I write to try and understand; whether it is the tender relationships between men and women or my own mind, for some reason writing it down makes it more real, easier to deal with.
I write every day, it may not always be fiction but I will write something: fragments, observations, overheard conversations. Sometimes, when words are not forthcoming, I take photos or draw.
I used to search everywhere for the perfect notebook. Until a few years ago I just wrote on anything I could find: till receipts, flyleaf, old school books etc. This proved to be a troublesome, as I invariably misplaced it all. I was mostly writing songs at that time though and it is probably a good thing they were lost. My parents bought me an A5 plain page notebook for a birthday gift one year and I filled it up in no time with giant, unorganised scrawling. It was then that I knew I would need lines, discipline, structure. I couldn't go on wasting paper, trees, ink.
When I first had the urge to write every day I bought myself a lined pocket Moleskine. Amazon recommended one to me, I don’t remember why, and it was reduced, so I took a chance. To cut out a long rambling process of trial and error with planners, different notebooks and pens, I moved from writing everything in one book to putting different things in separate books. Now, in my arsenal I have one lined Moleskine-esque notebook for writing first drafts of stories. I found this one in my local bookstore for £3. Though it is an imitation, it has a border around each page and extra space above and below the top and bottom lines; these are perfect for editing first drafts.
For the rest of my activities, writing fragments, drawing, journalism notes/plans and my book journal, I use Moleskine Cahiers, in both plain and lined pages. To keep these in order and portable I made the book you can see below.
It is a hollowed out Moleskine 18month planner with the cahiers attached by elastic bands. This way I can take out filled books and put in fresh ones. The front addition is the wonderfully handy and organised Nabakovian index cards. I write various things on these and when they are filled I put them in the back cover folder until I have dealt with them.
I write exclusively with Bic Medium's.
This way of doing things has vastly helped my organisation. Now I no longer forget or lose anything.
Hemingway said that the key to writing is to “write the truest sentence that you know.” When I first read this line, a few years ago now, it was almost like everything I had done up to that point was wrong. It was a clarifying moment. I finally understood why the stories I had been making up were rubbish; they were made up.
Everything I have written since then has either happened to me, or to someone I know. In some way, I am in every story I write.
Hemingway taught me to tell the truth. Raymond Carver taught me that the average person is far more fascinating than the unique. Without those two, I cannot say whether I would be writing today.
I write to understand. To organise my mind. To trap my thoughts on a page where they can’t bother me.
Alex Thornber writes stories, non fiction and blogs. He loves typewriters and 35mm cameras. He edits Tomlit Quarterly and has recently entered the world of zines with 'No Use Crying Over Spilt Ink'. To read his stories and keep up to date with things go to www.alexthornber.webs.com