I love notebooks.
I collect notebooks (include: journals, scrapbooks, sketchbooks).
But I have a problem – I won’t write in them.
Well, at least not the really beautiful ones. I have this fear of defacing beautiful notebooks, like people who put off reading new books because they can’t stand breaking in the binding.
I tell myself that the beautiful notebook’s contents must be worthy, so the beautiful notebook must be saved for a time of beautiful writing.
But that time never comes. Many, many times I have come close. So close that my nib and the page are separated only by the distance of a comma. But the ink (always ink) never makes it and it’s back to the refill pad for me.
Refill pads (Ryman-100 sheets-narrow ruled with blue margin) are safe. You write, you pull out the sheets and then depending on the result you keep it or you bin it. It’s comforting to have that complete freedom to create, discard, re-order (also makes it a fail-safe tool for students like me that aren’t attached at the wrist to their macbooks).
Anything I put into a refill pad is disposable, or hideable at least which is the fate of most of what I write – tucked away into some obscure looking textbook, because I’m too much of a sentimentalist to actually throw anything away. I always intend to locate all these scraps and make something of them – revive, rework or relinquish once and for all. I dread that I’ll never get round to this and one day when I no longer control the fate of my possessions someone should discover my tepid attempts and I shall henceforth be remembered (and ridiculed) for them.
Although there is the aesthetic factor – I just can’t stand crossing out on nice paper – the anticipation of discovery is probably the root cause of my particularity about writing in notebooks.
Years of devouring romance, fantasy and period fiction – actually fiction in general – gives a person really rather grand ideas about the humble notebook. Stumbling upon a worn-looking leather-bound journal is exciting and in fiction the contents always live up to that excitement in some way – they connect the finder to the memories of some distant ancestor, they reveal something sinister or mysterious about the town or they contain a fraction of the soul of a dark, dark being.
Discovered journals and notebooks and scrapbooks tell stories without the need for coherence, characterisation or plot.
So then, aren’t I missing the point? If I wait and wait for my story to be perfect, how I will I ever leave something to be discovered?
Besides, I tell myself after these four hundred words, beauty isn’t necessarily a synonym for perfection. Maybe beauty lies in the pursuit of perfection – in that cycle of graceful falsehoods, passionate confessions and blunt truths which we variably select and discard from our written conscience.
So maybe today a pristine sheet of parchment or a baroque-printed page might finally feel the blessed relief of words running their widths and maybe one day someone will discover my scribbles, crosses and smudges and somehow they will see beauty in my frustrations, my mistakes and my revelations.