Ralph Mills At Large

Empty notebooks

At large with a pen

I posses a large number of notebooks. Almost all of them are empty. A few have fairly illegible handwriting on two or three pages. Others have evidence that pages have been torn out in the past. They vary from school note books to expensive, lushly-covered volumes. To accompany this pile of neatly-bound lined ("semi-feint") and unlined paper I have three drawers filled with writing instruments — one of pencils (6B to 7F), one of gel and ball-point pens, and one of fountain pens. Oh, and a drawer filled with markers. And a collection of pencil sharpeners and erasers, the latter, as an Englishman, I refer to as "rubbers". I have three hole punches, six rulers, an ancient bottle of correction fluid (probably solid by now) and two staplers. The oldest notebook is probably about 40 years old.

There was a time when the thought of my heap of notebooks and their hundreds of virgin pages would produce in me a mood of anxiety that, instead of goading me into activity, would produce mental paralysis. To regain equanimity I would shut the notebooks away, close the drawers of pens and pencils and achieve the warm comfort of prevarication. Perhaps even deny that the notebooks even existed, which meant that I would have to purchase another the next time I was seduced by a stationery shop. Plus, of course, a new pen to match.

Now I have realized that my notebooks are actually crammed with a vast outpouring of words and images… a huge, artistically and intellectually astounding creative output that I merely haven't written down or drawn. The notebooks contain my many best-selling novels — the incredibly serious, the pantingly erotic, the inspiringly revolutionary, the lushly romantic, the side-achingly humorous, the juvenile, the popular, the mind-boggling science fiction, the spell-binding fantasies, the luridly-covered best sellers, the head-achingly literary, the lightweight airport paperbacks. Here too, amongst the slimmer notebooks, is my thought and emotion-creating poetry. Other notebooks are filled with the results of my lifelong researches, worthy of a dozen Nobel prizes. Here are the records of my discovery of cures for most cancers and other dread diseases, my invention of anti-gravity, my development of instantaneous interstellar space travel. Any unlined pages are covered by hundreds of drawings and sketches, crafted during my long and adventurous life. And finally, several thick notebooks bulge with my fascinating autobiography.

It's just that I haven't felt the need nor had the time to transfer all this brilliance to the page. The potential is there. But the demands of maintaining such a huge creative and inventive avalanche are just too much to contemplate, let alone put into practice. Many less ambitious people say that "they have a novel in them". My notebooks, pens and pencils are evidence of something much larger, but something I'm not willing to inflict on the worlds of letters and art.

It's also a good thing that people I pass in the street are unaware of who I am. As such an erudite polymath, I would be demand for every documentary, every panel of experts, every news broadcast, every newspaper article, every magazine feature. My progress down the street would be hampered by autograph seeking fans and attractive young women inviting me to share my thoughts over candlelit meals.

So, in truth, it is a good thing that my notebook collection remains unnsullied, my pens untouched. I think I'll leave them there, safely stored in a couple of shoe boxes, for some future generation to discover when they come across them in the National Archives...