A book before it is opened. An unscathed sheet of textured watercolour paper.
A glossy magazine with a clean spine. Rolls upon rolls of unused wrapping paper. For me, all of these are new beginnings, the cherished feeling of starting afresh, a vision of pristine treasures.
And, if you can associate these images with my intense pleasure, you will understand my confession. You see, I am a passionate paper addict. Simply the touch, smell and vision are enough to give me that giddy joyous feeling.
Some explanation is due. Firstly, I grew up in bookshops. The antiquarian ones which sell mainly 19th century and early 20th century books, so many of which are beautifully bound and printed on fine paper – or even vellum. My father dragged us up and down the country (and occasionally even abroad) to visit these dusty shops as he searched for potentially valuable tomes to buy for his book business. My brother and I spent hours gazing at the children’s section as we waited for him to scan the shelves, muttering Austen and Bronte quotes under his breath. And I remember it striking me pretty early on that those books were real and alive. It was as if their own history told tales of more than the stories simply printed within their boards.
So you could say that paper was integral to my childhood. Next stop on my paper trail was boarding school. Here I spent seven years obsessing over technicoloured writing paper and matching envelopes, resulting in a flow of incessant correspondence to any number of addresses in my little red book. And my love of sending and receiving greetings cards has never waned. Mostly I try to find the time to make my own quirky versions but, failing that, only the most unusual paper creations will do.
Each and every year of my teens, I wrote a journal of my innermost thoughts. I would love to report that these books are brimming with genius ideas and stories. But they’re not. Kept under lock and key, they will amuse very few when I am gone. I remember the attention to detail given to the selection of these books each December; the paper quality, binding, cover design and width of lines were all crucial.
Nowadays, I seem to be one of the remaining few to laugh in the face of online scheduling. So, again, my annual diary purchase takes precision with ample research and a certain amount of paper-fondling.
Most weeks I fail to resist the urge to purchase a new book, magazine, notebook or roll of tracing, sugar or squared paper. I jot on a spiral bound reporter pad, I sketch on acid free, cold press watercolour paper and I wrap religiously in brown kraft paper with string to match.
That emergency overwhelming too-much-on-my-plate feeling always calls for paper and only paper. Making a handwritten list sets the world straight once again. (When Moleskin joined forces with Evernote, I tried that modern type of to-do list but only managed to add more stress, no satisfaction and double my head spin.)
And now I’m going to go right against the grain here. Paper reading is THE only way; reading newspapers and magazines on a screen only makes my eyes sting. And please don’t get me started on those ageless, unemotive e-readers. How on earth could a percentage ever seem fit to describe how far I am through a powerful novel?
Where would the Rotring ink, Pritt stick and digital images fix themselves if we had no paper in this world? Orbiting aimlessly around our heated screens and furious keyboards? I want to persuade you all that a paper diary, a new leather-bound notebook and a pad of yellow post-its are NOT redundant relics of the past but some of every day’s vital ingredients.
This article first appeared in In Clover magazine. Quite separate from my blurb, this magazine is a true treat, especially for those who know that deep down the offline print world is a sacred place…