I started a lot of notebooks that I didn’t finish. In addition to the magazines I tried, I kept a number of spy notebooks which, of course, were modeled after “Harriet the Spy”. Growing up a bit, though not as much as I’d hoped, I repeatedly started small notebooks in medical school and undergraduate training trying to track down “clinical pearls.” I started a notebook once to keep track of every book I read and another one to keep track of my knitting projects.
And don’t forget the diet resolutions to write down everything I ate. When those little notebooks fade into blank pages, you can guess what is actually happening. But what if a biographer wanted to know one day that I had a salad for lunch for two weeks in the 1990s?
When I looked at one of my mother’s notebooks after her death, I saw that she had dropped it and then dipped it back in, sometimes at intervals of months or years, and was now taking it up as a journal and now using it to write something she did wrote. It was profoundly functional; She would have despised spending money on a fancy notebook or hesitating to use an available blank page.
And I have a daughter who loves notebooks as much as I do, but finishes what she starts. I’m the one in the middle, the one with stacks of notebooks with a page or a few pages at the beginning indicating a careful master plan that wasn’t followed.
In the past few years, inspired in large part by my daughter, I’ve made some progress – I still don’t create narrations or characters, but sometimes I write down some of the boring details of my day. I’ve divided my life into four, five, or six notebooks these days (one is just for daily to-do lists and one is a calendar and one is notes for a book I want to write … and I don’t think I’m telling from the others. Most importantly, if I skip a day or two – or more, I try to be more gentle with myself.
At the end of November I counted the pages in my notebook – I mean, in the main notebook, where I take notes about my life or write what I have stopped calling my diary (well, actually I have two diaries, but I don’t think so that I’ll tell you about it). For the first time in my life, I thought it would come out perfectly: all I had to do was fill a page every day, and I would start a new notebook on January 1st – and if anything, it would be a new year, that called for a new notebook it would come.
The first count actually had more days than pages so I could spare myself if I slipped once or twice. The next time I counted – about a week later – it was no longer true.