I think even if I was never to be published my notebooks would be a witness to my writing. More tangible than the digital word and more private in that they were never meant to be read by anyone other than me.
There were hardback books, soft books, large books, small books, exercise books and note pads. In the beginning I diarised and doodled, sometime I’d stick in a ticket or something meaningful – to me at least. Other times I’d try to draw something that I had failed to describe in words or had been unable to record in a photograph. Fragments of the story of my life.
Even after our first computer it still felt good to fill a page with words, especially the private words only I wanted to bear witness to. Over the years it wasn’t just one computer in the household, but laptops and other devices appeared. My digital efforts increased as the pen lay dormant. But I was always drawn to a beautiful notebook, I’d run my fingers over the blank page and feel the weight of quality paper.
Now I flit between both worlds. My writings are more capacious and based in fiction. The words often need rearranging, the pages change as the editing takes over and I find I need the speed of a computer. Those immediate thoughts or sparks of ideas I have to write down when I’m out and about, fill the small notebooks, leather-bound or fabric covered, chosen carefully for their beauty and size, that take turns to sit in my handbag. Sometimes these jottings are transferred to join the longer stories and manuscripts that build up on my computer, or they join the growing pile of memories and stories that line a drawer, a cupboard and a shelf of a bookcase.
Post Box Guernsey
I wonder how much longer we will see these around? I can’t remember the last time I wrote a letter on paper and posted it. I do still send birthday cards and the occasional post card. Less and less I send ‘hard copy’ greetings at Christmas and New Year. How times have changed since the first email I sent in the early nineties. How my writing has changed over the years.
In recent years my writing is on a computer most of the time, but I still love the luxury of sitting and writing in a leather bound notebook with my beautiful Mont Blanc pen that I received as a present many years ago. The feel of the crisp new pages, the scratchy sound as the pen moves across the page and the irregularity of the hand-printed words depending on my moods and time.
Sometimes I write in tiny notebooks when a thought occurs to me while sitting in a cafe and people watching, other times I’ll scramble around to find a scrap of paper, an old parking ticket or bill, to write down something I’ve heard on the radio while I was driving and desperate to keep the thought before it’s lost in my next interaction or activity. These notebooks and scraps of paper, the collection of thoughts and ideas over the years, I treasure for their spontaneity, individuality and personality.
Although much of their content is now transcribed to computer, they hold a subtext and memories that stop me from abandoning them to the rubbish. There’s the hardback notebook with the cats on the cover from when I made my first tentative steps into writing. I had no idea whether it was to be ‘Life Writing’ or ‘Fiction’. Then the green-patterned cover was a more recent one and part of it is filled with notes from a job, when I must have had no other paper available. The large student book was from when I was well into a novel, but regularly meeting up with a writers group . My latest notebook is red leather, although the pages inside don’t live up to the promise of the cover. When I delve deeper under the pile of notebooks I find a cluster of envelopes. Letters on airmail paper, foreign stamps. I tenderly open one. It’s one of the letters that my parents kept on my first job overseas and more recently passed on to me. I wrote to them in blue fountain pen. The pages are brittle. It smells musty. But it’s priceless.
I hope we never stop writing letters and I vow to write one again soon.
Post Box England