Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The observant eye: a suggestion and a giveaway

I saw an adequate movie recently in which a man writes a barely fictionalized memoir that becomes a best-seller. The movie tracks the impact of the memoir on his family, his siblings and his relationships. It's not pretty though parts were terribly funny. My favorite part of the movie was a dinner scene, where the entire extended family gathered to celebrate the patriarch's birthday, someone characterized in the memoir as wonderful but really a mean-spirited, money-grubbing inattentive father and philandering husband. The dinner rapidly falls apart into some of the more painfully funny film scenarios I've seen recently and, in the midst of it, the memoir-writer pulls out a notebook and starts taking notes.

That was it, the golden moment of the movie, the glimmer of truth and the place where I saw myself.

I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go. Most writers, artists, observers of the world do. I jot down all different kinds of things - overheard conversation, a name that strikes my fancy, a story idea, a poorly-rendered sketch of scene I don't want to forget. I often write things down at inopportune moments.

If you're not already doing so, I urge you to do the same. Make note of your world. Observe the planet around you, the shades of brown in bark, the sound of a taxi, the odd turn of phrase, how you feel in this moment in this place. You don't know what you'll do with this material, but at a bare minimum it will make you more observant of the world around you. And you may end up crafting your next great work from it.

To help you out, I'd like to give you a notebook. I've taken two Moleskine  notebooks (one red and one tan) and tweaked them. You can see them here:
What's more, I've put occasional prompts, questions, images and other items into the notebooks themselves. Each one is unique.

Leave a comment below or send me an email as to why you'd like one of these notebooks. I'll pull two names at random and will announce winners next week.

(c)2011 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. Laura, you've inspired me! I tend to take personal notes here and there, it would make sense to keep them in one tidy, little place. :)

  2. Okay, I'll bite. I wouldn't have. Would just have gone on in my lurking life as usual. But for one word: "adequate." With "movie." I have always been fond of truly accurate understatements. In the 1960s and 70s (who knows? perhaps still? but I doubt it) Bewley's Oriental Cafe in Grafton Street in Dublin, beloved of James Joyce and others, would at Christmas time put a large, dignified sign in its front window: "Bewley's teas make acceptable gifts."
    So what does this have to do with wanting a notebook? It's this: I confess that I am a failed journal-writer. I have started to write a journal even more often than I have re-learnt how to knit. Oh, I write like blazes for a day or two, entries worth keeping, revisiting, mining for gems (maybe). And then I poop out. So what your suggestion offers me is the chance to write LESS, and less regularly. To pop in the things I hear/think that make me say to myself, "I'll never forget this!" And then I forget them really fast.
    If you give me a notebook, I'll pledge to write shards and bits in it. To keep it and do that. And if I fail, I'll give you a bottle of wine. Come to think of it, I might do that anyway, just as insurance....


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