Too Many Sparks (Alissa Grosso)

Right now the office supply stores are having their annual Back to School sales, despite the fact that it's a full month and a half before schools (at least around these parts) are back in session, and even though I'm not a student, teacher or parent, I still get excited for this time of year. It's time to go out and stock up on shiny new notebooks. As a writer, I love notebooks, especially shiny new ones. 

You would think that in this high-tech world of ours a writer would have no use for a paper notebook, and maybe there are some who don't bother with them, but I'm a bit old fashioned. I don't write out any of my books longhand. (I'm old fashioned, but not insane!) But I do like to sketch out ideas, outlines, character descriptions and other assorted notes in notebooks. When I get a spark for a new idea, I try to corral my thoughts with the help of one of my trusty notebooks.

My current notebook stash.

But you're probably wondering why I need so many notebooks. I mean, how many books can I possibly write in a given year, right? Well, here's the problem, I find myself with a whole lot of sparks, too many of them, really, and unfortunately most of them don't become full fledged conflagrations. 

Because, as anyone who has ever tried to deliberately start a fire knows, getting it to take can be a tricky thing. First of all, you need to make sure you have some decent kindling, and you've got to get that all set up first, a sort of foundation for your fire. Then you need to make sure your wood is good. If it's too wet or too green, you're going to get nothing but smoke. Then you'll have to have the patience to fan the flames and coax the fire along. Once you do get it going, you need to keep feeding it, or it's just going to die out. Building a fire, like writing a book, is hard work.

To me the spark is the easy part, it's the whole rest of it that takes work. My problem is I don't have the patience to fan those flames. Or maybe when I do try to fan them, I find myself getting a face full of metaphorical smoke when I find out that I've got nothing but lousy wood. Depending on my mood I'll persist in building my fire and hammer out a first draft, but often I find myself giving up and starting over from scratch.

An assortment of sparks await some fanning on my desk.

I know there's plenty of sparks, and so I set that idea aside and dive into a new one. So, that's why I went out to Staples and stocked up on 25 cent notebooks. I've got more sparks than I know what to do with, but one of these sparks is going to turn into the biggest bonfire you ever saw. 

Just below my blank notebook drawer is a drawer filled with abandoned  (ahem, smoldering) notebooks.

And just to be clear, I'm talking metaphorically here, I'm not actually going to burn my notebooks. Not even the duds, because sometimes those lackluster fires just need to smolder for a really long time before they're ready to dazzle us with orangey red flames.


  1. I LOVE this post. I too am trying to transition from cavewoman A to B, in some areas faster than others. Thanks for writing this!

  2. Alissa-all the notebooks! I can't pass them up at school supply time. So many ideas. So much paper.

  3. Marble composition notebooks are my favorite. Great post!


Post a Comment