Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

The notebook

In a perfect world, I’d have the One True iPhone app that would somehow take any of my stray ideas and easily catalog them in one place, that would let me collect all of these random thoughts and later develop them into sketches that got inserted into stories.  That app would have to use something more rapid-fire than the existing iPhone keyboard – a bluetooth keyboard I could always keep with me?  A way to do speech-to-text and also catalog photos I took?  Some way to beam text from any of the 19 computers I use during the day into the one repository?  Does this finally give me a good excuse to buy an iPad?  I don’t know.  Until then, there’s paper.  And for the last fifteen or so years since I became a writer, I’ve been amassing a lot of paper in a few different formats.

I used to use spiral notebooks, 8.5×11, college rule, and every night, I’d fill up a page or two with the doings of the day, the various things that happened, the pieces that stuck out and needed to be captured.  This was good in that I dumped out things and captured them in amber, but I also kept my writing going in some sense.  It’s no substitute for sitting down in front of an emacs buffer and hacking out a couple thousand words, but it keeps the wheels spinning.  Now I’ve got a few dozen of these sitting in my bookcase and in my storage unit, and at some point, I might do something with them.  (Wish there was an easy and cheap way to scan them all in, but I hate my current scanner, and it also stopped working when I got the new laptop.)  This method pretty much stopped a few years ago – I think I still have the same notebook I started in 2006, and it’s not going to ever get filled at this rate.  This online journal and the need to write other stuff has pretty much killed that whole thing.

But I still need to keep notes.  And I’ve been using those moleskine notebooks, although I still don’t know how the hell you actually say moleskine, and the first time I have to say it aloud to another human being, I’m going to look like a genius.  There’s also some worry about the fact that I might look like a hipster doofus, carrying around one of these things.  But I don’t live in Brooklyn, so it’s no big deal.  And my new laptop bag (which I already hate, after my last trip, and I really need to get another one) has a pocket on the front which is the perfect size for two moleskine books and a pen.  So I’ve been filling one up lately, and I think since I started a new one in mid-July, it’s maybe half-full already.

So I was in Denver, and I got this small routine going where I’d get up early, go down to the restaurant in the hotel, and eat breakfast outside, while enjoying the cool Denver morning prelude to the afternoon heat.  And I’d eat my eggs and toast and fruit, and pick at my iPhone and the email a bit, and pick at the notebook a bit, maybe write down part of a weird dream or an idea for a story.  And then after breakfast, I’d go sit down in the hotel lobby with my netbook and crack out a thousand or two words.

After the first day of this, I realized my notebook was missing.  I freaked the fuck out, of course.  Did I put my name in it?  My number?  Was it downstairs in the lobby?  Would it turn up, or would someone just think “oh, cool” and pocket it, tearing out a month of golden entries and destroying my work forever?

But my greastest fear was, if the book does turn up, will someone start reading it?  Because here’s the thing: my notes are so god damned random and bizarre, any sane human reading them would think they found the unfinished manifesto of a deranged serial killer.  Like, if you open this notebook and turn to the first page, there’s this rough idea about Evel Kneviel carrying around an iPad that contains scans of all of his xrays from his various motorcycle crash injuries.  No idea what anyone would think about any of this.  Luckily, my handwriting is so horrible, it would be difficult for anyone to pick up on anything within the book.  But still, losing that would be a huge, huge deal.

Luckily, I went back to the front desk, and someone turned it in.  Crisis averted.  Now I can continue pouring raw thoughts into the pages.  I’m still not sure what the process will be for doing anything meaningful with the notes on the other side.  Like, maybe I will fill the whole thing up, then sit down with emacs open and transcribe the pages into a buffer, and then later try to tag up or expand each of the little nodes of thought and let it go from there.  Or maybe I should find some place that will scan all of this crap into a useable digital format, although I’m sure it would cost a buck a page, and the book would have to leave my hands, which makes me bunchy.  And evernote times a thousand could not figure out my handwriting, so I still have to read it and type it.  More research to do there.

Side note: I have been going through old entries here and titling them.  There are almost a thousand entries total, going back to 1997, and maybe a couple hundred of them are titled.  The old pre-wordpress system I used up until last year did not have a title field, and so everything I imported had a blank title.  I’ve been wanting to add titles to everything, because there’s a cool plugin that shows you a bunch of random entries, but it shows them by title, so you can’t click on most of them.  As I’ve been doing this, which is a huge pain in the ass, I’ve been doing some very minor cleanup and tagging, and there were a couple of entries I deleted.  No major self-censorship trip, I just nipped the entries that were one sentence and said stuff like “I just changed the site – tell me if there are any problems” or whatever else.

Still on the mad push to 1000 entries.  I wish I knew how many words that was – I’m sure there is a wordpress hack or plugin to figure that out, but I’m too busy to find it, and this Call of Duty game won’t play itself.