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I dig jazz and single-malt scotch.  I write plays; I direct them too. I love STAR WARS more than is healthy. I walk my dogs every day, unless it's raining or terribly cold.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Hand Writing

Nothing feels like writing as much as running a pen with some heft and smooth flowing ink over a well-toothed paper in a book that smells a little old world.  I am a keeper of notebooks. I've got loads of them - some fancy for nobler thoughts and outstanding quotes from other sources, some small enough to keep in my pocket, and a handful of those traditional spiral-bound 8x11" pads with glossy pictures of pop stars or Star Wars characters emblazoned across the front.

When I was attending Brown a couple of years ago (a Return to Undergrad program) I started carrying smaller books that were easy to transport in my day-bag and easy to leaf thru during my bus-rides to and from campus to prepare for class or review before a test. They were small enough to stow in a pocket, and didn't take up a lot of room on cafeteria counter tops.  I learned a lot about economy of note taking by keeping a smaller book.

Some courses (especially the cog-sci classes I was taking) required more notes than others. For these classes I got into the habit of transferring the most important material and formulas to a smaller notebook that would eventually become my bus-ride-study-journal as exams approached.

As a playwright I grab small notebooks as I head out the door almost everywhere I go. I can never tell when I'll need to write something down - an idea, a scrap of dialogue, a description, an important e-mail, a name...

Notebook carrying is an important habit to nurture. Of course, now a phone can house your notes too, or an ipad.  Anyway it works for you, make note-taking a habit.

A couple weeks ago I pulled out a notebook that I filled a half decade ago, just before my 3-year excursion returning to college. Without this record I never would have realized how much I had going on before I left for school. At the time I had no idea how much I was doing, or how some of the thoughts that I had jotted down all those years ago had grown into much larger ideas, or how the plays I had only imagined had been written, or how I had really gone back to school and earned a degree.

I rewrote some of those old notes into my new fancy book. Now they are revived, all thanks to scratching ink on some pages. Writing by hand. It's an exercise that feels great. And it turns out that sometimes some remarkable things fall out of the end of a pen.

2 comments:

The Dandelion Tamer said...

Writing in a notebook is great advice - for me especially. I love this: "You never know what's going to fall out at the end of a pen." Writing in a notebook, or several, is a much more private, and hopefully, by virtue, more authentic and originally truthful maybe?

Thanks for the read.

Kato McNickle said...

One experience I had with something unexpected falling out of the pen was while doing some preliminary work on a short-play idea. I had an idea for a 10-minute piece while driving to work. Later that day I took a break and sat down for a 10 minute writing exercise to get my thoughts on paper.

I borrowed the "don't let your hand stop" technique from The Artist's Way. The first page of notes went as expected with the imagery, plot progression, character points all being drawn on the paper as I had imagined them earlier in the day. But about a quarter of the way down page two the unexpected thing happened, something that I had not planned.

This play idea featured two sisters on the last day of summer sitting on the beach. Their struggle was over the love of the same man. But then, on page two of my 3-page non-stop note session the surprise came - I wrote "The oldest sister is dead, a ghost." Whoa. Wait? What? Huh. Oh.

That night, when I got home from work, I wrote the short play Swimming in the Ocean about two sisters on the last morning of summer, with one a ghost and the other unable to let go. It has become my produced work to date.

And it would not have been nearly so interesting without my note making session.

Thanks for your comment!