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What’s In Your Bag

August 31, 2009

bag on doorLast year I hit the famous Queen Victoria Markets in Melbourne looking for my dream bag – the bag which screamed “I am Writer!”

It had to be a back pack, made of leather, with many pockets and hidey holes. It had to be able to house everything I needed to carry as a writer and last a life time. Oh and it had to be under $200. I realised buying leather I wasn’t going to be able to get anything cheaper.

If you are anything like me, when you hold an image of the perfect anything – piece of clothing, gift, hair cut – in your head long enough, you’re certain to never find it. That was what it was like with this backpack, made worse by the fact we travelled through Tasmania for two weeks before I even got to Victoria to go searching for it, on top of the two month build up to going on holiday. I knew if I could not find it at the Vic Markets it could not be found.

Anyone who has known me for any length of time, would find it an odd fixation given I have never owned a handbag much less wanted one, certainly never fantasised about one and have only had the” shoes and handbag” discussion once in my life! I’ve always travelled light – kept a wallet rather than a purse so I didn’t have to have one and even becoming a mother could not bring me over to the dark side. But I digress …

There was such a thrill of anticipation and dread when we arrived at the Markets after the hour’s drive from Ballarat (more time to sit and contemplate in between talking my son down from a major meltdown on the way). It had been years since I had been there. I decided I’d hit the bag sellers first – wasn’t going to hold off any longer. Once I had my bag I could then beat a track to the Spanish Donuts stall!

And for once Lady Luck was with me. The first stall had something better than my dream back pack and they were having a sale which meant the bag came in under budget. The grin was wide as I attempted to find the car and put my purchase safely away.

For almost 18 months now this bag has been my constant companion. It is the thing Amex was really talking about when they told you “don’t leave home without it!”

In it I carry:

  • My diary – an awesome Letts one with a two day diary on one page and a blank page perfect for list writing on the opposite one.
  • A pencil case – a funky zipper Squiggles one, full of eclectic writing gear from my fountain pen to grey leads.
  • A bottle of ink – just in case my fountain pen runs out.
  • A clip folder with loose leaf A4 paper – which holds morning pages and at least a couple of stories from critiquing class.
  • The most current novel I’m reading – which sometimes gets left at home, OK more often than not gets left home!
  • My lap top – if I’m definitely going out to work – otherwise it is too heavy and stays at home.
  • My iPod – since I finally joined the rest of the world a few months ago and it can block out dozens of screaming kids to find the head space to write.
  • My business cards – because you never know who you might meet.

Plus all the other stuff you have in a bag like a wallet, phone, lose change, bundles of receipts, gift vouchers, errant lolly wrappers and film canisters.

This means no matter where I am I have access to my to do list (or the ability to create on), I can jot down ideas (though I am reticent to do this most of them time because I feel this kills the idea unless it is for non fiction writing), work on a story critique, read a book or write. To me, my bag and what is houses, is as much my “tool kit” as the collection of writers tricks and tips which inform and shape my writing every day. My bag is my life line when I am out of the house. Because of it I read more, as there is almost always a book on hand. I have written short stories which would have gone begging otherwise. And I have to say after 18 months service it barely looks a day over brand new?

Confession Time: Do you have a special bag/backpack dedicated to your craft? If not what do you have in your bag, right now, which supports your craft?

Jodi Cleghorn is left wondering if she’s “made it” after she discovered over the weekend a newspaper story she was involved with was torn to shreds by a fanatical group of self professed feminists on an online forum? You can follow Jodi’s Tweets @jodicleghorn or her expanding blog Writing in Black and White.
  1. August 31, 2009 1:36 am

    Ah, these kinds of organisational type posts get my OCD all worked up.

    I have a satchel type shoulder bag that I take to work, but I carry nothing for work, and it’s not for my lunch either. It’s essentially just for writing ideas and reading and such.

    In it is a notebook and a moleskine for writing prose, poetry and ideas; two USB sticks for storing writing I do on the work computer; a book; pens; whatever stories I’m editing or critiquing for myself or other people; socialist magazine and various political leaflets for meetings and protests to hand out to people I meet and the various other usual stuff.

