I write longhand. In a spiral-bound notebook. With a medium-point blue ink pen. It makes me old-fashioned, but I’m okay with that. I don’t ever worry about anyone stealing my writing tools if I get up from my cafe table.
I started keeping a notebook in high school. My very first creative writing teacher required that we keep notebooks; as part of our homework, we had to write five longhand pages a week.
I discovered that I liked having a dedicated place to collect my thoughts. I rarely wrote anything personal in there, since I was bored with my real life and I knew the teacher was going to count the pages (if not actually read them) at the class’s end. At the time, my head was so full of descriptions and dialogue and fantastical characters that it was easy to fill pages.
Later, I discovered the solace of confessing to my notebook. When I struggled with depression, it was easy to track the cycle through the entries in my journal. Speaking to myself freely through the pages of my notebook taught me to be more honest in the writing I shared with others. I took more chances. I learned to grow.
I’ve always called my notebooks journals, although I’ve never been absolute about writing in them every day. I always carry one around (in fact, it’s a problem to find purses big enough to carry a full-size 70-page notebook), but if I miss a day or a weekend, I don’t sweat it.
I also don’t put limitations on what does or doesn’t go into my notebooks: to-do lists, self-analysis, diary entries, snatches of dialogue, book reviews, conversations with friends, scenes, chapters, essays, notes. Fiction and nonfiction are all scrambled together. My journal is a pretty good model of my brain.
At the end of each month, I record the recent entries in a table of contents file on my computer. There, the information is easily searchable.
When I complete each notebook, I unwind its binding, remove its pages, and file them in a 3-ring binder. I have bins of binders now, years of work made visible in a way that electronic files could not.
I began writing before computers fit on a desktop. I’ve written longer than people have used tape drives, 5-inch floppy disks, cartridges, thumb drives, CDs, and the cloud. I’ve written in WordPerfect and Word, on PCs and Macs. All those electronic backups are unreadable now, beyond the scope of modern technology to decode.
All my journal entries are very readable and almost instantly retrievable. And I never worry about anyone stealing my work off a cafe table.