Four times last week alone I had people ask me–What do you write in that notebook?
The question should not surprise me…many have asked me that over the years (decades) that I have carried at least one notebook and a number of pens in whatever bag I have slung across my body or in the pockets of whatever I have on. It should not surprise me and yet, for whatever reason, I am usually startled that people even notice I am doing it.
Upon occasion, someone has thought that I am writing observations about them. Upon occasion, someone has thought that knowing what I write would lead to an insight into my personality that would help them “figure me out.”
But last week, it was students and a friend asking—both with an accepting and genuine curiosity that wove underneath my accumulated guard of wanting to know why someone wants to know before inviting them in. That protective instinct has softened considerably over time but not gone away completely. And, I do admit that Harriet the Spy has always been a kindred spirit on some levels.
With the students in the cafeteria, I pulled it out and riffled the pages—“a recipe for chocolate cake; the list of who is praying at lunch next week; driving directions; a doodle from a meeting; the beginnings of several poems and a paragraph for my blog; a description of a sunrise; a packing list; daily to-do lists; grocery lists; reminders to talk to certain teachers; and the kinds of coffee I’ve tried at a local coffee shop. Those who asked thought that “was cool” and resumed their ziplocked feasting with a side of curiosity satisfied.
With the friend who asked, I pulled it out and showed her my pages of following the first grade assembly invitation to write the word “Joy” any way we wanted to and list three things that bring us joy. She has also read many other bits and pieces that I’ve written and been one to invite me to craft them for different needs, events, or circumstances.
I look at the pages and see something of my mind’s conversation…but it is more than seeing…the pages are also about writing to hear and listen, writing to touch or feel, writing to remember, writing to create, to think, to bring dimension to ideas.
And, the pages are about more than my mind as well. They are about my heart, spirit, and being and what fills them and wanting them to come together…to integrate… and the page is my open field.
My open field, waiting to receive the notes I offer, the poems I hear, the doodles meandering onto the page; waiting to receive my Word in my fullness of quirks and curves, faults and glories.
…That is the longer version…
The nutshell version of what and why the notebook has already been said better by Rilke than I would ever deign to attempt—
If when you wake up in the morning, you can think of nothing but writing, then you’re a writer. (Letters to a Young Poet)