Notes to Myself, Part I

Posted on 08 August 2011

I have this embarrassing habit of writing notes to myself in my writing notebooks or even in my Word documents. The result is a bunch of random, mini journal entries mixed in with my other writing/research. And since they’re scattered everywhere with the care of a crazy person, I always run the risk of leaving them out where someone could find them. Like the time I emailed a writing group a chapter draft and accidentally included an extra page full of nothing but these journal entries. That wasn’t embarrassing at all.

I recently found an old notebook from 2009, which was when I was powering through the first draft of my novel-in-progress, OPAL. This notebook contains opal research, several initial stabs at chapter drafts, attempts at plotting, lists and diagrams, and, of course, notes to myself. It also contains lists of all my short stories and their word/page counts (this was back when I was first considering entering collection contests) and a few pages that involve my October 2009 wedding, including a rough draft of the ceremony text and a to-do list that features entries like ***FORKS*** and “cupcake stand” and “find out about pumpkin butters.”

Because I clearly have no shame and am all too eager to share things like journal entries or writing-related commentary, here are a few selections from this old notebook.

On the novel and the first draft process:

I feel despair. I think it’s my novel.

I am frustrated yet again but really I must continue.

Is it weird Colette doesn’t seem to realize what she did is batshit?

I can’t lose myself here, not when I almost know what I’m doing.

Everything isn’t going to magically happen at once.

Maybe I can’t do this whole thing totally blind.

Bad things will happen.

I need to make this more…interesting.


“I always thought the brain was the most fascinating part of the body, but then I thought: Look who’s telling me this?” (overheard in coffee shop during a writing session)

It’s just frustrating to wake up early and come to write before work and essentially do nothing.

Consider: Flatmancrooked. Willow Springs. Pindeldyboz. (Note from the present: Two out of three of those journals are now defunct.)


I’m sitting in the Organic to Go in Washington, DC, across from the JW Marriott, waiting for my carrot juice.

I don’t know what to do with the Bishop story. Or if it even is a story.

I am sitting in the [location of cafe]. It’s Thursday. 7:23am. I’m at my regular table against the wall. Some kind of mild music is playing. I have a soy latte in a big round mug and a red water glass and nothing to do except write. Could there be anything better than this?

Witches, psychics, journalists, lawyers, doctors.

Tension is what’s true and what’s more. (?)


There is always work to do. So much work.

I am going to write for 10 minutes. Ten measly little minutes. It’s 12:55pm. Go.

What do your notes to yourself look like? Can you write for ten measly little minutes? Go!

15 responses to Notes to Myself, Part I

  • Lyra says:

    “Maybe I can’t do this whole thing totally blind.

    Bad things will happen.

    I need to make this more…interesting.”

    AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! Love, love, love. You are inside my head, and be forewarned, it’s a mess in there.

  • Paul says:

    I’ve been keeping paper journals for more than 30 years. I write randomly about whatever strikes my interest at the time. The result is more than two dozen notebooks filled with handwritten thoughts, all of which are scattered and untabulated. Some ideas have endured for many years, so entries for these ideas are found across many pages and even many notebooks. Other ideas are so fleeting that a sentence or two is all the attention I gave them some time in the past.

    This makes finding my earlier notes virtually impossible. If I were writing the notes to collect research, the process would be less than useless; it would be counterproductive. Fortunately, when I have managed to find my “profound” thoughts on whatever subject I wanted to look up, my notes have not often been very “profound” at all, and I’ve seen how my own evolution of the idea has grown considerably, making my earlier notes sound immature.

    So why do I keep writing my journals? I don’t know. Habit? Compulsion? Some vague sense of leaving behind a record? The feel of the mechanical pencil in my hand?

    • I am similarly disorganized. I also keep paper journals that aren’t for my fiction at all, but I seem to enjoy increasing the odds of embarrassing myself by writing these little notes absolutely everywhere.

      This reminds me of my college friend who showed me where she kept a wooden box that I was meant to immediately confiscate and hide in my own room in the case of her accidental death so her family wouldn’t find it.

      • Paul Lamb says:

        In recent years, my son said that he can hardly wait to read my journals after I am gone. It’s made me censor what I put in there now, which leads to fewer entries, but with more than 30 years of journal entries already written, I am sure there are plenty of opportunities for embarrassing myself.

  • Averil Dean says:

    You are completely adorable, notes and all.

    Mine are similarly random but tend to be X-rated, so in the interests of your readers’ delicate sensibilities, I’ll keep them to myself.

    • You know Brunhilde and her delicate sensibilities. :)

      I like how our blog friends can head over to Twisting the Kaleidoscope for the racy photos and fun, X-rated stuff, while over here they get….cats and smiley faces and humiliation. Hm. I think I’m giving them the short end of the stick.

      • Averil Dean says:

        I was just thinking of that yesterday. How different we all are, yet how much respect and friendship we offer one another. Even I get a share, even with my smut!

        • *Especially* with your smut. (Though I do think you’re hiding all your blog’s honesty and heart behind the term smut. But since the smut is good on its own, I’ll let it slide.)

  • margosita says:

    These are so great and funny. My favorite may be “Potatoes.”

    Or, “I feel despair. I think it’s my novel.”

    Hahaha. That belongs on a wall somewhere. Perhaps next to a photo of the cover of OPAL. Above your writing desk?

    • I’m also partial to “I feel despair. I think it’s my novel.” I don’t remember writing that, but I can picture holding my wrist to my forehead in a dramatic fashion in the process.

  • Downith says:

    Witches, psychics, journalists, lawyers, doctors – that one got me thinking!

    When I see my notes in the margins later I really struggle to decipher them “What did I mean?”

  • Wayne says:

    I agree with Margosita; My favorite is “Potatoes.” It leaves a lot to the imagination. What type of potatoes? Idaho? Russet? What did you do with them? Fry them? Boil them? Bake them? Used them for Mr. Potato Head? I can’t stand the mystery! :-)

  • lisahgolden says:

    You have to know how much I love these glimpses into your journal. They make a great puzzle.

    And eek! I spent one of the worst nights of my life in the J.W. Marriott, but I did like their lobby.

  • amyg says:

    thank you thank you thank you

    i love scribbled notes left all over the place. i write in notebooks, the back of receipts, my hand, whatever.

    i have a funny story that fits here (i think) that i blogged about once:

    while going through work notes that i keep on pages and pages of yellow legal pads, i found this:

    OMG! Can you believe these neighbors? Always wanting Pa to help. Always asking for charity. Always looking for another free meal from Ma.

    I’m done. I’ve had it. Seriously. It’s over. I’m sick about it.

    And don’t get me started on that little ass-ache Nelly. Could there be a more awful, more evil, more fantastically deceitful ball of sludge stuffed into one little girl.

    I’m reading this in my own handwriting on this piece of yellow-lined paper buried a few sheets under the top of the pad and thinking, “…what the hell was I writing about here? when did I write this and why?”

    Then I flip to the front page of the legal pad that has a neat and tidy list of notes taken during a company meeting and just under the list of work related items, i see, written in bottom corner of the page next to a doodle of a hardcover book, “What if Laura Ingraham was Laura Ingalls?”

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