Friday, 3 January 2014

Small Aspects of Courage for the Writer

Being a writer demands acts of courage, large and small:

Among the large ones are:

Working entirely alone and sustaining your self belief

Writing with honesty and telling the truth

Tapping into strong elements of your own experience and telling some kind if truth that will relate to more generic human experiences.

Having faith in your vision of the world even if it doesn’t fit the genre-ridden business model of modern publishing,

But in thirty years of writing I have discovered other small acts of courage which involve opening a new notebook and making a start on new work.

I’ve written here before about the significance of notebooks - and writing by hand with an ink-pen - as the first stage in serious work, letting the blood flow from your heart down your arm into the ink and onto the page.

One consequence of trumpeting this theory all over the place is that good friends have given me fine notebooks to work in. I’ve just finished working through two such notebooks (fine board covers and stitched spines so the book lies flat …) I left the second one in London with LickedSpoon and am waiting for it to come to me through the post.

So now, beginning a new year and new work I cast around on my shelves and pick up a blank notebook – a present from a friend from the Middle East. This is a wonderful notebook – its cover is a lump of thick hide and its 150 pages in five hand-stitched sections are made of handmade pages pressed with wisps of tiny flowers and leaves.

It takes a small act of courage to mark, to write on such pages.

I see on the front page I wrote New Journal November 2006  Dreams etc and Other Things. Very grandiose. Perhaps fitting for such an extraordinary notebook, there follows some four pages about the death of a great friend and something about leaves on the ground. And about my grandson being away and missing him.

Then, nothing! This notebook has clearly been too beautiful to use - the beautiful pages too precious to mark.

But 2014 is to be the year of courage. So I have decided to use this magnificent object as an ordinary notebook – for writing lists, observations, inspired paragraphs for the new book, for scribbled drawings, and blog drafts like thus

At first it’s like writing my way up a hill, my ink-pen finding its way through a new landscape, dislodging here and there a tiny pressed petal or a strand oif grass. The ink suffaces.
In the end, like many things that seem hard, almost impossible to begin it has been easy. And, as a tiny petal floats off the page it seems like an experience worth writing about. As you can see

I only wish you could feel this paper. Wx


  1. Interesting that you have the same trouble as me with beautiful notebooks - they don't seem to deserve the rough and tumble of thought that spills into them!

  2. It makes it quite a physical experience, carving the words onto the page,wx

  3. I love gorgeous notebooks and own a few nice writing implements.
    But I have to say I never, and I mean never, use paper for my serious writing.
    I am too much a technophile and would use nothing other than some computer based technology.

    1. Everyone to their chosen tools, Al, They are individual chosen tools that help us write our best. Hope the writing is going well.



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