Carry-on Scribbling!

# "Round here we're carving out our names... Round here we all look the same... Round here we talk just like lions, but we sacrifice just like lambs... Round here..." # - Counting Crows

Usually, on my daily journeys back and forwards to the day job, I can be seen with a small bump strapped across my back.  It’s not a baby papoose (not yet at least, and I’m not sure my day job would necessarily appreciate me taking a child into work) but a small backpack…  Over the years, since beginning my working life, and of course during my carefree student days, I’ve selected a weird and wonderful range of “man bags” to help carry my ideas and scribble notebooks around with me, including an old gas mask bag (blame Indy!) and what I thought at the time was a cool-looking satchel, but now I’ve finally settled on what one friend congratulated me on recently as “the smallest bag you could find”.

Although I like to carry such an attachment with me, not only for my writing but also to carry my bait box and whichever books I have on the go at any given time (I usually have one fiction novel that I’m reading but always also carry a couple of non-fiction/reference books with me to leaf through), lugging around a huge touring backpack would not be my idea of daily fun, thus my hunt for the small knapsack style backpack that I use today…

My real purpose here though isn’t to pass on my recommendations of the type of bag a writer could get for themselves, (although after almost losing a whole chapter and a few writing notebooks, leaving my backpack on a train last year, I’d recommend any writer to become attached to their bags just to avoid being lost for words!), but this post is more to just take some time to reflect on the objects that I carry within my bag.  Each of them are important personally to me, but the act of carrying them is I guess a weird mix of pilgrimage and practicality, and is analogous with my journey as an amateur scribbler, in this early part of my writing life…



The first treasured object is “my spaceman”.  This is sort of a lucky charm that I’ve been carrying with me on holidays and various other journeys ever since I decided to embark on a life of writing and he has been making an appearance over on my Flickr page (still under construction in 2013 and very much in its infancy until I work out exactly how I want to use it for in relation to my writing...) and it is sort of my way of paying homage to the film Amelie and the travelling gnome if you’ve seen that movie.  So now my spaceman (since I’m fond of writing sci-fi) goes wherever I do, just in case he wants to pose in front of some famous landmark or gorgeous vista that I pass.

At the moment, and pretty much any time I open my backpack, I can lay my hands on a wad of leaflets and flyers – I love collecting these, carrying them round with me until they’re out of date and I recycle them.  They’re usually on local exhibits going on at various museums or for writing events or lectures taking place in my local area over the upcoming months (most of which I tend to miss, but good intentions are there!) I find it useful to collect all sorts of reading material in my bag, to be honest, and like studying different types of writing and formats of presenting scribbles…  One such leaflet right now is for an exhibit right up my street at the Great North Museum nee Hancock, called “Tales of Antiquarian Adventure” (running until the end of April 2013) and sounds like going could make for useful research for “my history mystery”.

The next object is a teeny tiny glasses repair kit, with a small screwdriver and even smaller screws, which comes in extremely useful on many occasions where my glasses insist on falling apart.  I’m actually short-sighted so don’t need my glasses to look at my computer screen or to write, but they’re essential when it comes to looking far off to the horizon, day to day, and all around me for inspiration, so carrying this MacGyver-esque gizmo is a must…

I also carry a small travel-sized pack of cards.  Ever since being young, I’ve gone through short periods (usually on long train journeys or holidays) where I get a bit addicted to playing Patience and I get obsessive over trying to complete a single hand of the game, so I play over and over again in one sitting to make sure I achieve my aim… I often wonder if this has been good practice or preparation for a life in writing, striving and trying again and again to get stories published…

Now, these things may seem quite odd ones to carry already but I also at the moment have a small packet of 80s-style popping candy – the kind of sweets that you stuck on your tongue and waited to crackle and spark.  I got it at a workshop for my day job a few months ago but have left it a bit too long to eat (or have I? It’s probably just sugar, after all!).  But every time I open my bag and see this, it reminds me of my first adventure novel and the nostalgia theme that book carries (can’t really tell you much more about that – top secret - apart from saying that’s why I’m carrying around out-of-date candy…

The final collection of things that I carry in my backpack on a regular basis are ones I don’t really talk about very much, being quite secret and rather personal…  They’re objects very much influenced by my upbringing as a Christian, and also reflect my ongoing search and wonder at the world around me, which as a writer, I’m constantly trying to challenge and gain different perspectives on…  The first is a Rosary-Bead pouch – I picked up the pouch and the beads 10 years ago on a stop-off in Rome (more on this epic tour in the coming summer months here on the blog as I celebrate a decade passing since “backpacking” around much of Europe…)  The beads remind me of where I’ve come from and probably where I’m going…  The patron saint of travellers, St. Christopher shares my first name and the grounding my Faith gives me shapes who I am as I journey through life and ultimately influences where my scribbles lead…   I also have a “Little Book of Francis” with quotes from St. Francis of Assisi.  He’s my Confirmation saint and it’s perhaps timely that at this new Easter period here in 2013, the world has greeted a new Pope – Pope Francis, who seems to share the simplicity of Assisi.  This example of simple existence is one that inspires me day to day as I carry my backpack here and there, pursuing fame and fortune but always realizing simply creating short stories that entertain myself first and foremost is always the best starting point…

Before I “ramble” on too much and being wary of sounding like I’m preaching, I’ll end this post with a recent acquisition to my backpack - I picked up a new bookmark (I like collecting these too!) which reflects my recent growing interest in story maps – it’s from my local Diocese and has a simple message to “Step up to Life” in 2013.  And with the help of my backpack, I’ll keep on doing just that in the days to come, carrying all of the things I inevitably carry with me (physical and otherwise), searching for that inner writer, beckoning him to appear and make his voice heard once and for all…



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