Dear Notebook …

Marilyn Monroe’s notebook.


When I was little I’d come home from school and rip out all the notes in my Mead Wide Rules.  Why?  To rewrite them, of course.  They were never neat enough the first time around, all that rushing to get the info down, trying desperately not to miss anything.  I wanted calm and controlled script.  If someone ever looked over my shoulder, I wanted to look like I knew what the hell I was doing.

When I went back to college as an old lady this habit remained.  I’d fight the afternoon rush-hour to get home from the U, and with supper cooking on the stove I’d rewrite all of my notes, every last page.  I made them look good, those notes, made them calm and controlled.  Made them the me I wanted to be.

This rewriting compulsion finally went away when I started writing a book.  At age 46, my notebooks finally look like me:  extreme.  On one page the print is so small and crowded I can barely read it.  On another it’s so big that 4 or 6 words take up an entire page.  And what’s with the giant, frenetic-looking stars all over the place but me YELLING …. at myself??

Today I went here and took a look at some famous notebooks.  I’m a bit Marilyn Monroe, but wish I were Frida Kahlo.  Who are you?


Frida Kahlo’s notebook.

19 thoughts on “Dear Notebook …

  1. Averil Dean

    My notebooks look almost exactly like David Foster Wallace’s, and my scrap pad is like Kurt Cobain’s. If only the contents were so similar!

    1. Teri Post author

      DFW’s notebooks are dreamy. Dreamy!

      I just finished reading the Franzen essay on David, which was fascinating.

  2. CJ Rice (@leapof)

    Those are all so beautiful. Thank you for sharing. My notebooks are like Marilyn’s–not very orderly. Like da Vinci’s they include drawings and like Twain’s they explore possible wording and character names.

    1. Teri Post author

      I can’t draw a square box.

      This weekend I saw Seth McFarlane’s (of “Family Guy” fame) drawings from when he was a toddler, copies of the cartoons he saw on TV. They were to scale. And was a 2 year old. Wow.

  3. LauraMaylene

    Oh my god, Herman Mellville’s journal page looks EXACTLY like the stuff I’d write in college after getting wasted and walking alone across campus late at night.

  4. Catherine

    Poor Marilyn! How skittish and insecure and child-like still. I LOVE Frida Kahlo’s notebook. I saw an exhibition of hers in Paris years ago, dragging around a tiny baby with great discomfort, bought the gorgeous catalogue then lent it to an artist and never got it back! You have just reminded me of this beautiful lost book.

    I stopped doing notebooks when I couldn’t be certain of my letters any more. I know you lose something when you write directly onto the screen, but typing a huge novel made an old wrist injury turn into almost-carpal tunnel syndrome which was quite scary. So I’m a screen queen in wrist guards!

    1. Teri Post author

      Poor Marilyn is right. I, too, write most of my content on the screen, Cat. I can’t handwrite that much without hand cramps! That said, I’m pretty sure I think better when I have to write slower, which can only be done with a pen and paper ….

    2. Downith

      I love Frida Kahlo – her art, her enigmatic persona. I saw a great one woman play – Frida K – about her years ago in Toronto, and she really dominated Kingsolver’s The Lacuna.

      And Cat, I hate when books borrowed are not returned. I “lost” two hardback Alice Munro collections to a former friend. I still feel their loss keenly whenever anyone mentions her or lost books…

  5. macdougalstreetbaby

    Well, I’m spooked. Jennifer Egan’s journal looks exactly like mine.

  6. Lyra

    My day is looking up. Looks like it’s me and my man Einstein. Is it wrong that I wish it was Kahlo? Her journal is worthy of being framed, like she couldn’t contain her words or images. I want art to pervade my life like that, be uncontrollable.

  7. Josephine

    i got the jennifer egan thing going on as well. (laura, i thought yours would be more glasser like, with that cat).

    how great are notebooks? it’s like getting to see someone’s dream.

    i bought a new notebook a couple weeks ago that’s about two inches worth of unlined pages with a blank cardboard colored cover. i glued the anais nin quote to the cover: And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

    the inside is still blank.

  8. lisahgolden

    These are such a kick! I’m a blend of Jennifer Egan and David Foster Wallace. Mostly neat and organized with the occasional marginalia, stickers and drawings.

    I’m please to report that I’ve introduced another young person to the joys and utility of keeping journals. She sent me a text today to let me know that she’s already filling the pages with her thoughts. Yes!!!!!

  9. Bobbi

    Clearly I am anal-retentive, memory impaired woman. Mine is all just stuff I scrawl so I don’t for get it. Incredibly boring. Ranges from clever blog post title ideas to “buy toilet paper”, sigh.

  10. girl in the hat

    I have notebooks but I don’t’ always have them with me, so i end up writing on old receipts I fish out from the bottom of my bag. Sometimes I write on my hand. In my car, I have a bunch of little scraps of paper blowing around. When I finally sit down to edit or write, I pull all these pieces together and sit like a crazy lady in a nest of garbage.

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