perfect for scribbling: my favourite notebooks for budding writers

Last Thursday I handed in my creative writing dissertation. The product of four long months of hard work, seven packets of chocolate covered digestive biscuits, and one notebook.

By the time I reached the word count, in between bouts of crying and stress induced eating, I was just about enjoying myself. But in January, faced with weeks and weeks of writing ahead of me, the last thing I wanted to do was pick up my pen.

In the midst of my desperation, I started to think that it might have something to do with the pen itself and my notebook of choice, in this case an A4 Pukka pad. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against Pukka pads; they are perfect for lecture notes, essay planning, list writing etc. But when it comes to writing creatively, when you sit down to begin that long awaited novel, you are going to need something a little more inspirational.

For the procrastinator extraordinaire (myself included), stationery shopping is the logical start to any writing project. Before you begin your sonnet, embed your clauses, or open up thesaurus.com, you need to fully immerse yourself in the importance of your stationery choices. There are so many questions that need to be answered… Soft or hardback? Lined or plain? A4 or pocket-sized? Leather or fabric?

Luckily for you budding writers/procrastinators out there, I’m a bit of a stationery geek so I’ve done some window shopping and found seven of the best notebooks that will help you get your scribble on.

1. There is nothing nicer than the smell of a real leather notebook. £33.75. Roma from Papuro. www.papuro.com

2. THE “legendary notebook” favoured by artists and thinkers alike, Moleskine journals have a special place in my heart. If they were good enough for Hemingway and Picasso, they are good enough for me. £8.99 small soft cover from Moleskine. www.moleskine.co.uk

3. We all need a little bit of inspiration every now and again.  If you find yours when musing about the literary greats, this little notebook, from the appropriately titled ‘Lofty Thinking’ range, could be your perfect writing companion. (price on request) by Eccolo. www.eccololtd.com

4. For those of you with ambitious aspirations, this notebook will help you on your way. £27.50 from Hope House Press. Available from www.notonthehighstreet.com.

5. And if you’ve set your sights a little higher, this notebook might be the first step towards commercial success. £5 by Waldo Pancake. Try www.reallygood.uk.com

6. Perhaps you are more of a travel writer? Bombus allows you to pick your own front cover for this notebook. Anywhere in the world, New York, Barbados, Basingstoke… your choice. £26. Available at www.notonthehighstreet.com.

7. If all this notebook shopping isn’t helping your stress levels, perhaps destroying this journal will put you back in a creative frame of mind. My favourite pages include: ‘drawkcab etirW’, ‘Document your dinner (use page as a napkin)’, and ‘Shower with your journal’. Being instructed to destroy a book is a very liberating experience. Filled with random acts of creativity, although I wouldn’t advise using this journal as the place to start your novel, it will definitely spark your imagination. £8.99 from Penguin. www.urbanoutfitters.co.uk

Although stationery shopping may seem like a trivial business, I personally think that you can never underestimate the power of a good notebook. I think I have mine to thank for my finished dissertation (though I am yet to find out how thankful I should be. I don’t get my degree results for another five weeks…)

Published by www.litro.co.uk on May 12th 2011

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i value the arts

Whether it’s the NHS, the Police Force or university tuition fees, the government spending cuts have been gracing the front pages of Britain’s newspapers almost every day for the last nine months. With the nation reeling from threats to frontline public services, the prospect of unemployment, and the increase in VAT, it is easy to consider the arts as expendable and cuts to them as trivial. But it’s important that we are aware of the cuts being made and the effects that they might have on our culture and artistic legacy. The government has currently implemented a 15% cut to national museums and galleries, with the possibility of up to 100% funding cuts being administered by local authorities. Quangos such as the UK Film Council and the Museums, Libraries, and Archives Council have been, or will be, scrapped completely. In addition to this the Arts Council England has received a 29.6% cut; a reduction that will inconceivably change the face of Britain’s art and culture. Dubbed ‘Cuts D-Day’, the 30th of March will reveal both the true extent of the arts cuts and the fate of the 1,340 organisations who have applied for funding from the Arts Council.

For a soon to be arts graduate, the cuts are especially worrying; as if the impending end of my degree and the nasal tones of the prophetic Arts Graduate Unemployment Song aren’t stressful enough, cuts to the arts sector will add further damage to the already dire jobs market. I think it’s time we reminded ourselves why the arts are important.

As Picasso poetically put it, “the purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls”. Although art isn’t necessary in the same way that the NHS is, life is duller without it. An integral part of British culture, art influences how we live; from our views and opinions to the colour of our wallpaper and the clothes that we wear, the arts are vital to our society. Britain’s film, theatre, fashion, music and art are something we should be proud of; they are stimulating, inspirational and, of course, enjoyable.

We define British culture by the artistic achievements of its past and present. When we study the renaissance we use the work of Shakespeare, Milton, and Spenser (to name a few) in an attempt to understand their society. Aside from the 1966 World Cup win, we define Britain in the 60’s by The Beatles, Pop Art, and Mary Quant. Art defines each decade, century, or civilisation and acts as its lasting legacy. Our generation will be remembered, perhaps in part for our political turmoil, troubled economy and CO2 emissions, but mainly for our contributions to art and culture. In the wise words of Margaret Atwood “when any civilisation is dust and ashes…art is all that’s left over”.

Boasting some of the most iconic museums and galleries in the world, and with thriving theatrical and musical industries, Britain has been having what some are describing as a Golden Age of art. An increasing number of cultural attractions have, through generous amounts of funding, been able to improve their facilities and offer free entry. It has taken years for Britain to create a vibrant art culture that is the envy of the world but it could take no time at all to destroy it. Cutting investment in the arts will lesson opportunities, restrict access to arts and culture, and limit the creative potential of the younger generation. But these cuts are now inevitable and, some would argue, necessary. In spite of the fact that, as the Arts Council outlines on their website, “any cut to the arts will have a disproportionate effect for a relatively tiny saving to the public purse”, it is undeniable that taking more funding away from frontline public services will leave them floundering in a way that it will not leave the arts. While these cuts will change the arts as our generation has known them, it will not mean that they will disappear entirely.

Already there are organisations popping up which are finding new approaches and adapting to the changing context of Britain’s art culture. We can protect our artistic legacy and the organisations and projects that are threatened by the cuts. An example of this is the newly formed We Did This organisation. With “Art for everyone, funded by everyone” as its tagline, We Did This is definitely one of the many organisations that will be formed to help the arts thrive in the face of financial difficulty. Artists and art appreciators alike are showing their support for the arts; the recent ‘Save Our Libraries’ protests proved that Britain won’t let the arts go down without a fight. Art in the 2010s doesn’t have to be remembered for discarded libraries, abandoned artistic organisations and increasing gallery entry prices. The nature of art is to adapt and our artists, musicians, actors and writers are resilient and resourceful; the face of our art culture is already changing. ▪

Show your support or find out more about the arts cuts:

http://wedidthis.org.uk/

http://savethearts-uk.blogspot.com/

http://www.ivaluethearts.org.uk/

http://www.whatnextarts.com/

Culture Cuts Blog on www.guardian.co.uk

Published in the Spring 2011 issue of Razz My Berries Magazine.

litro magazine: perfect for scribbling

I have just begun contributing to Litro magazine’s website and blog. Litro is a free monthly literary magazine that publishes new, original short fiction. As well as articles on life, literature, art and culture, the Litro website houses interviews with authors and lists enough arty events to fulfill all your creative needs.

Take a look at my first article “Perfect for scribbling: our favourite notebooks for budding writers”.

www.litro.co.uk