When I was younger, I was the kind of kid who got a kick out of new school supplies. The first day of school was always difficult, mostly because I couldn’t bear to write on my new notebooks. I would end up tearing pages out before the day was through, because my handwriting looked like an unfortunate blot on my otherwise beautiful and spotless notebooks.
I’ve never actually gotten over this little habit of mine. New notebooks still get my heart racing. I confess to stroking fresh and pristine pages. When I finally started working, I decided that I could now afford to buy notebooks whether it was the start of classes or not, and I went on a weird notebook buying spree.
I had cheap notebooks, expensive ones, fat ones, thin ones. I had this one notebook that I was particularly fond of. I got it from Anonymous, a store that prides itself in being the brand that isn’t a brand. It folded up years ago. The notebook had steel covers (not real real steel, I suppose, because it wasn’t too heavy, but still steel-ish), and I remember I never actually wrote anything significant in it.
It sat inside my drawer for years, as did most of my impulse notebook buys. I just like notebooks, but I never know what to write in them.
So it’s been quite a pleasant shock to me that just last year, I finally figured it out. I CAN WRITE WHATEVER I WANT. I can fill my notebooks with the most inane of drivel and it would be okay. It’s my notebook, after all. With this newfound freedom I started writing and writing and writing. Things I couldn’t blog about found their way into this tiny notebook I kept inside my bag and with me at all times.
The pages reveal my initial notebook apprehensions. At first I had this idea that the notebook would be my daily to-do diary. This is because as much as I love digital organisers, I still find writing things down the best way to keep my brain uncluttered. The first page of my pocket notebook actually is a literal to-do list. This goes on for the next few pages, then paragraphs of me moaning about some shit or other start appearing every so often. Soon enough I’ve given up on the to-doing and I’m using the notebook solely as a repository of all my nonsense shit (things that are important only to me, or perhaps too personal to share).
Congratulations, I’ve got a journal.
I had to get a separate planner eventually, and it helps that Moleskine has some of the most wonderful notebooks ever made. I write in it daily, not just about the work I ought to do (or will put off), but about a variety of things that I try to keep in mind. At present it’s got shopping lists and weight loss tips and personal reminders not be anxious about crap.
Sample entry: “annoyed = okay; anxious/worried/frightened = no”. It’s personal shorthand. I understand it and that’s the most important thing. This also means I’m still in the habit of talking to myself, although it’s less obvious and embarrassing now.
Now I’ve brought this habit to the workplace. I currently have a notebook that contains every bit and piece that happens at work daily, so I never lose track of anything. So far my work notebook contains my findings, things to do, items to keep track of, and wonderful glimpses into my mental state, thanks to random margin notes like “so bored”.
And so even as I map a way to work and write and blog and do stupid shit on computers and smartphones and tablets, I’m rediscovering the beauty of writing things down. I think it would be one of the greatest tragedies of human civilisation for us to forget what it feels like to scratch words on paper, transferring onto wood pulp the rawest possible emotions and our very minds and souls laid bare. Not because words reveal them, but because the very manner by which we write, that very act, reveals far more than the words we scratch out. Let’s see a computer try that.