Because we travel on 7kg hand luggage allowance only, I ruthlessly declutter even notebooks once the content has been typed. I tear the covers off notebooks, pull the written-on pages from writing pads and discard the rest. Although I usually have an A4 or more usually an A5 pad in the room, when I am out and about I have a small notebook. Sometimes a really tiny one. I often only have a waist bag and don’t like to carry a heavy bag.
The loose folded pages at the bottom of the pile, the two coverless notebooks and the small and tiny little notebooks contain a few additional notes from Nepal, and pretty much all the notes for India Part Two as in from October when I came back from Thailand and Tokyo, to when we left in January. I have typed some notes up as I’ve gone along, and some of the blogs from that period will contain useful aide memoires, but these notebooks are priceless.
Does having a collection of tiny little notebooks to carry around and take care of cause me anxiety? Well yes it does. I wrap them all up in a plastic bag, then put them inside a polka dot draw string bag, then in my big handbag for travelling, otherwise they stay indoors. (Other than the current one in my waist bag, of course.)
The last time I bound them up to pack I was thinking about the book, and the work, and about getting it all done, and then I saw how the books had arranged themselves. There were just two words visible from the open pages of one of the notebooks: Work hard
It’s actually part of a t-shirt slogan I noted down ‘Work hard, stay humble,’ (one day I will get around to that post, Indian t-shirt slogans are the best) but for now, I’m taking it as a sign or a mantra and I’m having it for myself.
In the photo of the little pile of notebooks is a green notebook. Until a few days before I had also had a red one the same, both from the Kerala period May- August. My husband had brought them back for me from shopping one day. ‘If you love me, buy me notebooks.’ These two had been the worst, in terms of the oldest, the smallest, and had been carried around all over the place, India, Thailand, Tokyo and back to India again, once or twice I’d thought I’d lost them, but I’d put them somewhere safe.
Typing up the bits from them hung over me like dealing with the huge Kerala section. In Otres Village, Sihanoukville, Cambodia, I worked through a chest infection on Kerala, Varkala, and opened the red notebook. It had a few bits and pieces for the main Kerala, Varkala chapter, and it also had notes about the trip we’d taken to Kanyakumari.
I’d written a draft chapter about Kanyakumari at the time and posted it on the blog in a bit of a hurry. Re reading the original notes I realised the blog wasn’t as warm, and the notebook contained potentially more depth of feeling. After a moment of disappointment/overwhelm, I realised it was ultimately a good thing. I retyped everything from the notebook, unless it was exactly the same as in the draft, so that I didn’t miss something. I got the typing finished before we left, and whilst we’ve been at Siem Reap I got the Kanyakumari draft redone.
And then in Siem Reap I went back to the main Kerala, Varkala section, and opened the last notebook, the little green one; and found… that there was nothing to find. Every page had a line crossed through meaning it had been typed, which I also checked, or was blank. Sometimes the universe just throws you a bone.
I decided that was the moment to stop for the day. My husband had gone out to give me writing space. Rather than just plough on to the next thing I thought I’d take a moment to celebrate what I had already achieved. Listening to this song alone in our beautiful hotel room, the end in sight, was a moment of pure celebration and joy:
The next day I did a final bit of tidying up and sent the Kerala draft to my husband to read: 23,000 words, and the section I’ve struggled with the most. It’s still a draft, but it’s ready for a rough read, and it’s time to move on. And oh yes, that felt good. Below was the song for that moment, that pure burst of energy:
For anyone doing anything creative I wish you full power
Thank you very much for reading