My Secret Shame

Every how-to book on writing eventually gets around to advising the same thing; always carry a notebook. Take notes. Write down ideas. Jot down snippets of conversation you overhear. Commit to paper all you remember of your dreams right after you wake up. Make the pages and pen a part of your person. If you leave the house without at least a pencil and scrap of paper on your person, you are essentially naked.

Most authors, I suspect, would agree. I myself have espoused this to others. It’s an easy tool to wield, potentially invaluable.

And I have never once followed my own advice.

I don’t know why this should be. It’s not like I leave the house without my wallet or ID. I always carry my driver’s license. What if I’m hurt? It’s important that EMTs know that I’m an organ donor and can drive a Mazda.

But a notebook? Nope. On past occasions when I have carried one, it never once occurs to me to write anything down. Even if I’m sitting in a coffee shop and a concept pops into my brain that could save my flailing novel, nah, I’ll probably remember it. There’ve been many occasions where I wished I had something to write on. I’ve probably forgotten at least five potential novels.

Perhaps this is a delayed allergic reaction to decades of note taking in class after class after class. All told, I’ve got 23 years of formal education in me. There’s a substantial gathering of letters behind my name, and thousands upon thousands of pages hand-scrawled with frantic cursive scribblings for each one.

I get the romance behind the image; the grizzled author, so Hemingwayesque in appearance, pushes back his fedora and drags a battered moleskin pad out from his back pocket, quickly recording the underpinnings of his next masterpiece, rereading them with a satisfied smile as he strokes his unshaken face with one callused hand. Decades from now, his notebooks will be donated to his alma mater, every page a glimpse into the thinking processes of a literary genius.

Me? I’ll donate my tweets to whoever wants them. $20. Any takers?

Am I a bad author? Not in my actual writings (history will be my judge), but in my habits? Am I breaking some rule? Do I have to turn in my secret decoder ring?

I do take notes, of a sort. The most personal sort. I write on myself. I am my own notebook. Some days my hands are so laden with black-ink words I look like a tattooist’s practice dummy.

The words make no sense to anyone else. One day, the name Myfanwy took up the entirety of the easel that is the back of my left hand. Another day, Googlemaps Toronto. Once, my hands displayed the unnerving trio of gun, lessons, and kidnap. I’m very glad no one read my hands that day; I probably would have been arrested under suspicion of something.

Can I donate my skin? The last thoughts of Corey Redekop, hastily scrawled in Magic Marker on his right forearm. Just peel, tan, and you’ve got a real rarity on your hands.

I hope my last notes make sense. Just my luck, the Corey Redekop wing of the Canadian Literary Museum will place on display my final leathery thoughts: eggplant microphone narwhale.

And historians will debate their significance for all of ten seconds, because I was plainly insane.