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‘an intriguing read . . . keeps the reader guessing . . . a lot to enjoy in this romp through the Cambridge Commons . . . a strong sense of place and a narrative style that is both energetic and engaging.’ [Dead Letters]

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Keeping a Journal

Posted on Jun 23, 2020 in Leuchtturm1917, Moleskine, Sue Hepworth | 8 Comments

I first started writing a journal twenty years ago when I was writing my first novel. At the beginning it was more of a writer’s notebook in which I jotted down ideas, scraps of conversations overheard on trains, anything that might one day end up in a story. Then it broadened out, particularly after the arrival of our daughter, when I wanted to record the things I knew I’d forget about life with a small child and the joys and challenges of motherhood. Some of that ended up in Stage Fright and Footfall, two of my Cassandra James mysteries, including for instance the time when, distracted by a furious toddler, I drove off with my handbag on the roof of my car.

I have two notebooks on the go at any one time, one for writing up at home and one for my handbag. At first I used whatever came to hand, and then I settled into using a black, hardback Moleskine notebook at home, and the most recent handbag notebook is a Leuchtturm1917, recommended by my writer friend Sue Hepworth. I am going to stick with those, because they have pages at the front for listing contents, which is something that I wish I had for my other notebooks. I am now on notebook 27 and there is an awful lot to trawl through if I want to find something and can’t quite remember where it is.

I don’t write in my journal every day – far from it. It is best to write it outside the house – sitting in a cafe, for instance. Not entirely sure why, but it is something to do with stepping aside from ordinary preoccupations for a while. It has to be hand-written. There is something about putting pen to paper that aids reflection.

I often refer to them. One example: I recently wrote a short story set near Cambridge during a heatwave. I wanted something to convey a sense of that. In one of my earliest notebooks I found a description of a farm lorry laden with hay bales lumbering along a road in the Fens: ‘Specks and stalks of chaff eddied behind it like sparks in the draught of a bonfire.’ That was just what I needed. Whenever I start a new novel or want an idea for a short story, it’s an invaluable resource.

8 Comments

  1. Margot Kinberg
    June 23, 2020

    Keeping a notebook handy for journaling and ideas is a useful habit to have, Christine. Our memories are sometimes not what we’d like to think, so it’s helpful to write things down. Thanks for sharing the way you use yours.

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      June 23, 2020

      Thanks, Margot. Yes, it’s amazing, looking back through my journals, to realise how much I have completely forgotten.

      Reply
  2. Brad Poulson
    June 23, 2020

    Hi Chrissie,

    I have used Moleskin notebooks for years. There is something rather reassuring about the notes you make in a Moleskin, all together a better quality of note, I don’t know why. I have just purchased my first A4 format Moleskin for a specific project I’m working on, with the heavier weight paper so that my fountain pen doesn’t bleed through the pages. I always keep blotting paper in the little paper wallet inside the back cover. Can’t wait to start it but there is a real anxiety about doing so. I know what you mean about listing contents, perhaps I should investigate the Leuchtturm1917?

    Happy journaling!

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      June 23, 2020

      Good to hear from you, Brad, and interesting to know that you favour Moleskine, too. And actual ink as opposed to Biro is important to me, too. (Something genetic . . . ?) At one point I also used a large notebook for each new novel.I do that online now and each novel has a digital journal recording plot ideas and so on.
      I am very much liking the Leuchtturm1917 at present.

      Reply
  3. Susan D in Toronto
    June 23, 2020

    I’ve been keeping a journal off and on for years, sometimes off for months on end. I’ve noticed over the years that in times of global and personal stress, I’m more likely to write nothing for ages.

    This time, however, I’m now writing every single night. I think it’s a matter of responding to the rapid changes out there, while at the same time tracking my own days, one after the other, and trying to differentiate them,

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      June 23, 2020

      My journal-keeping is pretty sporadic, too, but I have been trying to record some of what lockdown has been like. You’re right, one day can be so much like another.

      Reply
  4. Moira@Clothes in Books
    July 7, 2020

    Not to underplay your Important Thoughts, but it’s your stationery I am fascinated by this time. Normally I leave your blog to go and look up a book to order and read, but this time I am off to find out about this notebook, the Leuchtterm1917. I have moved through a number of notebook styles over the year. At one time I was horrified to find that the best diary/notebook I had ever had was a Smythson – they are both ludicrously expensive, AND connected to the Conservative Party. Luckily I went over to digital calendar soon after and ditched paper diary altogether. But I do remember how much I loved the Smythsons, they were very satisfying. A notebook doesn’t have to be quite so perfect as a diary, in my view.
    I bought a very nice Oxfam notebook at the end of last year, v satisfied with it and thought it would last me for 2020. But because I have been so busy with volunteering in lockdown I filled it up weeks ago! Unexpected side-effect of coronavirus. Is there now a Leuchtterm with my name on it for the details of my continuing projects? I will keep you informed!

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      July 8, 2020

      Yes, let me know how you get on. What clinches it for me with the Leuchtterm1917 is the contents page AND – I’ve just checked – it is paginated, too!

      Reply

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