A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire...
Tools of the Trade
I have a weakness for notebooks. I buy them randomly and with a dash of indulgence, lured by a vintage cloth cover or an inspiring writing prompt, but mostly enticed by the bare pages waiting to be filled with my words.
Notebooks linger in my purse, my underwear drawer, on my desk and bedside table, filling slowly with 'to do' lists, moments to be grateful for, rantings and stray thoughts that could turn into essays or books but never do, at least not there. Writing, the proper stuff, is the exclusive domain of my computer.
I have been snared by the sanitized cleanliness and versatility of Word. With a flashing cursor to guide the way, splattered thoughts line up in orderly fashion, reassembling to let in latecomers or compensate for expulsions. Paragraphs obediently change position to facilitate flow and a virtual English tutor politely indicates a slip in punctuation, spelling, or a lapse in grammar. I can make countless edits and the page stays pleasingly organized, showing no trace of the ravages that have taken place.
My laptop is not invited on a weekend in London devoted to marital bliss, however, but stories from my British childhood bubble and simmer, fermenting with distracting ferocity as we walk in the March starkness of Hyde Park and the bustling hipness of Notting Hill. I need a writing fix, but how will I compose without the convenience of the delete button, the cut and paste functions?
It's a messy process, birthing a story on paper.
At first, I try holding the thoughts aloft and sculpting them into polished observations which can be inscribed whole and perfect into my pristine notebook. I have lost the knack. Twenty years of chopping and changing text at the press of a button have doused my ability to cerebrate with eloquence. Only after the words have been scrawled on the page do I see the necessity for a more seductive opening, a sharper adjective and the removal of an adverb or three. The page looks defiled and chaotic with lines and arrows interrupting the flow. Should I write it out from scratch? Do people do that still? Heck, where's my computer?!
It gets easier over the three days in London as I relinquish the need for order and relax into the muddle on the page, just as I learnt to embrace the messy vibrancy of life with three children over the tidy coziness of coupledom. I like the pseudo animations that my essays become, because they are a clearer reflection of the process. They bear witness to the struggle, the myriad side-bars and what I chose to leave behind. The permanency of ink on paper feels solid, comforting and accessible. I can always return to this notebook and by association, recall a hotel room near Marble Arch, Earl Grey with scones, how it felt to be a that cozy couple without children for a while and to create with a pen again.
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