I am attempting to tidy my study.
Considering it’s only about 6 foot wide and 9 foot long and I’m not even thinking about sorting out the bookcases, you might imagine it should be a fairly straightforward task. But it isn’t.
Unlike Mary who instinctively understands the idea of a place for everything and everything in its place, my filing system is chronological: piles of paper and books everywhere, with the last thing I looked at probably on top of one of the nearer heaps.
Stuff that really has to be dealt with gets put on my Pondering Chair – a comfy, swivel chair away from the computer where I can sit, muse, strum my mandolin, occasionally fall asleep and, of course, ponder. Eventually the chair becomes too covered for anyone to even perch on the edge, so the pile gets moved to any available bit of floor space, with the full intention of dealing with it as soon as I have a moment. But then a new pile slowly builds up in the now vacant space until, at some point, it too will be moved to the floor or, in extreme situations, balanced precariously on top of another pile.
Having reached absolute saturation point, about 6 months ago, I have decided to attempt to work my way through the room and discard anything unneeded or irrelevant.
So far I have found Christmas letters from friends, not even the most recent Christmas I have to confess; CDs of music people have thought I might find interesting; magazines open at an article I read once with the aim of investigating further; a few stray old photos I’d meant to scan and clean up; a £10 book voucher in a card marked “Happy 40th Birthday”; and hundreds and hundreds of scraps of paper, backs of envelopes and bits of notebooks covered in ideas.
Some of these ideas are no more that a couple of words hinting at a bigger thought I didn’t want to forget and planned on expanding. Some are lines of conversation I thought could be slotted into something larger. Some are even quite developed ideas consisting of both sides of the envelope with squiggly arrows running to tiny print squeezed into gaps between the main text. A great many are completely illegible as my handwriting is appalling.
Let me pluck a few random ones to give you a taster…
The 200th Wedding Anniversary
“Have you got Moby Dick?”
“No, it’s just the way I walk.”
A Special Branch operative, a tabloid journalist, a BBC investigator and the Features Editor of a woman’s weekly magazine make up a terrorist cell. Each believes they have successfully infiltrated a fanatical organisation and are busy making notes on all the others, but have no idea there isn’t a genuine terrorist between them.
Would the Anti-Christ have as many doubts as the Christ? Could you have a reluctant messiah and a reluctant anti-messiah?
Showing Times for “Sin City” at the Odeon in Glasgow on Tuesday: 12.15pm, 15.15pm, 17.30pm… oh, hold on, I think I can scrap this one.
So what do I do with all these scribbles? The obvious thing is to file them, or at least put them in a folder, which is what will probably end up happening. But I know once they are tucked away out of sight, they will be forgotten about and never looked at again.
How do I know this? Because I’ve just found another folder containing hundreds of scraps of paper, backs of envelopes and bits of notebooks covered in ideas.
Some people complain about lack of ideas and writer’s block. For me the problem has always been option overload and getting round to actually doing anything with them.