One of the things ordinary, normal people don’t get about writers is our affinity for notebooks. Not the digital carry it with you and send email kind, but the kind made from wood pulp.
To a normal person, a notebook is a thing used to record things, like notes. For a writer, a notebook is inspiration. It is precious and has magic powers. Like the new running shoes in Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Summer Running”–which the narrator is convinced will make him run faster–a notebook contains the purest form of all writing: the things we hope to write before we actually sit down to write them. There are no awkward sentences, no under-developed characters, no plot holes. Everything is perfect–well, at least until the first marks are made on the page.
To understand the effects of this, you have to understand how normal people and writers buy notebooks and then what happens after. A normal person buying a notebook will pay the money, say something like “Thanks, I really needed one of these” and immediately start scribbling notes. A writer buying a notebook will suddenly grow twenty feet tall like Galadriel in the film version of The Fellowship of the Ring and announce “Within these mighty pages are a great novel/epic poem and all that is necessary for me to reveal it is for me to leave white the things that are not a great novel/epic poem and lay marks upon the things that are. All shall love me and despair!”
The normal person behind me then says “Hurry up, moron, some of us have places to be. Oh, and you know Galadriel was a chick, don’t you?”
Basking in the glow, we get our brand new notebooks back to our writing space. There’s then a few moments whilst we arrange the space properly and then break out our pen. That’s when the problems hit. The shinier, more perfect the notebook, the less likely we are to begin writing in it. The ultra-smooth, fountain pen friendly paper of our Apica Premium CD Notebook is too smooth and pure to be ruined by the horrible scrawls we are about to inflict on it. It is the paper for something that people will be studying 300 years from now. It is not for the notes of a crap action novel or the notes for some pathetic blog. It deserves better. Hell, I don’t even have a proper pen for it.
It is precious.
In my case, at this point my internal editor/heckler–her name is Kimberly–starts snickering. (I’ll tell you more about Kimberly in a future post; all you need to know now is that she’s a snarky, ruthless bitch.) She hears the opening line that’s been rolling around in my head and says “Didn’t that meth lord guy say that on Breaking Bad in like season one or was that like Macbeth? It doesn’t matter, it still stinks. You’re not the one who knocks, you’re the one who stinks. And you can’t even smell. (See, I told you what she was like.)
I therefore put the nice, shiny notebook away and drag out some handmade ones that I assembled several years back out of unused handouts and old student evaluations. Kimberly messes with her hair–her hair is always perfect but she always complains she can’t do anything with it–and says “Changing to crappy paper won’t help. It’s just crap on crap. Stinky, stinky, stinky.” She sighs. “And how much time did you waste making those nasty things when you could have been writing? How many blank notebooks do you have anyway?” My answer to that question is “shut up”. All she needs to know is I now have a moldering stack of old paper held together with rusting staples.
As I’ve been working on this blog I’ve discovered that one of the advantages of computer screens is that there’s nothing particularly tactile about writing on them. You never have that “my words are crap and will despoil these precious pages” moment. (Well, unless you own a Mac, in which case, yes you will.)
Kimberly just laughs at that. “I’ll be here whatever you choose, you loser. I’m precious that way.”