I really love it when things show up in my life that are such a good match to something I’ve been pondering, or thinking about doing.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about keeping a journal, and I talked about my idea that I might have luck, finally, with journaling if I just let myself write whatever I wanted in it. I wouldn’t demand consistency from myself; I’d just let the journal take shape with all the scraps of my life and thoughts and imaginings that I might think to jot down.
So after writing that post, I did start journaling, exactly as I mentioned: eclectic snippets of this and that. And I discovered myself also jotting down notes about different story ideas too, because they are so much a part of my daily thoughts.
Then, two days ago, I ran into the library to pick up a few holds and, as I normally do, I checked out the “new books” shelves. And I discovered this book:
I’m pretty sure I gave a gasp of delight. Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks! I’m a huge Christie fan, and as a writer the thought of reading through her notebooks is so very exciting.
I’ve read the first few chapters and it’s such a delight to see how she worked out her story ideas in her notebooks. What’s even more wonderful is the discovery that Christie used her notebooks in much the same way I’ve just started using my own blank journals:
She employed her Notebooks as diaries, as scribblers, as telephone-message pads, as travel logs, as household accounts ledgers; she used them to draft letters, to list Christmas and birthday presents, to scribble to-do reminders, to record books read and books to read, to scrawl travel directions. She sketched maps of Warmsley Heath (Taken at the Flood) and St. Mary Mead in them; she doodled the jacket design for Sad Cypress and the stage setting for Afternoon at the Seaside in them; she drew diagrams of the plane compartment from Death in the Clouds and the island from Evil under the Sun in them.
Part of the pleasure of working with the Notebooks is derived from the fact that when you turn a page you never know what you will read. The plotting of the latest Poirot novel can be interrupted by a poem written for Rosalind’s birthday; a page headed, optimistically, “Things to do” is sandwiched between the latest Marple and an unfinished stage play. A phone number and message break the flow of a new radio play; a list of new books disrupts the intricacies of a murderer’s timetable; a letter to The Times disturbs the new Westmacott novel.(p. 68-69)
Christie didn’t even stick to just one notebook at a time. She kept a batch of them around, never dated anything, and in one notebook there are notes that span 17 years!
This is the notebook habit that I have just started, and Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks is inspiring me to keep on track with my own eclectic form of journaling.
And eventually we come to the realisation that, in fact, this very randomness is her method; this is how she worked, how she created, how she wrote. She thrived mentally on chaos, it stimulated her more than neat order; rigidity stifled her creative process. (p. 74)
I’m still digging into this book, and so far it’s been really wonderful to see how she worked on plot ideas amid other snippets of her life; if you’re an Agatha Christie fan and a writer, too, I think this is definitely something you might want to check out. The only thing to keep in mind is that there are, as author John Curran warns, hints to the endings of various of her works scattered throughout. Since I’ve read almost all of Christie’s novels, this isn’t a problem for me; if you haven’t, each chapter very considerately includes, at the beginning, a list of books for which the solutions have been revealed.