They say if you want to be a writer, you should keep a notebook with you at all times. Whenever an idea for a story strikes you, jot it down. Maybe a phrase you overhear, or a scrap of poetry that occurs to you, write it down. Who knows what ideas may germinate.
Now, I have no plans to be a writer, at least not the sort who keeps a notebook with me at all times. But there’s something in the wisdom of impulse. There’s a certain beauty to thinking that my tattered thoughts and ideas, if I collate them and document them patiently, will one day bloom into the next Cloudstreet.
Even though I’ve no plans to be a writer, I do think that each romance is like a book. I like reading books and I start them knowing that they’ll end eventually. I hope that they offer me moments of beauty, of self-knowledge, of insight. Then they are done and some passages will stay with me and others will be forgotten and each year that passes is like a wave lapping at memories etched in sandstone, blurring the edges, reducing resolution. What was once memories of pure joy becomes muted, softened. Worn.
I haven’t yet published any novels but I hope that my scrapbooking is worth it. Memories of former lovers, experiences, lessons, are cut out and pasted in pages and I pull together the fragments hoping that one day a theme will reveal itself, a motif, a central plotline, and my opus will take shape. Who knows what may germinate.
One morning in January I lay in my single bed beside a new love radiant with promise. We joked about the ceiling, then ate stuffed capsicums while on a couch intertwined. My newfound joblessness meant that we had all the morning, just us, but later she left. First Melbourne, then Australia. I would have written about it, but John Fowles already had.
Then there’s the snippets I’ve forgotten, or almost. I once met someone at a party and it turned out we had the same birthday. We laughed about it, then when I was leaving we kissed briefly on the doorstep. Each year I forget her name but then remember it on my birthday when she posts on my Facebook wall.
One of the books had a surprise ending. It ended starkly, almost mid-sentence, and I regretted not having paid more attention to all the cues, all the meaning. Luckily for me, there was a sequel and I read it now more patient and attentive, more attuned. But this sequel, too, will end.
I’ve woken up in the middle of the night and rushed outside in my pyjamas to stand in the front yard and watch a relationship burn down. In my haste I still had time to grab a few mementoes for my scrapbook, but which ones? The first, probing, curious conversations? The later moments of intimacy and vulnerability? Or maybe even the fights, or the mistakes, or the moments of avoidable hurt and pain. What will I need to write my novel?
So it goes. When publishers reject my manuscript I begin to question my literary genius, but maybe I should keep persevering. I wonder whether this folio of memories, of mistakes, of moments, helps or hinders me. It gives me something to draw upon, to write from. But it’s a warning too. I wouldn’t want to keep writing the same old crap.
So it goes. When next I set pen to page I can thumb through an anthology of vignettes, characters, episodes. It’s curious though. The books I read inevitably end. The ones I write – they never seem to start.