the literary life 7/29/09
I have always been big on having beautiful stationary: journals, pens, envelopes, and pencil cases. I enjoy writing with beautiful accessories. In some books about writing, the authors suggest carrying around ordinary notebooks because they are less intimidating: somehow ordinary notebooks let us accept ourselves the way we are. The idea for some is that fancy notebooks and pens pressure one to write at a higher level and can end up causing one to feel inadequate and to suffer from writer's block.
For some reason, I don't feel this way about fine stationary. I do suffer from doubts and blocks from time to time, but typically, they are for different reasons. I like aesthetically pleasing materials. On occasion, I like the challenge of rising to the demands of a beautiful notebook. The fact is, I really don't have a writing desk. If I did, I probably wouldn't use it for much except storage. I don't have one specific writing space. I write on my sofa, my bed, on the floor, at a cafe, at the dentist's office, or in the classroom where I teach. My writing space has to be portable. I carry a bag with me and in the bag I carry my pens and notebooks. I see my pens and notebooks as my writing desk, and I want this "writing desk" of stationary to be aesthetically pleasing and uplifting.
Extraordinary poems and stories can be written in a 79 cent navy notebook, but I don't think gorgeous stationary need be intimidating. I love a fine writing accessory the way I love wearing a cashmere sweater: because it makes me feel good. I love a fine writing accessory the way I love a painting on the wall. It doesn't mean my home can't get messy. It just means that even when there's mess, there's a reminder of higher beauty.
If you don't like writing in fancy diaries, think about one fancy piece of stationary you might like, just for fun: a calligraphy pen, a leather pencil case, an exquisite bookmark. Let it be a reminder of ordinary luxuries, of the textures that accompany the writing life. Make it your writing totem, your portable desk.