Confession time. I love nice stationery.
Nice pens, beautiful notebooks, clever organisers/calendars, pretty stickers.
The problem is that as much as I love them, I struggle to find a use for them.
Every 6 months or so I see a really clever organiser and start trying to find a reason to buy it. But as clever as a paper calendar/organiser might be - it still cannot bingle at me an hour before my dentist appointment or automatically enter bi-weekly reminders to put out the right kind of bin for collection for the rest of the year. And more importantly, if the council suddenly makes a change, I might have to cross out and re-do all the entries if I was using a paper calendar.
The other draw back of a physical calendar is that you have to remember to bring it everywhere for it to be useful - but if it is big enough to have everything in - it is going to be too big to want to haul around everywhere.
And finally, there's the biggie. Sharing. In my Google Calendar I have all my own stuff, but I also have access to the Family calendar for stuff that we are doing together as well as the other half's calendar and his many sub-calendars for the various bands he plays in - practices and gigs and recordings etc. And if I have to create an appointment for us to take one of the cats to the vet straight after work one day, I can invite our work calendars to that appointment, so we remember that we cannot work late that day.
So as much as I adore the idea of a physical calendar, it just doesn't have the ability to be front and centre the way an electronic calendar can be, with me having access to it from my phone, from my tablet, my computer, my work computer or in fact any device with a web browser.
With a beautiful notebook there is not so much need for it to be able to do anything, so in that sense the difference between a physical notebook and an electronic notebook is not really that big. Again, like with organisers, I have tried using paper notebooks on and off, but ultimately the practicalities of the electronic notebook outweighs the paper notebook most of the time for me.
One issue is that if I am writing something in a notebook that I want to use for anything - a blog post, part of a story - I then have to plonk myself in front of the computer to enter it on there anyway. On the flip-side, I have to agree that sometimes it can be a lot easier to circumvent your inner editor when writing by hand than when typing. If you are in the mode where you have told yourself to just keep writing no matter what is coming out in an attempt to get ideas down, it is a lot harder on a computer to stop yourself from pausing to correct anything from spelling to phrasing.
I do sometimes resort to using a paper notepad to get things done for that reason, but I will then always enter it into my electronic notepad of choice (Evernote at the moment). The reason for this is searchability. This might sound trivial, but I have snippets of writing covering decades involving all sorts of different types of scenes and characters and every now and then I want to use one of them. If they lived in a set of notebooks on my bookshelf (oh, to have the room for a bookshelf), I would never find it - unless I used some kind of complex indexing system.
I am also concerned about losing what I have written, which is why I prefer to use electronic notepads that are automatically synced to the cloud rather than a physical notebook which can be damaged or lost.
What is a poor stationery addict to do when stuck on the head versus heart, practical versus pretty? Personally, I have taken up writing a diary or journal or whatever you want to call it. Each day I get to fill a page (or more if necessary) in a gorgeous day-a-page calendar, which also gives me the opportunity to practice my cursive writing. This has also led me to get interested in calligraphy and brush lettering, so I now have a good excuse to get some nice pens and pads for practising that in.
Until I actively started to try to write more regularly I had never realised how hard it is to write on command.
I have always enjoyed writing. In school if we were given a prompt for any type of story, I had no problems to come up with something. My mum recently moved house and found a folder of my old stories from my school days. One of them from when I was 14 or so, was apparently meant to have been a writing exercise describing an afternoon walk the class had taken down to an old fort. My story did describe the lovely summer weather and the coolness inside the little stone fort and such. But then there were also Russian spies (it was Sweden in the late 80s - what can I say) disguised as cows. Amongst other things.
Inspiration is a great thing, when it happens. It can be something as small as a phrase or a picture that somehow captures your imagination and turns that little nugget of something into a whole scene, or more. Writing when you have that piece of inspiration is the best thing ever. You sit with your notebook or keyboard and the words just flow onto the page effortlessly. That is the type of writing I have done for forever. I get a prompt or an idea and sit down and let it flow. Super enjoyable. Should do it more often.
As part of my plan to get into the act of writing as regular thing, I signed up for a 1-day writing workshop. I really boosted my confidence in my abilities, so I signed up for the same person's 2-day workshop a few months later. The workshops really wet my appetite for getting into writing fiction, in an intentional way. I took the plunge and signed up to a 5-day residential course on how to start to write fiction.
That course was the start of a journey of writing that I never expected. I had somehow imagined that if I ever ended up writing something like a book, it would be in the romance genre. I do like a good romance. But every exercise we did in the course I kept getting scenes relating to a couple of characters dealing with hell-spawns and werewolves and curses. It wasn't a story or a set of characters I had come up with beforehand. But there they were and they weren't going away. I would get a prompt and stuff about these characters would just turn up on the page. Where did it all come from? It was the freakiest feeling. But the tutors and my fellow students couldn't have been more supportive and encouraging of my fledgling efforts, so I came away from the course with the determination to attempt to harness these nuggets of ideas into a book. Don't get me wrong. I love the fantasy genre, particularly urban fantasy. I just never expected to be trying to write one. Though as it is based in England it is more of a rural fantasy. Or at most a town fantasy.
Away from the focused environment of the course, writing is hard. Even though I find it enjoyable, I really struggle making myself sit down and write. Particularly as I'm generally not working from juicy lightning strikes of inspiration, so it isn't an enjoyable outpouring of ideas. It feels more like pushing a heavy piece of furniture forward, inch by inch. However, speaking to other aspiring writers and reading the advice of authors, I have come to understand that that is to be expected. Inspiration is a rare thing, but writing needs to happen whether it strikes or not.
So I slog on. Some weeks are better than others, but I have to be mindful of the fact that I do have a full-time job and various other musts and wants that need my time too. I was plugging away at the regular writing habit (I know it should be daily, but I also have to be realistic) and had gotten into quite a good rhythm. Then the Corona virus lock down hit and I have really struggled to create much of anything since. I'm not even quite sure why. Sure, the first couple of weeks were insanely crazy and stressful work-wise as I am one of the few people that were responsible for making sure we emptied out a couple of offices containing about 110 people in a matter of days - with no planning time. And then there were all the questions about people that were not office-based and how that would work that needed resolving. But we're now on week 6 of this new world and things are more settled at work, so I need to figure out a way to get out of this funk and back into my writing rhythm. I read somewhere a blog post, or maybe it was an interview, by a woman who had taken a 6 month sabbatical to get her book written. She said that she had assumed now that she had all that time available, it should be no problem to get the writing done. Turns out she found it really hard to sit down and do the writing. She said that what helped her was a sort of writing journal where she took stock of where her writing was at, what was going well, what wasn't going so well, what was stopping her from writing - that kind of thing.
So there may be posts of that kind of ilk. There may not. Seeing as this is the first post on this blog site, I am not quite sure what will end up turning up here. I guess we'll have to find out as we go along.
Judi Goodwin runs fantastic writing workshops. Without her and her workshops I would never have had the confidence to attend a residential writing course.
Arvon. I have only experienced one of their 5-day residential courses, but it certainly was life-changing for me. The location, the tutors, the course were all fantastic. And I have been lucky enough to make friends with some fantastic people, some of whom have created a writers' group where we meet every month to give feedback, encouragement, tips and ideas. Invaluable!