    The business card thing intrigues me greatly. I was thinking of making bookmarks with my website on it and such.

  2. August 31, 2009 8:46 am

    Book marks are such a savvy idea Ben. What a brilliant idea – so much better than a business card – and a sneaky way to get your work across by surreptiously sneaking into a library and putting them in books. Probably not so good for meet and greets but I’m so crap at meet and greets.

    I’m onto my second round of business cards – had to get a new one because the number of projects I was involved with tripled.

    And I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who has a bag especially for writing. I forgot to write in my post that my partner calls it the “blood big bag” .. nor did I mention it is totally impractical in some respects – like in a tiny independent bookstore, at a book launch with more than 100 people!

  3. August 31, 2009 9:51 am

    Great minds, Jodi.

    I’m going out TODAY to find my perfect backpack, along with a laptop sleeve so I can carry my laptop in my backpack without scuffing it up.

    That leather bag looks scrumptious.

    Me want.

  4. August 31, 2009 11:33 am

    Hmm. I have no special bag. I carry a cheap ball point pen in my pocket and a cheap little pocket-sized notebook in another pocket. When I am going out somewhere where I know I’ll be writing but cannot take my laptop (such as to the pool for the kids’ swim lessons), I may bring a larger notebook. Currently it’s a marble composition book that I have had sitting around for years. If I can take my laptop, I take it in my laptop bag which has an extra pen and an extra pad in it, just in case the battery dies.

    Clearly my needs are simplistic as compared to some others, perhaps due to where I am in my writing career at this point. But I doubt I’d get anything more complicated than a laptop bag. If I can’t fit it into my laptop bag, I don’t think I need it.

  5. August 31, 2009 5:53 pm

    I had a great leather business brief case with room for my lap top (used it when I was at uni) and lots of space for other things – but I decided I needed something I could actually put on my back. It was a boon to discover the back pocket of my backpack opens to fit my laptop (the bemouth it is!)

    My bag is about the only place in my life which is vaguely organised. Too bad I can’t be like that in other areas.

    Did you have any luck bag hunting Karen? I felt like a bit of a loon for writing a post about my writing bag!

  6. August 31, 2009 7:14 pm

    Personally, I loved it. But then again, I have a bag fetish so ….

    Actually, I found an old (but in excellent shape!) backpack up on the attic that I will use. And I did end up going to Target and buying a funky purple-ish laptop sleeve so I’m set.

    I’d love a leather bag, but I’m way too cheap to fork over the cash. But leather…. yum.

  7. September 1, 2009 3:41 am

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who rejects the use of handbags. I use to leave them everywhere.

    I don’t have a special bag to keep my writing stuff in. If I had to choose, I would pick a messenger bag or something like it. Always wanted one but just don’t have much use for it right now.

  8. September 1, 2009 6:14 am

    I used to use a messenger bag, but oh, the strap digging into my flesh thing. Ugh.

    I know it’s silly, but when I have all of my “special” writing things in a bag, and I grab that bag and head to the library (because I can’t write at home, how annoying), I just FEEL more like a writer. It FEELS more like a job and I take it just a bit more seriously.

    I know, it’s a psychological thing with me. But when it comes to writing, I need to psych myself up, apparently.

    Wow, that sounds sad.

  9. September 1, 2009 7:32 am

    Jodi, thanks. I like the idea of business cards too. Not sure. I might go for both. I happen to love meet & greets though. I’m getting quite good and just bundling up to Melbourne literati and introducing myself.

  10. September 2, 2009 2:53 am

    One bag… are you kidding? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a bag freak. It’s just one bag isn’t practical for me. I wish it was. I have a cloth briefcase for work, I need to take lots of books depending on how many hours I’m teaching. But if I’m teaching locally, then I have detachable saddlebags for my bicycle. Everything goes in there. When I go off to my favourite place for reading etc. I have a small leather bag which includes my pda, my a writing notebook (don’t really need this as I can use my pda but prefer writing by hand), whatever I’m reading, a spare inner tube and a small pump for emergencies, and a packet of tic tacs. A bottle of water fits onto my bicycle.

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