Inside the Notebooks of Artists, Writers, and Creators

December 15, 2015 Andres Terranova

If you’ve lived a few years on this earth, you must have figured out by now that your brain is unreliable.

It forgets, distorts, and betrays you every time you let it. Where are your keys, and why are you watching giraffe fails on youtube when you were supposed to be searching for that killer recipe?

Luckily, it’s possible to have an external brain — one that doesn’t forget your million-dollar ideas, notes, doodles, and book ideas. Here at manuscript we are hopelessly in love with pocket notebooks, and craft our notebooks to look as beautiful as can be.

Join us as we take a peek inside the notebooks of remarkable people across all industries. We’re sure you’ll be surprised how similar they are to your own scribbles and doodles.

Kurt Cobain

 “I’ve never been a very prolific person, so when creativity flows, it flows. I find myself scribbling on little notepads and pieces of loose paper, which results in a very small portion of my writings to ever show up in true form."

cobain journal
On Kurt Cobain’s Journals (buy it on amazon here) you’ll find the tragic and brilliant reflections of a beautiful and disturbed mind. See his 6 points on life advice above, and his scathing critique of commercialism below.  

JK Rowling

 And the idea of just wandering off to a cafe with a notebook and writing and seeing where that takes me for awhile is just bliss."

 What does it take to change the landscape of modern literature and create one of the most universally praised literary works of all time? For JK Rowling, it’s organization with a dash of penmanship. We can’t stop obsessing about her manual plot spreadsheet detailing the fifth Harry Potter book, The Order of the Phoenix.
This page covers chapters 13 - 24, from prophecies to romantic subplots — it’s all there. Another cool factoid: Jo considers herself a collector of names, and has said she has notebooks full of them.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

"You must begin by making notes. You may have to make notes for years…. When you think of something, when you recall something, put it where it belongs. Put it down when you think of it. You may never recapture it quite as vividly the second time."

 Gatsby’s author was a notorious daily scribbler, recording everything from his stray thoughts and observations to his famed financial ledger, where he recorded all earnings from his literary works:
F. Scott Fitzgerald notebook The Great Gatsby
His entries were organised into categories such as “Descriptions of girls,” “Conversations overheard,” and “Feelings and Emotions.” 
He was also a big fan of indexing, like we are. If you really want the most of your writings, it’s important to index:
Fitzgerald Great Gatsby journal
Check out the first page of The Great Gatsby handwritten by Fitzgerald himself below. Gems like these are what keep us busy jotting down everything in our manuscripts.
Handwritten great gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

Ernest Hemingway

“I belong to this notebook and this pencil."

It’s hard to think of a more passionate student of pocket notebooks than Pa Hemingway, and it’s easy to see why. The infamous writer filled notebook after notebook in Parisian cafes and all his travels and adventures.
Ernest Hemingway notebook
Above: a scrapped passage in one of the notebooks used to write The Sun Also Rises.
ernest hemingway pocket notebooks
A packing list for a trip to Cabo Blanco, Peru.
Papa’s notebooks were not only creative outlets for what would become his masterpieces. He jotted down everything, true to the notion that the cure for an unreliable — and often drunk — brain is having an external brain. 
hemingway notebook the sun also rises
He was also known for drafting angry letters to people he disagreed with that were never sent, venting his own anger in the pages of his notebooks, another great addition to the many uses of pocket notebooks.
It’s hard to think of the word ‘cute’ when thinking about Ernest Hemingway, but the below note on one of his first notebook when he was in elementary school is just too adorable.
Note how little Hemingway declares his name and his intentions to “travel and write.” Mission accomplished, Pa.

Sylvia Plath

Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences."

sylvia plath the bell jar notebook
Sylvia Plath’s original and dated manuscript draft of Stings
Sylvia embraced doodling all around her journals and notebooks. Above, she describes her nightmare about being chased by a hot dog and a marshmallow. Sadly, this did not make it into The Bell Jar.
On this journal page, she describes the Yaddo furnishings on Smith memorandum stationary.

Mark Twain

Twain’s life long relationship with his pocket notebooks began when he was a teen training to become a cub pilot of a steamboat on the Mississippi. His mentor Horace Bixby said to him, “You must get a little memorandum-book, and every time I tell you a thing, put it down right away."
mark twain notebook cub scout
Above: Twain’s first notebook when he was 21 in the Mississippi.
A page from A Family Sketch: a manuscript tribute to Twain’s daughter, who passed away at 24. The manuscript contains intimate details of Twain’s household, including servants.

Neil Gaiman

To me, typing is like work. Writing with a pen is like playing."

neil gaiman notebook
Neil Gaiman likes notebooks so much that he writes entire novels on them! For Stardust, he says: “In my head I wanted it to be written in the same way it would have been in the 1920s, so I bought a big notepad and Waterman pen.” 
If you still haven’t checked it out, Neil writes extensively about his writing process and habits in his blog. Get schooled.
Tell us, who's your notebook soulmate from this list? Tweet us below!
Keep on doodling, kids! Start now.


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1 comment

  • Kacepr

    Nov 04, 2016

    hey that’s pretty good

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