So simple. So true.
The Threshold Time

Paper and Ink


In response to the comments on my last post, the photograph above shows the working notebooks I have on the go right now,  eighteen of them in all -- the number, of course, fluctuating with whatever I am working on in any given season. The cheap, tattered notebooks stacked on the desk above are for various editorial projects (anthologies, etc.), and I don't tend to save them when the projects are done. The nicer hardback notebooks (on the shelf in the photo above, and scattered across the table in the photo below) are for various writing and art projects, and those I do save.

Notebooks-on-the-go 2

Computers, I admit, are incredibly useful things -- but to my mind nothing beats paper and ink for jotting down ideas, roughing out a plot, or capturing stray wisps of inspiration. Now, my husband is a write-it-on-a-scrap-of-paper-and-then-lose-it kind of guy. He trusts in memory, and luck. Me, I'm a hoarder of words and stories, and I like them bound and labeled, where I can find them. We lose too much in life as it is: Memories. Places and people we've loved. The selves we once were, or wanted to be. Dazzling ideas that burned brightly for a time and then just faded away: the books never written, the paintings never painted, stories lost in the winds of time.

So yes, I'm a hoarder of words, of notebooks, of sentence fragments salvaged from the restless winds. Muse willing, those stories will reach completion. Muse willing, someday I'll pass them on to you.


Would you mind telling us a bit more about your writing process? So many words, so many thoughts, they must have come from somewhere. Do you write short stories or are you just describing your last walk or to-do-lists or something like "April 12th, great weather, Tilly caught a mouse but let it go afterwards"?

I remember that as a school kid I loves to read and write, I wrote everything down just because I was able to and I loved the act of writing.
Nowadays I still love to write but alas, my head always seems kind of empty. I get the feeling that I want to do something with a pen in my hand and a piece of paper lying before me, but rather than writing I start to doodle because I simply don't know what to write.. and there seems to be no equivalent thing to a scratchy scribble in writing.

Me too! I get a new notebook for each new story, but then I generally mislay it and get a couple more, and there's something very tactile about them, and I get much more from r-reading my rough handwriting and scribbles than I ever do from notes on a screen. It's the madeleine effect - takes me back to the very moment I had the idea/made the note.

Teleri: Good questions! I have a packed day ahead of me today, but I'll try to answer you properly by tomorrow.

In the meantime, perhaps some of the other writers who read this blog might be willing to chime in with comments about *their* writing process...?

Thank you for sharing these, they're lovely! And very, very inspiring.

I also love to capture ideas with pen and paper. I'm addicted to the physical act of writing. And I never go anywhere without a purse-sized notebook and pen.

I love that you seem to have found the RIGHT notebooks for your keepers. I seem to always be on the prowl for the BEST notebook, sketchbook, journal, well, and shoes for that matter! I'd like to find a notebook and stick with it so the stacks of them on the bookshelves look organized and consistent. You've inspired me to find it.

"I'm a hoarder of words, of notebooks, of sentence fragments salvaged from the restless winds. Muse willing, those stories will reach completion. Muse willing, someday I'll pass them on to you."

Wow. This sentence sounds like it was specifically written for a post I've had sitting in my draft file for a while...and has just given me the courage to publish it (without changing a word!). Sometime ago I came to the conclusion that, as well as being a hoarder of physical things (art materials, things that might come in useful one day...or not, books...etc), I am also a hoarder of thoughts. Of story fragments that don't seem to belong anywhere, of poem bits that don't have a first verse...or a last verse, of half finished songs and one line snippets that will probably never become anything. But also of ideas about which I think "Ooh, that's a cool idea, I'll SAVE that for a worthy occasion, I wouldn't want to waste it on something trivial." Except that the worthy occasion never eventuates and the ideas sit and stagnate. Or someone else comes up with them too and actually makes something of them! I decided I needed to do something with these homeless scraps, and stop hanging onto ideas, just DO them. So I wrote a little fable to add a 'back story' to some of my latest artwork which might contain some of those fragments...but it's also more than a little autobiographical. I'm still working on details to extend the idea, but I could go on doing that in my head for decades and never show anyone, so I think it's time to throw it to the winds.

