Friday Speak Out!: Overcoming New Notebook Anxiety

Friday, April 19, 2019
by Diane DeMasi Johnson

I crack open a new special notebook. It’s large and its pages are smooth. It’s beautiful, it inspires me to write, but I can’t write just any notion, wayward thought, filler fluff, or other banality.

I can write only deep, meaningful, magnificent, literary stories, memories, and life-altering insights. And I must not make one mistake or use anything but my best penmanship.

Could I ever fill a notebook of this size with only glorious writing and impactful thoughts? How long would that take: A year, two years, or a lifetime? What if I couldn’t even fill it in a lifetime?

So I slip the notebook on a shelf reserved for all the beautiful journals that bring me joy and I stare at them, waiting for inspiration so powerful that it’s worthy to grace the pages.

Instead of overwhelming inspiration, I get a hefty dose of guilt. I spent good money; I shouldn’t let it go to waste. And failure – clearly I have no thoughts worthy enough for these pages and I don’t have enough talent to bubble up a conviction that will be remembered forever.

I pull out the cheap composition notebooks bought during back-to-school sales. I scrawl all the mundane tasks running through my brain: Eat breakfast, shower, oh good-grief – clean the shower. I write about nothing. Truly, nothing: I have nothing to say, but I need to finish this page, what thoughts do I have? Nothing. I have nothing, nada, zilch, zip, zero. I am nothing.

And then I reach for the beautiful notebook, in the perfect size, with the perfect leather cover, and the smooth, fountain pen-friendly pages and I scratch, scribble, and scrawl about nothing. I feel better. I feel joy. I feel like a writer whose nothing is worth something. My scribbles and scrawls unburden my soul and release the seeds that produce articles, essays, blogs, short stories and more. And that unburdening is worth gracing the finest of all notebook pages.

* * *
Diane DeMasi Johnson challenges herself by trying her hand at any and all writing styles from web content to business catalog copy, from short stories to novels, from essays to informative articles, and more. She's been published in Sacramento Parent, S.I. Parent, North State Parent, AllYou Magazine, Shape, PIF Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul Dreams and Premonitions, and more. 
You can find her at

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Diane--I have so many lovely, pristine journals. I have a bunch of composition notebooks that are partially filled... When I misplace one notebook, I grab another one, which is then added to the collection.

I'm saving the leather-bound journals and the beautifully decorated journals for some special occasion. Some really cool writing event. It reminds me of the old-fashioned parlors. They never got used except for high and holy occasions.

Thanks for making me nod in agreement, for making me chuckle at myself. Maybe the next time I do some writing at a coffee shop or at a park, I'll pull out one of those fancy journals... and I'll write in it.

Good luck with your future writing, and thanks for submitting this post.

Diane J. said...

Thank you, Sioux's Page. It took a little effort, to begin writing in one of my nice journals, and the horror when I first scratched out a misspelled word, oh my. But that seemed to free me.

And I have so much joy using the special notebooks. I hope you take your finest notebook the next time you go to write and I hope it brings you as much joy. Your thoughts are completely worthy of gracing those pages. :)

Jeanine DeHoney said...

What a beautiful essay Diane and a needed reminder for me to write in the pretty journals I can't stop buying instead of my 99 cent notebooks.

Diane J. said...

Thank you, Jeanine.

Yes, use those pretty journals, they will be even prettier filled with your words.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Oh my gosh, Diane, this rocks! It's so me. I have a collection of too-pretty journals sitting unadorned on my bookshelves. That's it. You've inspired me to pull one out and put it to good use, even though my handwriting is about as elegant as a serial killer with carpal tunnel syndrome. ;)

Diane J. said...

Thank you, Angela.

I'm still laughing at your handwriting description. That cracked me up.

My Rs look like Vs and my Bs look like Ls. It gets interesting when I try to read my notes, LOL.

I guess we don't have to worry about anyone deciphering our notebooks. :)

Julie Robinson said...

Thank you, thank you for this post! Everything was me up til the last part about actually writing in one of them. I feel a bit of the burden lifted, knowing it’s not just me. I will endeavor to write in one perhaps tonight.

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