Hypergraphia — bleeding inky thought onto paper

I have no fixed process for writing. Stories come the way they come. Sometimes that means a single scene from which I have to uncover the rest of the story like an archaeologist digging up a pot or an ancient skeleton; other times it means sitting down with a pen and paper as soon as I’ve dragged myself out of bed, scribbling furiously while someone tries to ask me what I want for breakfast and whether I’ll be making coffee any time soon.

I keep what is probably some kind of commonplace. In fact, I keep several, and carry all of them around with me along with half the contents of a decent stationery shop, because I become quite anxious if I lack a way of draining the contents of my head at any given moment. I have a cherished, if battered, Timbuk2 El Ocho, which is well overdue for replacement, and it is full of the various things I need to keep the fiction imps at bay while carrying on with the rest of my life.

Most of my work germinates as pen and ink and paper. It used to be the case that every first draft found form on narrow-ruled, feint and margin, before I could begin to type. I still have a lot of material, things that have either not sold yet or never will, stashed around the place. For the sake of speed and saving time, I moved on from writing out the whole thing by hand, but I cannot entirely tear myself away from the pen and paper stage.

Commonplace book

A couple of pages showing the birth of a work in progress

I don’t just keep notes, write down references, quotes, ideas, fragments of sentences that have a shape I want to explore. Sometimes the names of songs, places, even food finds their way in there. I find going about it this way, rather than doing everything by tapping away on a keyboard, helps encourage the creative process and entrains more of whatever engine it is that drags these things from the aether.

The book itself is a large plain moleskine (I also have two ruled, and a plain folio). I use a variety of fountain pens, coloured pens and pencils, Washi tape and Coccoina paste. The intention isn’t to keep a journal, although there are some truly beautiful ones out there (take a look on Pinterest — you’ll find a few on my Pen & Ink board, like this one). Still, the result of all my notekeeping being fun to review means I can happily spend time going back through my stack of notebooks looking at story fragments and ideas.

This practise has proved invaluable to me in greasing the wheels and adding a bit of low-end torque to jolt things out of a rut and free up narrative space. There are times when I need freedom to think, to mull, to plan, to let my subconscious chew on things for a while, or even to have a conversation, make like a sociable human being, but whatever it is inside my head that makes words has the bit between its teeth and won’t let go, even though it’s heading on entirely the wrong track. Cutting things out and sticking them into a notebook might not look like writing, but I can assure you, it is.

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International Book Day Shelfie

It was International Book Day yesterday, and I kind of missed it. I wish I had some writerly excuse, such as being too busy working on a story to guddle about on the interwebs, but the fact is I was engaged in rescuing my beloved from a collapsed freewheel, and then we both conked out on the sofa. We had a long day of whitewater survival training on Wednesday, and are both very tired and covered in bruises.

Apparently the thing to do is to post a “shelfie” – rather than a badly focused, awkwardly-angled picture of one’s own mug, one posts a picture of one’s bookshelves. I dislike puns, but never mind.

The following are only the shelves in my office. We have more. We have shelves everywhere there is wall space and I’m not likely to walk into them*.Desk Shelfie

This is the shelf next to my desk. It’s mostly comics, reference books and maps. So. Many. Maps. And yet, not enough maps! One day I will have Landrangers covering the entirety of Scotland at the very least. I may even work my way up to the whole of the UK.

I occasionally think about clearing the very top shelf to make more space for books, but then I’d have to find somewhere else to put Cthulhu, Stanshall the mole, Lara and the Sackperson, my molecule building set, Mindflex and Inflatable Wolverine.

There isn’t anywhere else. We simply need to find a space to put another bookshelf.

We might need a bigger house.

Shelfie 2This is the shelf next to the door. Some fiction, more reference books, the stacks where new acquisitions go before I’ve worked out where to put them (in addition to the pile on the living room table and the other pile in the bedroom).

It’s starting to occur to me I may have a terrible book addiction.

*I walk into things a lot, particularly on the right side, as I have a blind spot the size of Belgium that starts just past my nose, no depth perception and am frequently distracted by the contents of my head. I have enough trouble with door frames without putting additional obstacles in my way.

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Synaesthesia

I have synaesthesia – not one of the easily explainable ones, like numbers have colours, but more of a whole-body topological sort of affair. It’s hard to explain, so I rarely bother trying.

There are experiences, though, that are so overwhelming I occasionally attempt to share them. This evening, coming back from an afternoon out to Haddo House and Formartine’s, I noticed the sky as I parked the car. When I got out, the combination of the air temperature, the smell, the slight breeze and the distant sound of traffic on the A90 combined to give a synaesthetic overlay. Coincidentally, the shapes formed in the sky were of a similar shape and pattern to this cross-wired gestalt.

A little tweaking and it’s close to a pictorial representation of what I felt. Not quite, but close.

Close of Play

Sun settles
Clouds churn
Day dissolves
Nascent night
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