prof has just won this. Apparently it's prestigious)

Usually such fragments lead to nothing, but you never know. I also keep lists of words/phrases I should use more often, most recently - "flexed/ coagulate/ shingle-suck/ slapped together/ mollycoddle/ swivel/ quondam/ fondly"

And here are extracts of pages from 2001, each with a line from my Escape poem. As you can see, it's all a bit of a Lucky Dip.


  1. These are great, and this is a great idea for a blog post. I may have to steal it. And that's another good idea -- how writers steal...I better go write that in my notebook.

  2. I have about half a dozen notebooks that I pick up on occasion and flick through. I rarely get anything from them having moved on and what sparked my interests back then I’ve long since worked through but I did share a few online a while back to see if someone could make something of them and I recall Dave King made something of this opening:

          The French have it right,
          Death should be a woman.

    I looked at those lines for years but could never think what to do with them and they’re good lines. I feel about them like I feel about the opening few bars to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Death knocks, twice … and then what? I bet Beethoven didn’t sit for weeks wondering what do write next. But that’s usually the case. If it doesn’t come to you quickly it usually isn’t going to come to you at all.

  3. I trawl my notebooks once or twice a year. I usually get something from them. Some ideas keep sounding good but I'm never able to make anything of them. And yes, many of the ideas no longer interest me. I would like the notebooks to have longer fragments - bits of dialog, descriptions of street scenes; the sort of stuff that I imagine prose-writers collect.