Probably most of us have at least one empty notebook, blank book or Moleskin lying around. If you glance side-long at yours with a twinge of guilt for leaving it alone and empty, here are a few uses that might break the ice between you and that handsomely bound stranger.
1. Draw in it. You can also paste/glue shit in it. I saw this piece from John Farrier on Neatorama about José Naranja. Click thru to the actual site – Holy Cow – this guy is an artist. He takes Moleskin notebooks and writes, draws, paints, cuts, glues, attaches, in any and all manners, to create an entire blank book that is a piece of art. You might not be on his level (yet), but this looks like a pretty unique – even portable – way to create.
2. Use that thing to tell a story – not just straight up written fiction, but multi-media-ly. Remember Indiana Jones Sr.’s notebook? Make your own! You could tell an entire story via whatever you put in a notebook. This technique is especially handy if your weaknesses in writing have to do with plot, structure and so forth – F all that, do it your way. Say you took a space trip – What did you see? Who/what did you meet? Did you pick up any of the language? Put all that in your notebook, via notes, drawings, photos, whatever. How real can you make this totally fake record of some adventure you’ve had? How does it smell? Any bloodstains? It could make a helluva gift for a kid with an imagination: “Hey, when I was just a few years older than you, I went on a mission to Kartaxus 22B in the Manx System. A lot of people don’t know we’ve been going there for 50 years. Anyway, I was cleaning out the garage and thought you might be interested in my trip log.” [cue Hans Zimmer soundtrack – Kid’s brain explodes]
3. Start a regular-type journal of your life – like many many many very smart and important people have done throughout history. Just please don’t think you’re going to be consistent cold-turkey. Try having a plan, because it’s too easy to flake. How about you try one page every morning or night? Or come up with 5 simple questions that help you reflect on your day, for example: best moment of the day, worst moment of the day, who you talked to (or top 3), one thing you got done, one cool idea you had, etc.. Customize your plan to fit your own strengths/weaknesses, ie give yourself the best possible chance of sticking to it. You can always jettison the structure, go freestyle, once the habit is established.
4. If you have a Significant Other, you can take turns writing in the book, and swap it back and forth. You’ll end up with a notebook full of love notes, carefully worded arguments, and stupid little drawings. It will be a 100% authentic and highly personalized record of your relationship. Beautiful. And if you break up, it’s convenient fuel for the great Flames of Catharsis; pretty much anything will burn on a nice little pile of shredded love journal.
5. How about creating a log for whatever thing you’re really into? It could be wine or movies or restaurants or books – whatever. The idea here is to have a record of each experience and your notes/thoughts about it. Say you’re a cigar aficionado, it might look like: “2/14 – Today was damn Valentine’s Day. Turns out I had a Romeo y Julieta in the humidor I’d forgotten about. It was a Deluxe #2, I think. A bit dry and burned kinda funny, maybe cuz I got it wet with tears of loneliness. 7 out of 10” Or, if you’re anything like me, you’ve seen so many movies they start to blend together. Why not jot down a few notes: “2/15 – Turbo Kid. Holy shit, awesome, amazing. Designed a world that worked with the low budget. Why were there helmets everywhere? The blood rain was romantic. Wicked crush on Apple.” A log like this will lend an air of legitimacy to your budding expertise.
6. The most obvious use (besides as a journal of your life) is as a place to record things you want to remember, whether things you’ve read or ideas you have. Look – you won’t remember them if you don’t write them down. No matter how shattered you feel in the epiphanic moment, the light will turn green or the microwave will ding and your idea will be G.O.N.E. 4 EVA. You just have to write that shit down. (It’s the same with dreams, too, right?) Journals you write in every day (or so), but this particular use is an as-needed situation. You still need the discipline to do it, so make it easier by keeping the book handy, whether that means in reach of where you get your ideas (restroom?) or you just carry it around. Which is a pain in the butt, admittedly, and why they make blank books that are tiny.
7. Your older relatives and friends are not going to live forever. Why not use that notebook to do interviews with them about their lives? Ask them for their stories; record it all in that little notebook. I mean, sit down and really think about what you want to know or what they may have seen or experienced. Then ask your questions and record their answers. Use the questions to keep them on track, or they’ll tell you that same damn story about when they rode ponies over at ol’ Cooper’s place and they found a fox stuck in the fence and Billy ran all the way back to blah blah blah [sleeps with eyes open]. Imagine if you had something like this from your great great grandmother? It would be the bee’s knees, would it not? In a pinch, you could always mail it to the out-of-staters, and maybe they’d be kind enough to write in the book themselves. If you told them what it was for, I bet they would. Just don’t lead with, “You’re not gonna live forever….”
It’s true that blank pages are scary, but remember that you are in charge. The only limit is the number of pages.
BONUS MELTING FISH:
Invent a surrealist game to play with your pals. Do you remember “Exquisite Corpse”? It’s the game where the first person writes a sentence (or draws a picture), then covers most of it, and the next person continues – not knowing what went before. This continues until you have a sentence/story/picture made up of very disparate parts. Of course, there are variations, and the mechanics differ, depending on what you’re working with and how the game evolves in your group, but you get the idea. Could you create a surrealist narrative of some kind? Start writing on the first page, right to the bottom, looping the last few words or sentence to the next page. The next person continues, based on the last few words, but can’t look back to the previous page. Truthfully, I have no idea if it would be amusing. On the other hand, who didn’t slog thru the last couple seasons of Lost? Also, The Exquisite Corpse Project is a film made sorta like this, and by all accounts it’s pretty fun. This would prob work best with a small book.