Notebooks: A Roadmap of The Past, Present and Future
Nicole Decsey on how notebooks help her document her dance life and how they can do wonders for your dance life too.
Welcoming in the new year feels like a fresh start, a new chapter and a clean page. And what better way to start that next chapter of your life than with a brand-new notebook? Keep your notes and brain organized for a change and enjoy the feeling of checking off everything you wanted to get done. It’s time to start moving and accomplishing your 2021 goals and resolutions.
I don’t know about you, but I love the feeling of checking off my schedule and my to do lists. I also love to have somewhere to keep all of my dance notes, someplace to write down revelations from classes and important talks from rehearsals, and camera angles for at home dance films. But then I also like having a place for my creative writing, my plans for the classes I teach and my choreography ramblings. All of this can’t go in the same place. Different parts of your life belong in different worlds and your notebooks need to reflect that. At least that’s how I see it. But I will admit I can get a little notebook crazy.
Now, there are so many different types of notebooks out there. Notebooks with lines and those without, notebooks with wire spirals and those with flat spines, notebooks with inspirational quotes and those with artistic designs. It’s important to know what you are using your scratch pad for and what your style is for that part of your life you are jotting down.
You make think I am silly, but I am very picky about my notebooks and I live my life by them, so it matters what I use.
For my schedule: An Agenda
This is the most important part of my list of notebooks, which is why it is my first. I live my life by my agenda and would not be able to function in my crazy world and in my weird schedule without it. I use a wire ringed weekly agenda with lots of space for each day, a calendar at the beginning of each month and space for notes at the end of each month. There are also tabs between each month making it easier to find the page I need fast. The layout of your agenda may be different than mine, but definitely make sure you know what you are using it for and what kind of layout you need. Cause once you pick it you are stuck with it for the whole year.
Aside from the particulars of the format of your daily planner, it is important to have this notebook inspire you and make you excited. If you are going to look at something every day, it better not be something that elicits no emotions from you or is boring. We are running fast into 2021, a year of combatting boredom and screen glare and being stuck inside. So, start inspiring yourself with the little things and then see what happens from there.
For my writing: Artistic Notebook
Creative writing is a passion of mine. Writing short stories, poems or scribbling down little moments in time is a fascinating and captivating creative outlet for me. It is another escape and it’s all in the details. The description of a place, a character, or a feeling can allow you to drop into another world, another dimension.
Now, if you are going to be doing some creative writing, you need lots of room to get your thoughts out. You don’t need to be worrying about saving space or wasting pages. Your scribbles that you never use are just as important as the beautiful harrowing words in your finest poem. In my opinion, a creative writing journal should not have quotes on the front. All of the words, all of the poignant phrases, are going to be just past that front cover and they are going to be yours. Not someone else’s. A picture is worth a thousand words, and starting with a design that evokes a feeling or a thought will not only give you a feeling for what this journal means but when others see it they too will understand the significance of the simple drawing and its representation of the colours that are created within the binding.
For a creative writing notebook, I also suggest lines. You can choose to follow these lines or not, you have artistic license over your own work. But if you choose to follow the lines at some point in your creative ventures, it will add a little structure to your work, giving room for editing and making it easier to come back and read what you have written. And then when you are brainstorming, write all over the page and forget about the lines. Break the rules and feel the freedom of it.
Editor's note: Nicole didn't mention this, but she sometimes uses her creative writing as spoken word pieces for her choreographic creations!
For my teaching notes: scrap paper and a binder
When I started writing down class plans, I used scrap paper and kept everything together with a clip. I was inspired by rehearsals I had in college with Valarie Calam. She would come into the space every day with a clip board full of scrap paper and she would use those pieces of paper to write tasks and prompts and different orders of the sections we were going to try each day as we created the piece. She used colours and cut out triangles and circles and squares and made our piece out of an arts and crafts shuffle of shreds of paper. And it just made so much sense to me. So, I took a page out of her notebook.
Over the pandemic I've been teaching so many online classes, each one being extremely different from the other. One day I would be teaching a princess tea party and the next I would be teaching intro to hip hop. And it became obvious that I needed to keep my notes together in a better way than just a big clip. So, I got out an old school binder and started using lined paper. It makes my life just that much easier in comparison to punching holes in every piece of scrap paper I decide to use. Now, every class I teach has its own sheet or many sheets of scribbled notes, thoughts and ideas. And when I am teaching a class that I have already taught, I just flip though the binder and find what I am looking for. Simple, easy and efficient. I also plan to use a binder when I finally create a large-scale work and need somewhere to write down all of my task based creative prompts. I believe that writing is an important part of any creative process.
Last but certainly not least: My everything notebook
These are the kind of notebooks where I put all of my notes from rehearsals, dance classes, film sessions, creative ideas brainstormed with colleagues and more. Everything goes into this notebook, and on the very first page I always put the date I got it and what chapter of my life I have started. For instance, one I started at the beginning of college and another I started my first year out of college. These books essentially represent my creative life. They have a little bit of everything in them. When I finish one of these notebooks, I can look back to see when I started it and what I did creatively in the years that I used it. In a way, I guess these notebooks become my dance diaries.
Come up with your own notebook ideas, the sky is the limit!
Again, there are so many different styles, sizes and types of notebooks out there. Pick what is going to work best for you and your situation.
Have multiple notebooks, one for each artistic outlet and then keep them, store them somewhere and years later you can look back at your life through your own words and thoughts and scribblings. A picture may be worth a thousand words but there is no better way to truly get back into your headspace than by reading your own words and seeing your own handwriting. Maybe you were in a rush that day or on a bus or feeling excited. No matter what the situation, your mood and location will change your writing style and penmanship and will become a roadmap of your life.
Editor's Section: What dance notebooks are for sale this season?