(Day 4 of Writers’ Bootcamp challenge. Read my other Writing Prompt posts here.)
In my short (ha!) adult life, I have had to, at some point or another, had to live without things that most (including me) would consider essential to daily existence. Things like a car, a cellphone, a house, good health, internet connectivity etc. Granted, these deprivations were sporadic, and didn’t all happen at the same time, but they did teach me that really the only thing you really cannot live without is the literal necessities like air, food, water, a beating heart.
So without taking this topic too seriously, I will say that the one thing I cannot live without is blank paper and a pen. You will always find these in my bag, no matter how small that bag is. Even the tiniest of clutches, designed to be sexy not functional, will, if it belongs to me, have a small pen and tiny notepad. On those ridiculously rare occasions that I find myself without an ability to jot something down (or, more likely, to brainstorm something) I feel at utter loss. Well, I actually feel the loss. As if those brilliant ideas that have just whizzed into my brain are now destined to be forgotten.
I own dozens of notebooks, with pretty covers and preferably blank pages. I believe I had to be picked up off the floor and revived with smelling salts after I first walked into a Typo store. I’m fussy about my paper: I don’t like notebooks with big line spacings, but the Moleskins are perfect, especially the ones with one page lined and one page blank. It is difficult to find a good notebook of just blank pages, although I did see a stunning one in Exclusive Books just the other day, and these are my favourites.
I should say that I refuse to spend a lot on these notebooks, mostly because some of my most beautiful ones were really cheap, so I know all I have to do is hunt. Alternatively, I am happy to receive them as gifts! I am also not into brand names, so although I do own Moleskines, I am just as happy with the generic versions.
I don’t just buy notebooks though. My favourite bit of stationery of all time is the A4 typing pad at CNA, for about ten bucks. They have a new version now, which is perforated and punched. I love it. The pad has 80 thin blank pages, and no pretences about being special. I go through about a type pad every month. (May 2020 update: these have now been discontinued!)
What do I write? I scribble, I brainstorm, I write things in very big letters, and circle them a hundred times so as to reinforce their importance in my brain. I make lots and lots of arrows. I work things out. I make lists. I don’t draw, although I might do some very simplistic doodles. I will write down names, and websites, and telephone numbers. When coherence of a topic or idea or project begins to emerge, I might then take out my computer and start to type.
The interesting thing though is that I almost never ever refer back to my writing. As in, never. What I write down with such earnest will never be seen or read by me again. I guess I use the process of writing to brainstorm, and formulate ideas, which I then expect to somehow (therefore) be embedded in my brain. It has worked for me so far, so I don’t think I will think of changing the system, silly as it may sound.
I should say that I have tried to transfer this process to the digital age. I tried Evernote, various iPad applications, brainstorming tools, Basecamp etc. All seemed brilliant, but I haven’t stuck around any. (Although I do promise myself regularly that I will get the hang of Evernote, and make it my best friend) (May 2020 update: still a hard, and unfortunate, no).
I’m not fussy about my writing instruments. My favourite is a sharp HB pencil. I love fountain pens. Hate gel pens. I have a beautiful Parker pen and pencil set that I got from my father, but I never use it (although I do cherish it). I think the core truth here is that my love for pen and paper is rooted in the simplicity of it all. I don’t need anything fancy, just something that will help calm my frenzied mind that would probably otherwise overflow or explode.