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Sometimes, a few paragraphs of fiction written a long time back return, and then you have to turn our study upside down to find them, written who knows when on some scrap of paper or a tattered notebook. You keep digging, finally let go, but those words won’t let go, and you have to find what you had written originally, because you can’t remember enough to re-write them.

This happens to me often, and no matter how hard I try to be organized, not start on a new notebook till I have finished an old one, file the notebooks away in a drawer, the simple fact is this: handwritten notes do not come with a search function.

Drives me nuts sometimes, and I’m taking to making notes on the comp from time to time. It is just that the moment I sit in my study in front of the computer, my brain moves into “work” gear. For fiction, I need “trance” or “play” gear. Which is good news when I need to revise, but bad for first drafts.


But, leaving this post half- done, I went browsing (as usual) and found that Agatha Christie was very similar, never continuing with her notes in one book, adding grocery and to-do lists to her notebook.

So at least, I’m in good company, and that ought to cheer me up. Having said that, I can’t find the notebook I was writing on yesterday, and it is driving me NUTS !!!

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Damyanti says:

    Lola, well I'm not as alone as I thought, then.

  • Damyanti says:

    Scott, you're so right. Computers leave me cold. And I need to be malleable and flexible and in a trance when I'm writing!

    Lola, am so glad to know there are kindred souls out there! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Lola Sharp says:

    Well, this pretty much sums me up. As in my writing and my entire life.
    I feel your pain.


  • Oh, I know all about this. I do most of my writing longhand and I have a small trunk filled with handwritten notes and drafts of stories and novels. I make notes on receipts, post-its, the endpapers of whatever novel I'm reading at the time, and there is no way to collect all of this material together, and–as you say–there is no search function for it. But I can't be creative on a computer; it's necessary for me to see my handwriting on the page, to be able to cross words or sentences or pages out but still see what it is that I've crossed it out and where within the drafted passages the deletions are. And all the marginalia and unrelated notes somehow are a part of the process, too.

    We're given computers as tools, but in my case at least, the computer demands that I work in a way that is foreign to the creative act, that stifles inspiration and the fictional dreamstate. The computer ends up being merely a filecabinet, and not a very good one for me.

    But I like my notebooks. Sometimes I sit and read through notes that are a decade or more old and see what my mind looked like back then, and discover the most wonderful ideas that I can use right now. I don't think I'd ever do that with a file on a computer.

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