Before I could read or write, I loved scribbling lines of what I thought looked like cursive across pages, finishing each document with a flourish of fake signature, and authorizing it with my dad’s drafting business’ embossing seal. This early interest in the writing soon developed into a serious notebook fetish, as well as an obsession with filling these notebooks with text. I find something strangely pleasing about flipping through a notebook that is filled from cover to cover with my handwriting. When I was a teenager and became more interested in writing poetry specifically, I’d often end up scribbling all over napkins if an idea struck me, or, more often, all over my arm when paper was scarce. As I got older and walking around with messy, blue-ballpoint writing all over my left arm seemed less and less appropriate, I went back to the notebooks. Once I started university, I also began typing my poems up on the computer so that I could print and hand them out for workshops. My final project at university included visual poems made to resemble corsets, which I could only produce on the computer. When not working on this project, however, I’ve mostly gone back to the notebooks.
The creative writing program I took, however, tempered my compulsive desire to write. Today, I rarely feel so taken by a line that I need to scribble it on my arm. Instead, poetry has become something careful and calculated that is usually done at a desk, not a bus stop, in line at the bank, or in the middle of a movie. Having completed school and being released back into the wild without this compulsion, the material appeal of writing plays a big role in motivating me to write. A desk crowded with coffee cups, bills, and other randomly discarded junk will keep me from writing for days. A messy desktop on my computer has the same effect. Running out of pens, the right paper, or ink cartridges will send me for a similar dry spell. But I’m not just making excuses. I love to write—not just to put down ideas, but the actual, physical writing part. I find the clacking of keys while text pours onto the screen extremely satisfying. I love the sound my pen makes when I scratch a bad line out of a poem. I love the cracking sound the spine of a new notebook makes the first time I open it, and I love writing my name on the first page. The paraphernalia of writing is not just of peripheral or secondary importance. If you’re feeling blocked, sometimes all you need to get writing is a clear desk, a new blue pen, and crisp sheet of cream-coloured paper—or whatever your fetishized writing tool is. Writing isn’t always just about what you say—sometimes writing is just about how wonderful it is to write.
Here’s some of my favourite paraphernalia…
Helen Hajnoczky recently completed her BA Honours in English and creative writing from the University of Calgary, where her research focused on feminist avant-garde poetics. Her work has appeared in Nod, fillingStation, Rampike, and Matrix magazines, as well as in a variety of chapbooks. She is the current poetry editor of fillingStation magazine. Her first book of poetry, Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising, is forthcoming from Snare Books.