I broke into a new legal pad in A4 size yesterday. I bought it last year after being inspired by the law show The Good Wife, where the stationery would often distract me from the proceedings of the storyline. American legal pads, usually yellow in colour with, as I’ve been led to believe, a wide margin on the left as prescribed by a judge is a popular choice among many writers. You can find out more about its history here, but why I’ve shared my interest in the modest object with a nevertheless formidable association with the legal system is this – I busted it out in order to enjoy writing.
What a shallow thing to be doing, you might say. Since when do implements matter? True, I’m not one for going after the most expensive materials, be it a Moleskine or a MacBook. I don’t think I would be even when I’m financially comfortable with the idea. But, I’ve tried EVERYTHING to make it happen. Make writing happen, the way it used to for me. It used to be simple – just composition notebooks, or affordable computers. And pens. And time. And inspiration. It wasn’t such a frustration to just get started, and I was usually too much in the thick of things to care about anything else than what was going on in the page. I’ve often talked about being blocked here, but I’ve never felt quite so divorced from writing before at any point in my life. Separated, shall we say, to alleviate the pain a little.
And so, I’m up to any measures necessary. I’ve done the morning pages – waking up and writing at least three pages as advised by Julia Cameron, and I’ve not been happy with what I wrote on most days, though maybe that is not the point of the exercise. I’ve rewarded myself after reaching a goal – 5000 words in a day during NaNoWriMo, but I didn’t end up completing the project. I’ve tried Pinterest, looking for prompts and inspiration, but that didn’t work either. I’ve done free-writes often, but things rarely seem to materialize into something that can be potentially publishable someday. I’ve often said that writer’s block is a 100% life block, but how many writers are out there who have minimal life blocks to help them stay productive? I’ll be honest, if I really was happy, and I’ve had had a few good mood days lately, I won’t be writing much. Happiness is like a natural drugged-out state for me, and I’d rather be doing nothing, or something relaxed, than being productive.
I do get a kick out of being productive. Being productive makes me the most happy, but it is only after the fact. Like Dorothy Parker said, “I hate writing. I love having written.” And I am productive on most days. I am certainly not averse to hard work. I’ve just found writing creatively absolutely impenetrable.
And so I thought I’d try enjoyment. I pulled out my only expensive pen, took the plastic wrap off the legal pad (which was the cheapest among my small collection of pretty stationery. Yes, I am rather thrifty when it comes to paper. Or pretty much anything.) and wrote to the pad. Sounds weird, I know, but I made myself acutely observe my experience in putting my name in the distinguished history of writers who use legal pads (before I distinguish myself, of course). It didn’t solve the problem, but it was liberating to write without having to reach for some end. I was careful with it, for the pen’s nib would not facilitate fast writing. Usually, I glide furiously on 40 or 50 GSM paper, but this was 80 GSM. It was almost like going to a posh event and trying not to be found out, which is against my every impulse as a writer. Writing, for me, is free. It is where I’m not required to be careful, because that is what editing is for. I believe it is called a “brain dump,” but all the good writing I do is me putting it all out, on paper or screen or usually a combination of both, before the pruning begins. Followed by relief when it is done, and then panic when it is out in the universe.
So, did I enjoy the ‘spoiling yourself’ process? Writing as pampering and not as desperation? I don’t know. I liked it as an experience in itself, but it is still not the perfect way for me. Writing in pads certainly isn’t, because as much as I appreciated having a wide margin and not having to use my left hand to press the book down (for I rarely like to fold bound-up things), using the other side of the page is impractical and I cannot handle waste. I wouldn’t have blank pages unless they add meaning to the text. I keep reminding myself what one of my favourite writers, Russell T. Davies, said, “The only way to write is to write.” Once you’re into a piece, that is the thing that motivates you, rather than when, where, how or for whom you’re writing it. It isn’t always pleasant, but if it succeeds in keeping you hooked, that is all you can ask for. From the piece, and from yourself.
How do you enjoy writing?
Read my previous, mostly unrelated post on enjoying writing here.