Writer Quotes: Acton.

So often is the virgin sheet of paper more real than what one has to say, and so often one regrets having marred it.” ~Harold Acton, from Memoirs of an Aesthete

You know that great feeling you get when you have a brand new, never before used notebook in your hands, with crisp pages and endless opportunities? You take a moment, you flip through the pages with your thumb and breathe in the scent of its newness, and think to yourself: what words will I use to fill these lines? They better be good one, inspired one, worthy ones…

I think that every time I have a new notebook, be it one of the cheap little ones I do most of my writing in to some more of the fancier ones with pretty covers or leather bound journals or the variety of other types of writing apparatus out there. I’m a big fan of writing everything by hand (“analog,” as my friend Don put it yesterday when I was discussing this with him); I just don’t feel the same inspiration at a computer, and, besides, my little notebooks are all so much more portable and allow me to write wherever I am.

But I realize that I have so many untouched notebooks in my room, mostly the more expensive and pretty ones, that are just sitting there, empty, because I’m afraid to venture out into them, to mar their current perfection of possibility with words that are unworthy. I want to know for sure, before I start to destroy them with the pen, that what I’m writing is worth it. And, because I rarely feel anything I write is truly worth it, they will likely remain untouched and virginal their entire life.

Acton’s quote reflects this feeling, but I realize as I contemplate it, that it also reflects cowardice. Go ahead; write those first words on that perfect piece of paper. Marry that virginal sheet, but commit to it, just as one must commit to a husband and wife. And then whatever you create will be real, it will be worthy, it will take that virginal sheet from a blank page to a fully realized love.



  1. I always dread writing in my new notebook…I’m afraid to scratch out. I son’t want it to look messy. I want it to be perfect, but writing isn’t a perfect easily traveled street. Two weeks ago, I finally strummed the courage to pull out one of such pretty notebooks and jotted notes, scribbled, scratched out…and now it feels good…the fear of ugly notebook is gone!

    • Hooray! *breaks out the champagne!*

      I’ve gotten better at not pulling out a whole sheet of paper and rewriting it when I mess up and have to scratch something out, but I still catch myself doing it. It’s so curious, I think, how some writers, like ourselves, seem to want the works to come out perfectly on the first try, even though we know it’s an art, that it requires cultivation and work, practise and rewrites, and that perfection is pretty much impossible.

      As soon as my apartment stops flooding (urg, don’t ask!), and I get everything back into place in my room, I’m taking one of those pretty notebooks and completely desecrating it with words and scribbles. Mwa ha ha!

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