Writing doesn’t just happen in our heads, it happens in our hands as well. Part of the reason I keep a journal is that I find it very hard to think without the physical words. Or more accurately I find it very hard to progress a thought beyond Step One without writing it down. Writing for me, is the act of drawing out my thinking. It’s definitely physical. I know when I have done good work because my knuckles get cramp. If I’m really motoring my hands take over and the words come out of my pen without my head being involved. Maybe this is what the Elizabethans were referring to when they talked about the Muse.
I write first drafts long hand and I am quite fetishistic about the equipment I use. The paper must have enough weight and be plain or squared, I can’t get on with lines. Pencils have to be 2B, any lighter and the mark is not dark enough. If I’m using pencil I’ll have a handful ready in a mug on top of my desk so that I don’t have to sharpen them. I often use pens and then it has to be a fountain pen or a fine fibre-tip. Only black is acceptable.
All this is in my mind at the moment because I have just had my mother’s old Parker Pen serviced with http://www.auchenfrancoholidays.co.uk/pen.html It’s fifty years old with a gold nib that is as smooth as silk to use.
Perhaps more importantly is the image I have of my mother’s hands using it to write. She was an artist so she lived through her hands and eyes (she drew the teazel at the head of this blog). Her fingers were exceptionally strong, long, pale and blotched with freckles. Her thumbs were almost deformed; squat and broad with a short wide nail that only reached as far as her first set of boney knuckles. She was keen on gold, she wore two bangles that clanked together and a large topaz ring the size of a dog’s tooth. In her other hand she held a cigarette or a whiskey and soda.
Now my mother is gone and I just have the pen. But I’m superstitious. This pen is my mascot. It’s going to be as lucky for me as a rabbit’s paw. With this pen I’m going to write good stuff and something of my Mum’s fierce spirit will seep into the ink that flows from it.