Just last week I had to clean out my office so it could be painted. Amongst all the dog-eared paperbacks, art materials, blank notebooks, Doctor Who figurines, hand-crafted Father’s Day presents and old photographs there were fragments of notepaper, all bearing the scrawl of me, the mad writer.
Seeing all those pieces of paper scattered like leaves around the room, I suddenly realised how much of a hoarder I am. Not just of paraphernalia, but of ideas. I never have any trouble coming up with story ideas, what I do have trouble with is actually getting around to bringing all of them to life.
My wife’s solution was simple – write the ideas down yes, but then transcribe them into the computer and throw the piece of paper away. Makes sense doesn’t it? I guess this comes back to my aversion to typing stories into the computer. Personally I hate it, but I know many authors who write that way. I find writing freehand is cathartic and the story seems to flow out of me as I run my hand across the page. My handwriting is hard to read sometimes, but it’s mine.
The prospect of throwing those notes away is daunting because I’d feel like I was throwing pieces of myself away. The same goes for my collection of books – if I put them in a box to go to Lifeline or elsewhere, I’m not just throwing pieces of me away, but the ideas of the authors I admire as well. Is that disrespectful? I believe it would be, therefore those novels will always have a place on my shelf.
Amidst all this reflection and re-organising, I was having a problem with my new e-reader, a Pico Life. It was a good e-reader; colour screen for one, but then it just stopped holding its charge. I always wanted to get a Kindle, but couldn’t afford one at the time. I took the e-reader back for a refund and bought myself a Refurbished (secondhand) Kindle. Even without the colour screen, it’s still fantastic. Books are downloaded in 20 seconds and it feels so good and light in your hands.
But when I was reading from the Kindle the other night, that twinge of betrayal crept into my subconscious again. I was lying there reading from a machine, while next to me my wife was reading a paperback copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This is the eternal argument – how is a book meant to be read – via a screen or from the page?
For a moment I felt like I was throwing away a piece of myself again by not indulging in the printed page, the smell of ink on paper. I’ve always said that e-books and e-readers are simply new tools for writers to reach their audience, but is it better to hoard as many books as we can in case the screen becomes the norm?