NOTEBOOK PEOPLE: An Interview with Gregory Hazel // Trina O’Gorman

NOTEBOOK PEOPLE: An Interview with Gregory Hazel // Trina O’Gorman

If you’ve been following me on IG for at least a year, or if you read my essay about our trip to Germany last June and July 2022, then you’ve heard me talk about my good friend, Jeffrey. I’ve known Jeffrey for about seven or eight years. We met when I was his personal trainer at a private personal training gym. Our friendship grew from there, and he has been with me through some of the toughest times in my life and is one of my favorite friends and favorite people. He is an absolutely incredible human being. But this Notebook People profile isn’t even about Jeffrey. I only mentioned Jeffrey because he is my connection to Greg Hazel, who is featured in this month’s Notebook People essay. Greg is Jeffrey’s amazing and spectacularly creative notebook-using husband. I really didn’t realize that he even kept a journal until he shared photos of his travel journal with me last year in a DM. he was out for dinner in Italy, and had purposely spilled wine on the pages of his journal, as part of his memory-making process. It was at that very moment that I knew I had to interview Greg. 

I went back through my text messages to find the exchange in which he’d first told me about the wine-stained journal pages. On October 14, 2022, Greg sent a message to me telling me that he’d accidentally discovered a new trend for his journal. To tell you that I was honored to receive this text from Italy would be an understatement. Apparently, after accidentally spilling wine in his food journal, he decided to accidentally add drops of whatever he’s drinking to the page, “Whether it be coffee or wine or a fizzy soda. Today I drank a bitter espresso.” I couldn’t believe it, but I loved it. I, who has struggled with perfectionism for as long as I can remember, was mesmerized. I, who had thrown away barely used notebooks, because they’d somehow become ruined by some imperfection – a stain, a mistake, a bad day, A SPILL – was so drawn in by this creativity that to me seemed courageous. This “notebook peep” is so wildly and boundlessly creative, pushing boundaries while being profoundly insightful about so many aspects of the human experience. It was such a pleasure to talk to Greg about his tools and his processes, and I’m so absolutely delighted and excited to share him with you. 


It could be that I’m partial to notebook people, or that many notebook people are creatives or writers, but I’m pretty sure they are, bar none, some of the best storytellers that there are. Greg is further evidence of this assumption. Even though we’ve known each other for years now, we’ve never gotten to hang out alone, especially to talk about notebooks. That said, I knew him well enough to know that it would be a great conversation because I knew how introspective and provocative he was. I was not mistaken. Only six minutes into our conversation and he was telling me about a Twitter account called Sylvia Plath’s Food Diary (@whatsylviaate) because that was what inspired him to begin writing down memorable food experiences. 

Learning about Greg’s unique way of remembering his food experiences in Italy and what inspired him to start keeping a food journal in the first place was, in and of itself, a treat, but that was just the start because he then began reflecting on the process and its genesis, and shared one gem after the next. He believes that, at its core, the desire to keep a food journal is related to the same thing that drives him as a photographer, which is the desire to remember everything and to memorialize it. He refers to it as “nearly a compulsion.” This compulsion existed prior to his food journaling. Before he began journaling about his dining experiences, he would often take silverware from restaurants. He would take them home and label them with the time, date, and the names of the people with whom he’d dined. It was quite a collection. I have like a decade’s worth of spoons in this box…” At some point, though, he decided to memorialize these special times in another way, “a healthier, and frankly a more fun way is to write about it.” And he’s probably right about that, but I also find the road that he took to get there to be a fascinating and entertaining one. 

Greg also keeps other journals in addition to his food journal. He began keeping a reflective journal when he was around 23 years old, and while his journaling practice ebbs and flows, he currently has several journals and writes in them about three to five times each week. He keeps a dream journal, which he writes in as early in the day as he can, while he writes in his food journal whenever he’s cooking or after he’s eaten something memorable. When I asked him about a time when his journaling had a positive impact on his life, he remembered it being really helpful when therapy wasn’t available. He went on to say that “the singular stroke of a pen onto paper meant ‘this is the voice I’m choosing to listen to now’ rather than the dozens of other self-destructive voices within.” In my notes, next to his words, I’ve written, This is awesome.

“This is the voice I’m choosing to listen to now.” - Greg Hazel 

Greg talked about the work that he had to do to get to the point he’s at now, and how for quite some time, the inner voice that he heard was one that spoke negatively to him or spoke to him in self-destructive ways. I know that he’s not alone in this experience. Many of us have gone through periods in our lives in which we are not practicing self-compassion, but rather just the opposite, being overly critical of ourselves, or even harmful in the ways in which we talk to ourselves and treat ourselves. It is likely that some of us are going through this now. When I asked Greg how all of this changed, he said that trauma therapy helped. He said he learned that he needed to, in a sense, rewire his brain and learn to tell himself that it was going to be okay, even if that wasn’t entirely how he felt. He said that he'd sometimes need to “lie to himself on paper.” He equated this to a teacher in an old movie, teaching a student a lesson by having them write the same thing over and over again on the chalkboard to get the message into their heads, suggesting that writing more compassionately and positively about ourselves, even if we don’t initially believe it, will start to sink in. 

We delved more deeply into this, and he suggested that it’s rather easy to wake up in the morning and start beating yourself up and engaging in negative self-talk, but that it’s a lot harder to actually do this on paper. Once you pick up a pen and put it to paper, “you have a lot more control…You’re way more likely to say, I’m trying my best. You’re way more likely to write down in a book, ‘I don’t feel great, but I’m trying my best, and I want to feel better’ than you will say ‘I suck. I’m a piece of sh–.’” After giving this a lot of thought, I wholeheartedly agree with Greg. It’s easy to allow intrusive negative thoughts to really be in control of one’s internal narrative and energy. Still, when these thoughts become visible on paper, we become more aware of them and more likely to counter them with self-compassion. (For those struggling with serious depression, this is not a substitute for therapy.) 

Greg’s observations speak to the transformative power of reflective writing. His journey has not always been an easy one, but it has led to beautiful insights and a deep sense of self-awareness. He has had so many experiences and has so many stories, like the fact that when he was at a very major low, he would write both upside down and backward so that if he ever lost his notebook, “he would buy time before someone found it and concluded that [he} was an absolute nut.” Or the fact that he keeps everything that he writes, all of his notebooks because he moves a lot and enjoys the process of unboxing them and “having a night when I get to hear my thoughts from years ago. It helps me love myself.” Let’s leave it here because self-love may be the most important benefit that comes from reflective writing. 

Greg writes with his left hand and feels like because of that, he will probably never find the perfect pencil or pen, but his favorite pens are from Caran d’Ache. His favorite notebooks are the ones he makes for himself, but if he were to choose a favorite brand, he’d be a fan of Leuchtturm1917 notebooks. Finally, he keeps his pens and pencils in a black leather pouch by Campo Marzio in Rome, which is one of his favorite analogue artifacts ever. 

I am so grateful to Greg for his openness and vulnerability during our chat. It was courageous, insightful, and powerful. To connect with Greg online, you can find him at @brineshitely on Instagram. To see his photography work, you can visit him at

*Please be advised that his photography does include some nudity, so you may want to be intentional about which devices and where you might view his artwork.




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