Like that one guy said: Good writers borrow, great writers steal. Welcome to the place where all things have been lifted, looted, and otherwise pilfered…Remember, possession is 9/10s of the law.
A book was recently released called Agatha Christie’s Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making, by John Curran. Check out Curran’s deal: he got to spend hours in a room, pouring over handwritten exercise books, reading page after page of difficult notes, deciphering faded pencil marks, and losing his eyesight while reading Christie’s plots in her own writing.
I know. What a great deal! I’m so jealous.
Curran put all of his interesting discoveries into this book. I’m not going to go into all the deets (mostly because you should go buy this book for your-own-self to peruse at your leisure) but I do want to talk about the thing that was most interesting to me: 76 notebooks.
Yeah, that’s a lot, huh?
Apparently she was neither neat nor orderly in keeping them either. Notes for some books are mixed into notes for others, which are all mixed with packing/grocery/Christmas lists. Christie used the notebook closest at hand to plot, write treatments, jot ideas, or list housekeeping details.
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m pretty disorderly and I’ve always felt guilty for it. If I didn’t label/date my diaries or if I forgot to write in it once I started a diary, I felt like the world was going to end. I beat myself up.
In January, when I was reading Virginia Woolf’s diaries, I started keeping another one…only I told myself that I didn’t care if I didn’t write every day. If I wanted to jot down other people’s quotes, I could. If I wanted to I could whine about writing, or plot stuff, or do exercises. Whatever. It’s worked well for me. I don’t date pages, but I am trying to fill one notebook at a time – and I’m almost done with the first one.
Sounds pathetic, right? Almost done with the first one.
Well, if we count how Agatha Christie kept notebooks, haphazard and without organization…I think I might be able to take her. I’ve filled cheap spiral notebooks with lists, plots, outlines, first lines, random thoughts, blog ideas, character names, etc. And, to the detriment of future scholars (who will, of course, study my work with the same interest and passion as Curran has done for Christie) I’ve tossed a lot of notebooks out.
Some of Christie’s notebooks were filled, others only had ten pages. This makes me feel better as a writer. Less unfocused.
I’m gonna stick with my more ‘disciplined’ notebook keeping for the moment – mostly because I want the satisfaction of completely full notebooks. But it’s nice to know that the bestsellingest author was creating at all times, with what she had on hand. Makes me want to go write stuff!
How’s about you guys? You notebook keepers? Or computer screen fillers?