I’ve been asked to visit a school in a couple of weeks to help them celebrate Indonesia’s national day. They want me to talk about how learning Indonesian at school influenced my career and how it led to me writing Tiger Stone.
I was digging out stuff to show the students when I stumbled across my English notebook from high school. Inside are the outlines and first drafts of stories and poems I wrote in Year 8 and Year 9. I can still remember writing the first story in the book – a story about an autistic boy who comes to life when his carer leaves the room. I was sitting in a beanbag in my bedroom when I wrote it and the sun was shining through the window. I remember wondering where the story was coming from as I wrote.
I suspect the fact I only remember writing the first story is due to the new notebook effect: You start a new notebook believing the blank pages carry some kind of magic power but as soon as you start writing it’s not a new notebook anymore and its magic gradually drains away.
The last six pages of my English notebook are blank, consistent with the pattern of my notebook-keeping career. About half way through every notebook I start to wonder if a new notebook might be just what I need to inject some magic into my flagging imagination. I resist for as long as I can but I rarely make it to the final page before succumbing to the new notebook fever.
I’m not going to show the students my notebook but I will ask them where they write their stories. If the answer is ‘on a computer’ I wonder if they’ll be flipping through their early works thirty years later.