I’ve been trying to write a few vignettes of my home town lately in preparation for writing my crime novel (Nanowrimo is looming large) and I thought, in a moment of fancy, I would buy a pretty notebook and write by hand. But I’m a bit annoyed by the use of pen and paper. For a start, I can’t edit without crossing out and starting the sentence again. It’s slow and my sentences don’t get any better by handwriting them. And, sadly, I’m annoyed by the notebook I bought. The lines are made up of the stories of famous authors and are too legible for comfort. I may give up my attempts and transfer what I have to a writing folder in my Dropbox. The notebook can become the working notebook for my cabaret. And I’ll hightail it back to my lovely lovely Moleskin notebooks. Moleskins are great. They might be expensive, but they hold their shape, don’t fall apart, and have narrow lines. I don’t know why I abandoned them! No, hang on: I do. There weren’t any at the shop I went to.
I’m wondering if anyone else has the same frustrations as me? Has the long term use of your computer disabled your patience with long-form hand writing?
Sadly, I’m also really really bad at typing. I did a simple online typing course a few years ago and I developed some very good habits, but my typing speed never went above 50 wpm, and I make terrible, horrible typos. I’ve long since lost the skill and now I just look like a wanna be typist without talent or speed.
This morning I read a blogpost by a favourite scholarly blogger of mine: Patter, who wrote a light-hearted piece about what she wears when she writes. Upon awakening and before she has a shower, she gets into tracksuit bottoms and slippers and a sloppy joe. Hair goes up in a messy bun, cups of tea/coffee are made, and she writes for a couple of hours in the morning before planning her afternoon activities. Her habit describes mine to a T. I’m not an early morning person. So when I have a writing deadline, this is the best way for me to meet my targets.
Hilary Mantel does the same. In her words, published a few weeks ago in The Guardian:
I used to be a late starter, but now I get up in the dark like a medieval monk, commit unmediated scribble to a notebook, and go back to bed about six, hoping to sleep for another two hours and to wake slowly and in silence. Random noise, voices in other rooms, get me off to a savage, disorderly start, but if I am left in peace to reach for a pen, I feel through my fingertips what sort of day it is. Days of easy flow generate thousands of words across half a dozen projects – and perhaps new projects. Flow is like a mad party – it goes on till all hours and somebody must clear up afterwards. Stop-start days are not always shorter, are self-conscious and anxiety-ridden, and later turn out to have been productive and useful. I judge in retrospect. On flow days, I have no idea what I’ve written till I read it back. It’s a life with shocks built in.
You can read the whole article here. She doesn’t mind which writing medium she uses and she writes every day: The most frequent question writers are asked is some variant on, “Do you write every day, or do you just wait for inspiration to strike?” I want to snarl, “Of course I write every day, what do you think I am, some kind of hobbyist?”
It occurs to me that depression* breaks these hard-won habits. Depression and melancholia can disturb flow, and will power is meaningless when confronted by the miserable mind’s contrary bleakness. Which is why, I suspect, blogging is such a panacea for those with depression. It helps maintain connections, it promotes healthy habits, it helps to unburden the mind. And it keeps a writer writing.
*I don’t have depression right now. But I really do need a job to give me a sense of purpose, even though I’m starting to see the joy in having time to write, make music, compose and create again without being too worried about money. I’m not sure why I want a Proper Job. Maybe it’s the underlying middle-class Presbyterianism I was raised in!