A Writer’s Mind: Notebooks of Famous Folks

Though I love the flexibility that modern technology offers to writers, a bit of beauty is lost when authors create their works using computers. With that in mind, today I want to feature some of the physical remnants of the work of writers. Some of these are notebooks filled with scraps of stories, others are journals, and still others fall somewhere between. Regardless of how we define them they give us a peek into the minds of their owners.

—     —     —

Jack Kerouac’s notebook from 1953, via
If you look closely, you can see that Kerouac wrote about Allen Ginsberg and Jerry Newman here.


Jennifer Egan’s diary, June-July 1981, via

Jennifer Egan Diary.jpeg

Marianne Moore’s journal, Dec. 30, 1920, via
This entry discusses Moore’s thoughts on the writing of Mina Loy.

Marianne Moore.gif

Mark Twain’s 1884 notebook, via
In true writerly style, these pages are filled with possible name ideas for one of Twain’s characters. The character was to be a doctor as you may be able to guess by the theme behind the names. (Poor Cancer Cullins and Dysentery Jones.)


Herman Melville’s journal, 1850, via

Hermann Melville.jpg

John Steinbeck’s journal, 1938-1941, via


—     —     —

Though I only journal when compelled by some arcane science that I will never truly understand, I appreciate seeing the way these authors put words to paper. The physicality of it is striking in a way that typing words for a computer screen is not. I am also impressed that all of these notebooks survived; I hope to have the chance to burn mine before I die. (Though that implies they contain interesting secrets. They do not.)

If you have strong opinions on diaries or keep writers notebooks of your own, please share! It’s always fascinating to discover how people write.


30 thoughts on “A Writer’s Mind: Notebooks of Famous Folks

  1. I remember seeing a locket Josephine had given to her husband, Napoleon, as a gift. He supposedly carried it with him into exile. It was interesting, yes, but nothing compared to a letter I saw from Byron, written in his own hand, to George Washington. That letter–as opposed to a locket–seemed to invoke more of the absent human. It was more personal. I couldn’t take my eyes from it. Written with a quill, the ink blobs, the stains, the beautiful cursive letters–it brought the man to life.

    Handwriting brings one so close to the other. It is sad that we don’t write as much as in the days of old! In my family we used to write letters frequently. Computers stopped all of that. I do keep a journal, but its so mundane it’s hard to believe anyone would get past the second page…or the first for that matter!

    Wonderful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is something special about letters from a time when penmanship and writing to one another was more of an art. I can’t imagine anyone holding up one of my emails as a beautiful piece of history, but that is what we do with letters of old. (Of course that may only say something about my ability to write emails…)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kristin, I love seeing these from such famous authors!! Steinbeck’s is so neat and tidy. I keep a journal, then a five year journal and have two bed drawers full of diaries going back to when I was ten. I’m now beginning to wonder what to do with them all?!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is marvellous – what a wonderful resource and you are right as we can see a slice of the real person by looking at their writing process, handwriting and all… BUT I’m in the process of putting digitising my notebooks and putting them onto my computer – because all those cool ideas are difficult to access while trapped within years and years of notebooks…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The Mark Twain names are priceless!
    I DO have a notebook in which I scribble away from time to time, mostly ideas for book reviews. Unfortunately, my writing is so bad I often can’t read it back. Best stick to the computer.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Haha! I love this! I don’t journal often (not like when I was a kid), but I do when some powerful emotion overwhelms me and the script is definitely as unintelligible as a few of the ones above. :p If I ever became famous, I’d probably leave them for someone to find. Otherwise they’re probably gonna end up in the trash. Haha! (We can all dream big, right? :p)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: escreversonhar

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s