I have notebooks everywhere. There is one I carry in my bag as I am out doing my errands. Another sits on my work desk. Still others lurk on the shelves of another room, and there is one beside my bed.
Why all this paper in the digital age?
It’s partly habit. I kept a diary for years. Something about the pen moving across paper, kept in a beautiful binding, was very attractive to me. I don’t do much diary writing these days, but after spending years in university, I had developed the habit of taking notes on important ideas, information, and details.
I still do this. Some of my notebooks are for music related projects. I jot down ideas for music videos, song arrangements, and the details of meetings with people I might work with to make these ideas into reality. Often there are lists of things I need to do to get a particular project started or finished.
I am always writing myself “To Do” lists actually, which is one reason why carrying a notebook around when I am out is so useful. But there is another reason I need them. It’s because you never know when inspiration will strike. I’ll be walking along, minding my business, and then a few words will begin to suggest themselves in my mind. Sometimes it’s an image that I have to find words to develop. Just as often, the words come with a melody, at which point I grab my phone and record a few seconds of me singing it, so I can remember it later.
I’ve learned from experience that these little sparks have to be captured when they happen. Otherwise they disappear. One of my favorite songs happened this way.
It was late one winter evening and I had been listening to some jug band music . Something about the sound of it made me think of summer, and I curled up in bed with it echoing in my head. I was drifting off toward sleep when a few words presented themselves. There’s a summer day in Georgia, I’ll wait for you there...
I realized that I had to write this down, or the idea would vanish forever. It was nearly midnight, but I grabbed my notebook and went out to the kitchen where I turned on the light and began writing. Two whole verses, full of sound and smell and sense of place tumbled out onto paper very quickly. The lilacs are spilling their scent on the air….Somebody’s barbecue flavours the breeze. The chorus came then too.
I stopped my frantic writing, and smiled. The entire concept of the song and its details were all there on the page. I went to bed content, and the next morning, after reviewing my notes, I wrote a third verse.
The result was “Back Country Blues”, which always feels a bit like a lullaby to me. It has that sense of traveling to a place in your mind, and is about an experience brought on by longing. It’s one of my favorite songs, and will be on my upcoming album “Borderless Sky”.
Meanwhile, I’m always adding things to my notebooks. You’ll probably see more of the results soon.