I think most writers – being strange, obsessive folk who are apt to worry a lot – have rituals. For mag pieces I can only write in Calibri 12 font, nothing else will do, and I need a clean desk, a coffee by my side, or at least in my tummy, and nothing on my internet browser bar Google, lest I be tempted to distract.
Same goes for writing fiction, only with more rituals and a bucket load of superstitions. For instance, at the beginning I can only write when there’s no-one else around, which isn’t terribly helpful as I live in a household that contains three other noisy beings. But even before that happens, when I’ve finished the staring out of windows, plotting, planning, characterisation stage and am ready to begin writing the first chapter, I have to make sure all the moons are in alignment before putting finger to keyboard.
I can’t be having a bad week or be feeling under the weather; I can’t have any lingering annoyances over an earlier squabble about getting ready for school or that guy who honked me at the traffic lights. I must be clear of befuddlement in body and soul. Because if I start off on the wrong foot at this embryonic and incredibly fragile stage, then I run the risk of the whole project having a hex hanging over it.
But the most important ritual during an even earlier stage of the development process is one that’s been a habit of mine since I was about 10 1/2, and that is: finding The Notebook. The sacred, all important, preferably brightly coloured with just the right heaviness of covering, notebook.
After moving to Sydney and not having the stationary shop Rymans, or even W.H.Smiths, available to me, I ended up scouring shops endlessly for the perfect candidate. In the end I admitted defeat and made do with boring, plain covered ones, which were okay, but only when coupled with the Perfect Pen.
This time around, I got lucky. I was shopping for a kid’s party the other week and went to the brilliant and bizarre Japanese shop, Daiso, where everything is $2.80 and gorgeously cute whether you’re buying a toilet cleaner or ashtray. There, among tiny exercise books and natty diaries, I saw The Notebook. It was perfect and, even better, had the ultimate holy grail of notebook accessories: an elastic holdy thingy that wraps around the book, making sure it stays shut.
It was also the most perfect shade of flamingo pink. And an unusual size. Not standard! It had a slimmer than usual silhouette. It was all very Japanese and delightful and, so, I made it mine. I couldn’t be happier.
I haven’t started writing in it just yet. It’s waiting for me in a special, private spot. The ideas are still perculating. Various threads are only just beginning to be tangible. There’s a story forming in there, somewhere, but I’m not quite sure what it is; I can’t quite grasp at it yet. But that’s okay; this stage is vital. I call it the daydream phase and it’s liable to last a while.
Besides, the Perfect Pen situation hasn’t been resolved yet.