Discover more from The Writing Shed with Tommy Tomlinson
Stuff that works
The comfort of a tool you love, plus Links of the Week: Yetis and bros, the Trapper Keeper, and how to have fun again
Before we get going, a quick reminder: I’m going to do an AMA (Ask Me Anything) post for paid subscribers only on Sept. 15. I got some very good questions this week but I’d love to see more. Ask anything you like! I’ll be taking questions through Sept. 14. Just leave your question in the comments or reply to this post.
Two dozen fresh notebooks arrived in the mail the other day. I feel whole again.
I’ve been using these same Portage reporter’s notebooks* for at least 35 years, since my first job out of college. I’ve occasionally tried other notebooks—larger ones, smaller ones, ones that open from the side, ones with unlined pages. Those flings have never been satisfying. I always come back.
*I guess I should make clear that this is not an official endorsement … although it would be fun to live in a world where writers got paid to endorse their gear. “Hi, I’m Stephen King for Bic pens!”
These are the notebooks I’ve taken to murder trials and Final Fours, Metallica concerts and presidential speeches, the top of the Space Needle on a perfect Seattle day and the stands of Lambeau Field in a wind chill of 28-below. (Pro tip: In that kind of cold, bring pencils. Ink freezes.)
I’ve saved hundreds of them over the years—ones where I worked on special stories, or pieces I might come back to someday. Every so often the piles get too big and I purge some of them, but I always go through them first. They’re like strange little diaries of my work life. Notes I can’t decipher anymore. Stories I’d forgotten I wrote. I’ve never been much of a saver. But I do have a little tinge of regret when I toss out a notebook, even if the notes inside were no longer interesting or useful. It’s like tossing a little chunk of memory.
The thing that matters most to me about this notebook is that I can count on it. You’d be surprised at how companies can mess up something as simple as a notebook. I’ve had notebooks where the pages fell out or got hung up every time I tried to flip a page. I’ve had some where the spiral binding just broke. I just want a notebook that does what it’s supposed to.
The late Texas troubadour Guy Clark wrote a song called “Stuff That Works”:
Stuff that works, stuff that holds up
The kind of stuff you don't hang on the wall
Stuff that's real, stuff you feel
The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall
I’ve still got some of my dad’s old tools. Even if I don’t use his hammer as well as he did, I know it knows what to do. That’s how I feel about these notebooks. They know what to do. It’s a comforting feeling.
10 things I wanted to share this week:
My earlier post this week was one from the archives, marking the anniversary of when Dorothy Counts integrated the Charlotte schools, and the story I wrote about it 50 years later.
My weekly for WFAE was about how people were actually thinking about labor on this Labor Day.
I loved this podcast with Michael Schur talking to Steven Johnson about morality and ethics … and about the value of working together in the same physical place … and also about the nuances of making great comedy. It’s just 49 minutes of brilliant stuff.
The artist Wendy MacNaughton created an illustrated guide on how to have fun again.
DOG NEWS: While I work on my book, I’m devoting this slot to dog stories. This week: A 10th-century essay on the superiority of dogs.
One of my favorite cultural thinkers, Amanda Mull, on Yeti coolers as a symbol of bro culture.
The science and psychology of being an NFL kicker, through the eyes of Justin Tucker, the best to ever do it.
RIP E. Bryant Crutchfield … you probably don’t know his name but probably do know his invention: the Trapper Keeper.
And finally, RIP Queen Elizabeth II. I know it’s a solemn occasion for many, but this bit from Brian Regan was the first thing I thought of. I’d like to believe that she would have enjoyed it, too.
See y’all next week, everybody.
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