Prompted by a magazine article about clearing out one’s kitchen cupboards, I decided to conduct a similar inventory on my writing notes, wherever they were lurking. Not having a very reliable memory these days, I jot down ideas and material for my second novel anywhere I happen to be, and that means using anything at my disposal to record my bon mots.
As well as the more obvious notebooks by the bedside, in the living room and in various handbags, I have collections of notes in ‘bits and pieces’ documents on my PC and snippets recorded on my iPhone. But I also scribble handwritten notes and leave them in all manner of strange locations. Here’s where I’ve found little missives so far:
under a tin of artisan soap on the kitchen table; wrapped round a bunch of bananas; in an old wallet between my library card and a hairdressing appointment card; stuck to the wipe-board on my fridge door by a magnetic pineapple; inside the case of the distance spectacles I’ve never got on with; pinned to the kitchen notice board; being used as bookmarks by other members of the family; under the wonky leg on the coffee table; doubling up as a coffee cup coaster.
Where I leave these notes probably reveals something about my writing personality, but luckily I’m not a psychoanalyst, so let’s not go down that road. I’m reminded of my dear departed Dad, who used to jot down his thoughts in newspaper margins, cut them out carefully and leave them on the mantelpiece. He wasn’t writing his memoirs or anything, I think he just wanted a temporary recording of his opinions. I wish I’d kept them; some of them were quite profound.
Looking at what I’ve amassed so far, I can see I have pressed all types of writing surface into service: colleagues’ business cards; torn off pieces of cardboard cereal packets; the margins of Sudoku puzzle books; the blank bits along the bottom of the kitchen calendar; the space around the windows on business mail envelopes; length of pink ribbon from a bouquet of flowers; the little pad I use for shopping lists; invoices; credit card receipts; sheets of toilet tissue (unused!); recipe cards; paper grocery sacks; bus and train tickets; Post-its and memo pads. I mourn the passing of proper paper wrappings on sweets and candy – the plasticised stuff they use nowadays just won’t take any ink.
Now that I’ve collected, organised and studied these scribblings, I’ve encountered a problem. In many cases too much time has elapsed between committing the original idea to paper for me to either decipher my illegible writing, or remember my intentions when I first wrote it down. Some notes prompt my memory and I have a very clear vision of where the snippet will fit into the greater work. Other bits… not a clue.
Oh well, they’ll make a great game of Consequences for the writing group.