I really can't wait for more stories to come out of you.

What a coincidence: yesterday I commented in Robyn Gordon's blog on the same theme (! She's a very talented artist from South Africa and shared her new experience in writing a journal, while creating. I wrote her about the notebooks, which usually keep my analysis, sketches of puppets and ideas about every play that I'm going to put on stage. They help me a lot during the rehearsals - mostly while reading the dramaturgy with the actors. Before beginning my work, I need to concentrate, to gather my thoughts, to clear my visions and I prefer to do it on paper (not in Internet).So... I truly understand you and am following with interest your post and the comments! Thank you!:)

Not on the computer, I meant...:)))

I use notebooks to jot down ideas about whatever novel and/or short stories I have on the go, as well as essays and magazine articles -- with separate notebooks for each. That's why I use so many different notebooks -- to keep the various projects straight. Why so many projects at once? Well, if you're a "mid-list writer" like I am (as opposed to a "top of the list/best-selling writer"), you don't actually make a lot of money for each book or article -- so in order to make a living you either have a "day" job, or, like me, you juggle several different writing/editing jobs at once -- bascially trying to defy the laws of time and physics by squeezing too many things into any given work day. Mind you, I would *love* to experience the bliss of working on a single book from start to finish, without interruption from other projects and deadlines. Maybe someday...

Oh dear, I've digressed from your question, haven't I? What the notebooks are for -- aside from keeping all the material I need for all my different projects straight -- is for "thinking on the page": working out plot ideas or problems, keeping track of characters and jotting down useful things that I discover about them as I go, etc. etc. They are "working" notebooks in that sense -- full of research notes, ideas, insights, questions I need to answer, problems I encounter as I write, ideas about solutions to those problems, and so forth.

I also have a notebook called "Ideas and Notes," which is for ideas about things (stories, articles, poems, pictures) that I'm not actively working on yet, but want to jot down and remember in case the idea is useful later.

I don't really keep a diary or journal (the "Tilly ate snails for breakfast again" kind of thing) -- although I did try my hand at formal diary writing for several months 21 years ago, when I first moved to England. I did it as a writing experiment (while under the influence of reading a lot of Anais Nin!) -- but it was only for a set period of time, and when it ended, I never did it again.

Co-incidently, I just came across that old piece of diary writing a few weeks ago. It was an interesting experience to read it all these years later, being full of experiences and memories I'd long forgotten about, or at least forgotten about in such detail. It made me wish I'd kept a diary all my life -- if only as an aid to memory. But the reason I stopped after that initial experiment was that I found I couldn't write fiction *and* a daily journal...the journal used up too much of my creative energy. (I suppose that in a sense writing this blog is my daily journal...and as such, I have strict rules about how much time and energy I allow it to take up.)

I know that other writers have found find diary writing to be a useful way of honing their skills, rather than the energy-drain it was for me. So maybe it would work for you? Every writer is different, and the trick is to find what it is that works for you individually. There is no right way and wrong way to approach the page...if it works for you, then it's right!

Interesting, Terri. I have one notebook at a time, which is my journal, general ideas pad, sketchbook if I've forgotten that, and in which I work on all my projects. I started doing this simply because I only had one notebook, but then I grew to love how the poetry on one page would inform the dialogue for my novel on the next, etc. As a fledgling creatrix, this practise is helping me find my voice, and find confidence in the worth of my voice - quite a separate journey.

Word hoarders... that must be what drives writers. I want to capture memories of places and people. I want to hold on to moments. Some of the notebooks I'd like to burn and forget and perhaps I will yet, when I'm done understanding the lessons in those days.

The comments to this entry are closed.