A legacy of ink

I write daily. Sometimes just records of days and dreams, memories and nightmares, but mostly creatively; filling pages with hot pen exercises, writing prompts, half baked short stories, role-playing related backgrounds and ongoing nibbles at the current novel.

Much of what I write is longhand in a standard A5-ish sized notebook, shaping the ideas, plots and characters in ink before typing into digital form. And when I get stuck for ideas of what to write or if I should bother at all, I find myself staring at the forty or so notebooks lined up on a shelf, plucking a random volume to flick through and retrieving unused ideas, half forgotten moments and memories. It usually helps me think of something else to say.

Looking at that line of ink which stretches back to February 2001, (before that I mostly used A6 sketchbooks and the ratio of writing to drawing was a lot more visual - in 2001 I realised my imagination tended to exceed my artistic ability and that it's so much harder to tell an ongoing narrative in pictures. I am far too impatient to draw graphic novels no matter how much I love reading them), helps me keep writing. That line of predominantly black fountain pen ink, so dense and certain on the page even when I have no idea or am filled with terror by what I'm writing, that line must be thousands of miles long and it just seems a shame to not continue creating it. It feels a little like I'm letting myself down if I let that line lay dormant for too long.

That line of ink makes me feel like I've achieved something if I've only managed to extend it by a page or two during the day.

And so, over time, I've filled numerous books with words and pictures, a trail of ink that I'm sure will keep going as long as I do, regardless of if I'm published or not, if I make the best-seller lists or not, or if I ever even make it past my crippling self doubt. Regardless of whatever I end up achieving in life, I will have amassed a collection of biographical and creative writing that will survive me, barring fire, theft or an apocalyptic infestation of paper eating alien invaders. There is a kind of reassurance in that - the collection of notebooks, not the paper eating alien invasion.

So, what then?

It seems morbid and depressing to think about your posessions after your death but depression and age can make you coldly rational and a bit fucking creepy. That shelf of journals holds the essence of me; anyone could read them and know me, in my joys and passions, in my fear and irritating self-obsession. Published authors live on in their works and unpublished writers live on in their words. Even if no one reads them, there is a slice of you and your life on every page, compressed and preserved in all its boredom until the ink fades and the paper disintergrates into dusty tears.

And with the digital age, unless you leave all your passwords in your will, your online selves will remain active, frozen on the last post, existing beyond your existence, perpetuating the myth of life. In the modern world, if you remain alive as long as some one remembers you, are we all now immortal?

It makes me glad of all those journals; if I'm going to be remembered it's nice/creepy to think of there being something physical of me to hold as you read my words and discover who I am. The shape of my handwriting echoing the movement of my hand, the scent of the paper and the things pressed between making the reader feel like I may have just left the room.

In 2016 Alexander Masters' book A Life Discarded (ISBN 9780008130770 HB, 9780008130817 PB) was published, a story of 148 diaries found in a skip in 2001 and his journey to discover the diarists identity and return them. This book is wonderful, witty, and a little like a murder mystery without a body and for a moment after reading it, I considered letting my notebooks out into the wild to see what happened. Then I remembered there are too many notes in there from the things I'm writing for me to lose them without tearing my hair out. Masters' diarist hadn't even noticed the box had gone missing.

The other alternative is The Great Diary Project, launched by Dr Irving Finkel and Dr Polly North in 2007. Amassing at least 8,000 diaries, The Great Diary Project collects everyday diaries written by normal people, detailing ordinary experiences. Private diaries which in time will become valuable historical sources of the human experience.

So, between now and the end of this trail of ink I either need to actually become a successful writer and leave my notes to a literary museum or charity, or find a couple of sturdy boxes and pre-pay the postage to The Great Diary Project. Or a skip. I've heard all the best writers distribute their work by skip these days.

Or I could start scanning every page and putting it online... it all sounds like a lot of effort. I'll have a cup of tea and just think about what I can do this end of the ink. Living a life worth preserving is a good start.


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