Last week I reached a disagreement with myself. After nearly three months of trying to figure out what the hell I was doing with this novel, I scribbled out a new, simpler plot on my dry board and then climbed aboard my black stallion, ready to craft my novel from scratch, in a brand-spanking new notebook.
It’d be inappropriate to express exactly how this made me feel but let’s say it was somewhere between dunking Rich Tea Fingers into a jar of Nutella, and reaching to toilet just in time.
I got my new Cahier ready, sharpened my pencil. Opened the soft card cover, listened to the fibres of the spine sigh. Then my Writer’s ‘Enthusiasm’ flopped, for want of a better word.
I’d never been so turned-off in my life.
I thought it was just me, having an ‘off’ day; I’ve been having the same ‘off’ day since August 29, 2011. But I dismissed it and did that writerly thing where you say, in either a whispish sigh or a bravado boom, TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY.
Turns out tomorrow is too. Oh, and the tomorrow after that.
So I put it to some folk on Twitter, folk who know all about the obsession of holding a pen, and asked whether it’d be a good idea to ditch the notebook.
The problem is, notebooking just isn’t doing it for me any longer; asides from waking at unspeakable hours to type out something quick on the iPad, I stopped using my beloved Cahiers the day I finished my degree.
I’d made an effort to keep them going but they were beginning to unnerve me. I was moving into my third book and my ideas had changed beyond recognition so many times throughout the first and second, I felt starting a third was just another excuse not to stand firm with an idea.
Of course, the idea will develop whether I put it in a notebook or not, but once it goes in the Cahier, it doesn’t usually come out again. And that’s what I found so unbearable.
Responses on Twitter were what I expected: people, writers, love their notebooks. Sarah Salway said hers is her compost heap. I can see the appeal, have lived in the deliciousness myself. Nothing feels more essential or important than a notebook full of hard work.
But it’s not on the damn page, is it? Not in the form it needs to be in i.e. sentences, paragraphs, scenes, chapters - not notes and questions and musings.
I’m well underway with the Two Week Challenge but I’ve not touched any of my notebooks. I don’t want to because it feels like stepping backwards when I need to go forward with this. Everything is coming from upstairs, raw and unworked.
In a way, I’ve answered my own question: notebooks, for the moment, aren’t for me. I have ditched them. But this leaves me with a bit of a problem in that I need a physical space to map everything out. My novel, as it is, is a tapestry of random moments that interlink only through perseverance if you have the stamina to read it. It makes sense in a disjointed way, which I’m enjoying.
But that doesn’t mean an agent or publisher will like it.
What I need is a massive scroll of paper - not a set of massive ‘A’ pads - but a scroll, so that I can record the passage of what I’m writing, a bit like a King whose name I can’t remember did, a few centuries back, to prove that he was rightful heir to the English throne, being descended from the greats and all.
I see in my future, hours of scrolling through eBay in search of this epic scroll.
Until then, I have thousands of words to write.