I wish I could say that I have a specific pen or a particular pencil that I’m fond of writing with, a special nib-ulas 5000 that I make a beeline for every time the ink or lead runs dry. But I don’t. I’ve become a practical writer. Biros accommodate the bulk of my pencil case. Blue biros to be precise. This may be because I always have to be brimming with pens at hand, in my coat pocket, in the breast pocket of my denim jacket, in my purse, next to my bed.
This has come out of fear of not having access to a pen when I’m out and about struck with an idea, a conversation overheard, a nugget of self-congratulatory wisdom, a mischievous character that doesn’t stay quiet, a newly discovered word to store for ammunition later, all wanting to be recorded before they dissolve back to whence they came.
And yet such a scenario did happen once. I remember the feeling of bereftness well. I had just sat comfortably in a coffee shop, unpacked my notebook from my British Library tote bag, and I was psyched ready to begin my usual worderly session accompanied by my usual morning brew. Unfortunately, I had to settle for tapping at my phone when I discovered I lacked any writing implement on my person. It’s just not the same to writing by hand on crispy sheets. Well, there and then, I vowed that it won’t happen again.
Accompanying my easy-to-reach biros, are usually three other notebooks. One is my A5 Leuchtturm1917 journal, another is an A5-sized pad for my work in progress, and an A6-sized time ledger. The time ledger helps me manage my productivity. I’m not very efficient with my time but I have to be diligent and measure my distractions. When I use my time ledger, I become an all-powerful being that can harness time itself. Time that I thought I never had and shape tasks so that I can begin and complete them to boot.
This is accomplished rather anti-climactically with a simple trick. I record 15-minute blocks of activity per line. It’s a motivational tool that keeps me in check seeing how much I can actually get done and not feel overwhelmed with the time required to invest in it. It’s like a gentle pat on the back with each line filled in productively.
Other stationery that I’ve recently formed a relationship with are crayons. This year I edited for the first time using Stabilo Woody 3-in-1 fancy crayons, along with the usual multi-coloured post-it notes. Each colour represents a sub-plot and I can visually see how much of it consumes my manuscript after printing a hard copy. It’s another visual tool that helps me craft my work better.
I began writing when one of my card games evolved into a story. As a games designer I can’t help but include puzzles in my plots to keep my characters busy. It’s great having a card game physically at hand with pictures of some of the characters. It also meant I could test to see which characters children liked best through my digital channel which has a whopping 55,000+ followers aged 5 to 12. Involving children directly is both fun and useful. Some even partook in submitting their own character designs too. I still try to test my story ideas with children on the outset, but like games designing children don’t always know what they want if you ask them. However, when you give them a story or a game they definitely know when it’s great.
For over ten years I have designed, published and distributed card games to schools across the UK. I have won several business awards and even selected as a Future 100 Social Entrepreneur. Before this I was a Physics Teacher and an Actuarial Trainee. But I’ve always enjoyed writing and gaming, so I gradually included more creative work into my daily mix.