Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Writing

It used to be all about the paper. I love school exercise books - the ones with the big wide lines and space above for pictures, and the ones with the lines close together that we were allowed to 'graduate' to once our penmanship improved. I love the crisp whiteness of a fresh page, the staples in the middle, the space on the front of the cover to write my name. I love scrapbooks - whole blank pages waiting for me to give them a personality.

I wrote my first novel when I was still in primary school. It was about a flying cow called Cloudy. It took up two of those wide-lined exercise books. I started writing poetry around the same time. When we were 10 we started intermediate school. Creative writing became confined to a narrow part of our curriculum, and my enjoyment of the education system suffered. Later there was the vocal Jewish English teacher who smoked like a chimney during parent teacher evenings in the library, and swore like a trooper. Outside of class she insisted I read Shakespeare and dragged me to third form camp against my will.

After there was Mary, the spaced out hippie with half a daisy tattooed on one ankle. I was left to my own devices to some extent. My poetry appeared in school magazines and I learned how to perform my work in front of an audience. I also learned how to use a typewriter. I fell in love again with the materials of writing. I loved typewriter ribbons, Tippex, the feeling of my fingers hitting the keys, the rhythm of it and the sound of letters being marked on the page. I loved the speed with which I could commit word to paper.

At university I struggled with digital composition. I continued to write my essays by hand, typing them into the computer afterwards. It wasn't until I was forced to write reports for work years later that I ever learned to compose onscreen. I even wrote my thesis by hand, although I'm incredulous now! Writing my thesis was a different process again. I loved the research, the recording of material worthy of quotes, the formulation of an argument, the linear process of it all. I loved the carefully typed, green hard-bound product of my labours. I loved the gold lettering and my name on the cover, and I loved the grade I got at the end!

Years later I find myself writing my poetry at my desk. Avoiding work my brain seeks ways to distract me from the task at hand. I find my creative muse, a mischievous elf, tapping me on the shoulder with ideas for the first line of a new verse. Now writing to a computer screen seems normal, natural. I enjoy the flexibility of the delete key, the space bar, the enter key and the back button. I email my home email address, then publish my work to my blog, and the world (or at least those of you who have stumbled across me), sees it.

Of course there is the little red notebook with the thin blue lines and the magnetic clasp. There are the inspirational writing books full of prompts and the two slim volumes of work by Mary Oliver on the art of writing poetry. These sit my my bed on a small chest of drawers, beneath a white lamp and next to my radio alarm clock, a bottle of water, some moisturiser and a pen. On the floor below are the novels I am reading. These are the private places, the writing you will not get to see unless I feel they are ready to be shared.

After all, every writer needs her secrets!

More writers talking about writing here.


gautami tripathy said...

What writer can survive without secrets? That is his/her weapon.

Great reflective post.

Jo said...

A lovely post. I was just saying somewhere else that I use a computer to write, which would have HORRIFIED my 18-year-old self. The change came when I was writing my thesis. I discovered WordPerfect and turned my back on pen and paper -- but I still love the sight of a naked page LOL.

tumblewords said...

These thoughts are well ordered, make a nice read and hint about your process!I hope you'll have some secrets to share at a later time.

sister AE said...

I must admit that I face most blank pieces of paper with a bit of trepidation. I have grown so used to the computer's Undo command (my most favorite of all computer commands) that I hate the idea of messing up - particularly if the paper is nice. Since I don't feel such reticence with electronic media, my words don't have to fight against my worries when I use the computer. But I love having everything printed out on paper at the end!