The power of the notebook

Today has been a gift. From me, to me. For the first time this year, I have allowed myself a morning to enjoy and absorb poetry. Word bathing, if you like. Time spent rolling sounds around, feeling the different textures, noting the first reactions, second reactions the oh of course reactions. This morning has felt like exhaling. For the first time in about a month.

February and rebirth

Imbolc, St.Brigid – February is a time of beginnings. The birds know we do not need to wait for the saccharine lambs and fluff tailed bunnies of modern Easter for spring to begin. The birds are already pair-swooping, dawn greeting, land grabbing. Sleep is over. Change is coming.

I wrote a lot last year about becoming more attuned to the seasons. Lockdown, writing for Spelt, understanding the importance of my own little patch have all led me to notice and nurture change and to learn more about the way the land speaks through tradition.

All of which sounds very calming – and it is. Unfortunately, I lost the ability to tap into this through January. The month was spent too much indoors, too preoccupied with the mess of life to step outside and breathe in the cold, watch the sleeping, listen for the first stirring. Too busy to be. It happens so often, and I always imagine I will learn from past mistakes and I never do. There is always hope and, so far in my life, there is always spring.

Snowdrops by Bruce Kelzer on Unsplash

The power of the notebook

Back to my morning. I love to write, and I have lovely friends who give me gifts of beautiful notebooks. Notebooks that I place on my dedicated notebook pile and save for when I will write something worthy of its quality paper and captivating cover. I promise myself I will redraft all those rough notes of poems on scraps of whatever, and copy them into the hallowed ivory pages, using my best copperplate handwriting.

I never do, of course. The notes remain scrappy, the lucky few make it into my computer and are sent out to the accepted/rejected by busy journal editors or sifted by competition judges. The notebooks remain pristine, unsullied by inexpert words or blotchy Bic biros. The notebooks, if they could feel such things, are probably sad.

Today, as well as giving myself time, I gave myself permission to use what is my very favourite notebook ( it’s so beautiful I shed a tear when I unwrapped it) the kind I would never, ever buy for myself. I’m not using it for a special project or grand, completed prizewinning poems. It’s for this year’s adventures in poetry. There are thoughts on what I’m reading, notes from my courses with Nine Arches Press and Wendy Pratt, and clumsy, jumbled responses to poetry prompts. The paper is divine, the physical act of writing in these books feels decadent, the sense of allowing myself to use something beautiful for my own work is liberating.

All this from a notebook?

Even as I write this, I’m second guessing and berating myself for being stupid. But yes – all this from a notebook. Choosing to use this represents permission, represents valuing my own words, represents not writing for the editors or judges, but writing to record, to explore and to chart my own adventure. It represents freedom.

Confidence boosters

I received pretty positive feedback for my accredited short course with York CLL, with some useful actions to help me improve my work. One was to work on my titles, the other was to have more confidence in my writing. The titles will be a challenge, but not unachievable. The confidence – a little more tricky. Two fab things have happened this week though. One was getting a message showing me a phot of one of my bespoke poems gracing the walls of its owner, and the other was getting a message saying how my crowdfunded poetry pamphlet Yes to Tigers inspired a fellow Raven Studios bursary recipient  Lewis Wyn Davies to self-publish their own work Comprehensive (which looks amazing). I often describe my reason for writing as being to connect with others -and I can’t think of two better ways to realise that something about all this is working, albeit intermittently.

So I begin this month in a better place. With a sense of possibility and hope, rather than panic and disillusion. The nature of my sometimes colourful mental health means this may all change tomorrow of course, but for today I will relish the feeling of being grounded, the noticing of spring, and the smooth bound pages of this beautiful notebook.

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