A Note from the Author
In Hound Dog True, Mattie Breen keeps a notebook of "Custodial Wisdom." In it, she writes her observations about the work her Uncle Potluck does—and a few of her own stories sneak onto the pages as well.
For the past few years, I have been keeping a notebook. Or rather, notebooks.
When I was a young writer, I liked the idea of keeping a notebook or diary, but I always felt that what I wrote in it needed to be Important, Well Written, and Spelled Perfectly (note the capitals!). I started a dozen different diaries, but always quit after a few pages. My life seemed dull...my writing lifeless. And my spelling? Well, I never was a very good speller.
Even as a grownup, I would buy beautiful blank books and never write a word in them, afraid that my words would not prove worth the paper I scratched them on.
I’m not sure what made me treat this particular notebook differently, but in 2008 I bought a notebook and promptly messed it up. On the very first page, I wrote: x-mas:
papajohn’s Hoppinjohn’s grits. Already I had made a mistake. No way would this notebook be filled with perfection.
What a terrific thing that turned out to be—suddenly I was free of all those worries about perfection and pretty pages.
The next page of that notebook is filled with notes about the early work I was doing on Hound Dog True. There are misspellings and lots of questions—and some really good ideas that never would have come out if I had been trying for perfection!
Now my notebooks are filled with all the bits of my life: hangman games and grocery lists, research for my novels and reminders about books I want to check out at the library. I make notes about my works-in- progress and jot down snatches of dialogue I overhear in line at the farmers’ market. My notebooks are workbooks, scrapbooks, doodle pads, and datebooks. I have started some of my best stories by scribbling on pages wedged between meeting notes and travel itineraries. I feel lost when I don’t have a notebook around to scratch in.
Do you keep a notebook?
Do you fret about perfect spelling? About whether the stories you start in it will be worth writing? About what would happen if somebody accidentally got ahold of it and read what was inside?
Get a notebook. NOT a fancy one. A simple one.
Write something simple inside. Describe the chair in which you are sitting. Make a list of all the birthday cakes you can remember eating (and when and where and what they tasted like). Tape in a photo of a place you’ve been or a place you’d like to go. Just put something on the page. Misspell something. Cross something out. Let the notebook become your notebook. Let it be as wild and messy and imperfectly perfect as you are. --Linda Urban
Bonus Content: Photos from Linda Urban, author of Hound Dog True
(Click on Images to Enlarge)