Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Blank Notebook

by Keith Badowski

This article originally appeared in the Georgia Poetry Society newsletter, Spring 2009.

Prior to my passion for poetry, it was comics—first Charlie Brown and then Spider-Man. I practiced drawing Snoopy as one continuous contour line, lifting the pen only when his leg met his distended belly, so I could darken his teardrop ear with scribbles and draw on his collar.

In childhood, I lost track of so many things: how many times I copied Charles Schultz, how many times I scanned the stationary isle while my parents shopped for groceries. How magnetized I was to the tablet of unlined paper and filled with the anticipation of comic strips I would draw, copying the Sunday comics in pencil, cramming in the speech and thought balloons, carefully putting the printed words inside, tracing overtop it all in black ballpoint ink. When Mom would agree to place the tablet of paper in the shopping cart, she’d make me promise to use it all up, every page, before asking for another. Most likely she knew I’d never use the entirety of any tablet I’d been granted.

Yes, as my wife knows, it’s the same story today; I buy a new notebook—a book of blankness, bursting with the untapped energy of potential: a novel might finally get written or a sequence of sonnets to put the Bard to shame, or the creation of an iconic character, the likes of Spider-Man or Sherlock Holmes.

I own four-hundred and forty notebooks, all of which have been written in, but still include some or even many blank pages. I have never completed a novel and never written a single sonnet with which I’ve been completely satisfied. Yet I bought this new notebook on which I am writing with the antsy hope that the freezer-box of my head might defrost, that the blank yet lined pages might absorb some words for me.

This notebook actually sat untouched in my junk mail pile in the kitchen for a week. Its red cover taunted me, as if to say, ‘Stop! Write, if you can.’ But none of it worked even though I’d felt that same childhood excitement in the checkout line, that inner mantra of ‘My notebook, mine! My notebook, mine!’ as I carried it to my car.

Late one night, while in bed, the notebook out of sight but yet in mind, I told my wife that it’s been ages since I’ve written anything, “My creativity has dried up.” In the dark, I heard her say, “Why don’t you go out and treat yourself to a brand new notebook, a fresh start.”

I snuggled up right against her and wrapped my arms around her and told her how much I loved her and how sweet it was that she would say that, especially when in our office there are so many unfinished notebooks. I confessed too that I’d already splurged on such a purchase, that this red notebook, lay awaiting my pen and how no new writing had yet occurred. I confessed that I’d wasted an hour in the morning on checking email and browsing the web for TV and movie gossip. And I told her of the boy I’d once been who had rejoiced at the fresh blank tablet, what a thrill it had been to receive that collection of potential.

The conversation between me and my wife happened last night, and my heart is still full from my wife’s generous suggestion. Sure, a notebook costs so little, but it seems extravagance when you’ve got shelves full in the other room. I’m grateful for her blessing upon my creative endeavor, even though she categorizes most of what I write as ‘so weird.’ This time it took her love to loose these words, to bless the moving of my pen. Her love ignited this—what I have written this morning.

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