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Matt Dorey

A bird is sitting on the grass with a kite

A New Notebook

Writing on the pages of a new notebook

Witness the pressure of a new notebook. You sit at your desk, trying to get it started with an amazing piece of writing. Something worthy of that crisp new page. You want it to tumble out of you, fully formed and coherent. Something that justifies you abandoning the previous one. As though first drafts don't exist. You cast yourself into the role of shaman, of seer – of someone gifted a prophetic vision. But it's a role that you cannot and will not fulfil.

Your pen hovers on the blank lines as you try to bring forth words describing your thoughts. Everything feels stultifying and false. You feel disappointed. Here you are pressing on regardless, same as always, and those magic ringing words – the ones you hear so clearly in your head – still fail to appear on your pristine page.

To cap it all there are blots and mistakes everywhere. You strike through every other word as you pin your writhing sentences to the page. You're a bad butterfly collector. Your net is full of holes that let the best ones get away. Worse still, the poor creatures you catch aren't yet dead so you smudge them as you finish them off.

But as often happens, pain turns to pleasure. Through knots of strike outs, something begins to emerge. The page is now a patchwork of sentences crisscrossed with edits in place. There are intrusions and eruptions, because you never write anything down without missing a word or two. New phrases adorn their clunky forebears and glisten with the dew of new paths made through familiar territory. Those smudges become spots, as slothful sentences evolve into cheetahs. You are a predator now, hunting down the ideas that tried to hide from you.

The notebook is no longer pristine, but you have your ideas written down. Even though the piece is packed with strike outs and changes, it will nonetheless be one of the neater pages that follow. Sometimes ideas resist their captors and flee at the last moment, leaving only feathers or footprints behind. Others will be larger creatures when they fail, beached on that shore of ruled lines. Your new notebook will contain many of these scraps, wisps, and impressions, but others will have the shapes of other things worth preserving.

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