Bibelots

a place for the curious

Tag: pencils

On the act of writing

The pen is mighty, so is the keyboard

Typists, the old fashioned way

Typing: the grace, the beauty,
George Eastman House on Flickr’s The Commons

After spending my whole day surrounded by words working on writing,  editing writing, and plain old writing-writing I come home and write some more.

Sometimes, of course, I don’t. I might do something visual, make something real or do something physical. I might even allow myself to be enveloped in the hedonistic act of reading.

Often though, when I can’t imagine I can fit anything else in my day, when I thought there was nothing left but sleep, I write.

I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want do this. As soon as I could read, I wanted to write. More to the point, I wanted to write stories. Like everyone, I’ve had my ups and downs with it. When I’m exhausted, what I want to tap is boxed up and unreachable. Before computers came along, my hands would often cramp and I’d be dispirited before I could even begin.

I occasionally hear people say ‘the youth of today have lost the art of handwriting’. I’m not that young. I know how to wield a pen. But, actually, I think that’s bollocks. They know how to write. They also know how to type, swipe and whatever the hell else you can throw at them.

So, yes, I know how to put pen to page. I can fight you, sword tip for pen nib. I love a good fountain pen; dipper and cartridge both. I have notebooks and pencils for capturing fleeting ideas. But for the outpouring of storytelling, it’s the gentle, loving stretch of fingers across a keyboard that calls to me.

Let me describe it to you.

Open the lid. Watch the keyboard glow. Allow yourself a few minutes to disperse busy thoughts. Get it out of your system and onto twitter, if you must. Open your manuscript. Or start a new document. Don’t stare at that blank screen, it’s only going to stare back. No. Run your fingers over the keys. Oh, let’s just call it what it is. Caress the keys. It’s a slow dance of creativity and love. Ready?

Now.

Close your eyes. Feel your breath. Empty your mind.

And go.

Hours or minutes later, you’ll find me still. Curled up in a tight embrace of my own making. If it’s going well, I won’t even notice you’ve arrived. I’ll be somewhere astonishing, wild and new.

Pens, notebooks or keyboards. Oral, digital, or physical. Honestly, none of that matters.

What matters is that a story is told. Told and allowed to unfold.

Marginalia

Or, writing in books

the words "Oh, how I love Nina George right now. Thank you." scribbled on the page of a book

a reader’s message


A filthy notion, discussed in the open

I write in books.

Not ‘I write books*’, but ‘I write in books’. I write in the margins of books. Not just text books. Bookish books. Fiction books. Non-fiction books. Beautiful books. Books. Are you with me? Or are you shocked? Some might say it’s akin to an act of graffiti, except more so. Because I don’t put in any old thing. I put in words. Right next to the words the author put in for me to read. Imagine it if you can. Pick up the pencil and . . . Bang! One word. Then another. And another. And before long, there you have it. A margin full of words.

The person to blame is an author, of course. Wherever there’s trouble, you’re bound to find one at the bottom of it all. In the middle of his book Trafficking in Old Books, under a delightful section titled ‘A little heresy’, Anthony Marshall implores the reader to take out their pen and write in the book. Right there and then. He makes clear he will be rather disappointed if you turn the page without leaving your mark.

I’ll admit I use a pencil, rather than a pen. An archival quality pencil that will outlast any pen. Of course, any future reader could decide to erase the comment. There’s no way I can stop them. Just as there’s no way an author can stop me from writing there in the first place. Books are for words. Put them in. Take them out. Do as you see fit, so long as you revel in it.

So, as Anthony did for me, I’m going to do the same for you. Go on. Next time you have a book, a papery book and one that you own, take out your pen and write in it.

Write what you feel, angry or sad. Write how grateful you are for the existence of those words. Or how sad you are that the story might soon be ending. Write what you like and, just as importantly, write what you don’t like it. Argue with the characters. Make nonsensical comments. Make music, leave marks, have fun. Think not of the purity of the form of the book, think only of how the words make you feel. Leave your mark for the future. Think about it for a moment. Haven’t you ever found a mysterious comment in the margins of a dusty old secondhand book? How do you think it got there? Someone like you put it there for you to find.

Write something in the margins that will have future readers bewildered or stunned at your words. Leave little treasures that one day might be uncovered by others. Or perhaps they won’t. It doesn’t matter – you’ll never know.

Make today the day. Pick up a pen, a pencil or even a crayon and just do it. Day time or night, leave your mark. Feel no shame. If you’re to do it, do it proud.

After a little while, you’ll find you can’t stop. Sometimes I even do it in public. In plain sight, where anyone can see. Sitting on the train. In a cafe. Anywhere the story calls me to it.

Someday, if you see a madwoman with a pencil, hurling words with merry abandon, take a second look. It’s probably me. Or someone just like me.

Maybe one day it could be you.

 
* Actually, I’m trying to do this too, but that’s another story. Literally.**
** These largely unnecessary footnotes brought to you in memory of Sir Terry Pratchett.

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