I’ve been quiet of late as I’ve been moving house. We’d been in the old place for 14 years so as you can imagine, we’d amassed a huge amount of stuff. Pint glasses, CDs, a huge stash of Manic Street Preachers posters that I’m saving for when I have my own study, and notebooks. So many notebooks. There is a packing crate filled with nothing but blank notebooks. It is embarassing.
I wish I could say that I’d been bought them by well meaning relatives who know I’m a writer and thought that they might be useful. I can’t though. I bought the vast majority of them myself. Bit by bit I have filled a whole box of notebooks that I don’t write in. Even knowing I have possibly literally a lifetime’s supply, I am still tempted when I walk past Paperchase.
I like the idea of writing in notebooks. It sounds like the kind of thing that a writer should do. When I was still at school I went to see the poet Simon Armitage speak (he’s a very good speaker, by the way). He said he always wrote on paper, never on computer, because otherwise he wouldn’t have piles of first drafts to sell to American universities.
Poetry is a different beast to writing a novel though. It’s one thing to re-write twenty lines in longhand, quite another when you are tipping 100,000 words. Many writers do write longhand to begin with a treat the typing up as a first edit. I can’t. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that I’m terribly disorganised. I have a tendancy to be working on several things at once, and without a system of tagging I can never remember where I’ve put something. I plotted something out in a notebook once, then spent half a day looking high and low for the book. When I found it it was less of a plot and more of a series of disjointed phrases – school, argument, ferry incident? – I realised I had no idea what the hell I’d “plotted”. The second is I have really awful handwriting. It’s terrible. While this means I don’t have to worry about anyone reading over my shoulder and nicking my ideas, it means that there are frequent occasions where I genuinely cannot decipher what I’ve written. Even my neatest handwriting is a mystery to others, when I’m in full flow it’s just a page full of squiggles.
What do I write on then? For short bursts I use my tablet – an Asus Transformer with a built in keyboard. I’ve even managed to write blog posts and short stories on my phone although I have to be careful of autocorrect. The huge majority of Mighty Like a Rose was written on an elderly laptop running Ubuntu, on the dining table. The laptop is soon to be replaced but I still don’t have my own desk at home, I write where there is space for me. I keep a small notepad in my handbag for noting things down: overheard conversations, sudden flashes of inspiration, shopping lists.
How am I going to fill the box of notebooks then? I really don’t know. I have been dabbling in poetry, but not to the point of filling pagess and pages. I’ve done a few zentangles which was calming, but each only fills one page!
At some point I’m going to have to bite the bullet and give them away, in the hope that others will be inspired to write in them. And try and get myself banned from Paperchase.