Thursday, 29 August 2013

Notebooks, screens and random scribblings

It’s a curious thing, when someone told me that they only ever write straight onto their computer I couldn’t imagine myself doing the same thing. For a long time I was a longhand girl and had to get a story down on paper, A4 lined and margined, scribbling away with a gel pen. Then I decided to ring the changes just a wee bit by using a cartridge pen, oh fun to be had there by choosing different coloured ink: green, turquoise ...  but purple became my ‘stylo du jour’. Great! I loved the way the nib glided over the surface of the paper and the ink flowed – there was something about the physicality of it all, the immediacy that I really enjoyed. When the first draft was done, I’d go back and alter bits, but after several interventions all those lines through the text made a right mess and it wasn’t always easy to see what I was on about! So after a few pages of the next attempt I would type up what I had handwritten, just those first pages and carry on from there, repeating the process every few pages. Then I got a laptop and everything changed. There was no seminal moment, no Damascene conversion I just started to type straight onto it.

It’s a strange process, this mind to fingers routine that taps out the paths of our imagination, but it works for me. Somehow the world I immerse myself in when I’m creating something, wherever it is set, comes fresh onto the screen. I re-draft some bits as I go along too, always looking for the rhythm in the piece, the sea that will carry the raft of characters and their stories. As I come back to something, when I’ve had to leave it for a day or two, seeking out that rhythm helps me re-connect, get the flow coursing again and seeing the words up on the screen in front of me spurs me on. I do print everything out and re-draft, in pencil, usually somewhere comfy with a hot cuppa, (absolutely mandatory), but somehow there’s a crispness to the screen, probably because it doesn’t have my pencil scribblings all over it! It sort of entices you to carry on, to fill that space below the last paragraph.

A fancy schmancy one!

However, research is an entirely different matter. Don’t ask me why, there’s no rhyme or reason, but this is all taken down in longhand, notebook and pen at the ready. Yes I look up things on the net, as well as pore over all those fabulous books out there on literally everything, (and I do print out articles and longer items), but though I am there in front of a screen I have to write it down. My hand and brain have chosen this division of labour and it feels just right, there’s a balance to it for me. Oh, and I do love a good notebook and pen and there are so many fabulous ones to choose from. It’s a treat to seek out a new one, or break open the cellophane round the one you got for Christmas, (I know, I mentioned the ‘c’ word in August, but it’s only a tiny passing reference, promise.) I have a store from all the thoughtful gifts friends and family have given me and it’s always a joy to receive one – you really never can have too many. I always carry one with me. Sometimes I’ll write pages at one sitting, particularly if I’m out somewhere researching, sometimes it’ll be just a sentence or a couple of words but I know I’ll find a use for my jottings. I’m probably preaching to the converted but if your mind ever enters a chasm of blankness and you can’t think what to write about, just go back and look at your notebook they’ll be something you’ve squirreled away in there. A random sentence, a snatch of conversation that could just spark off something brilliant. Oh and if you haven’t got a notebook you’ve a treat in store; go seek one out ... and don’t forget the pen! 

My favourite – a trusty Moleskine.

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