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Stacks Of Notebooks

In a kitchen closet is a box containing 30 notebooks, give or take a few. There are a couple more notebooks at my office. Then, there is my current notebook, a soft cover large Moleskine, sitting on the kitchen counter. They vary in style and sometimes purpose, especially the older ones. There are spiral ring-bound notebooks with college ruled paper. A few of them are hard backed with heavier paper. I almost never think about them. They are an extension of me, taken for granted and never questioned.

Years ago I found I liked the weight and feel of the soft cover large Moleskine and have used it ever since. I don’t really care about the mystique that surrounds the label and the brand. I simply find them easy to use and transport. They are durable and travel well.

What’s in the notebooks is glimpse into me and my days. I sometimes wonder if the notebooks forced certain habits upon me, or if I use them because they lend themselves nicely to the way I do things. I suppose it is possible that the notebook is the thing generating the influence and not me. “You own me. Now sit down and write something.”

I make a lot of lists. Each work day I write out a list of things I want to accomplish for that day. It’s the first thing I do when I get into my office. Often, when busy, I number the items in the order I want to do them. The lists will tell you that on busy days I like to complete the easiest and simplest tasks first thing in the morning. It’s nice to accomplish things and then cross them off the list.

I also make out other types of lists: upcoming bills, clients who owe me money, artwork I want to create and things I want to write about. In the back of most of my notebooks – and all of them for the past seven years – is a list of the books with the author's name that I have read while using that particular notebook. The average notebook lasts me three to four months and the average number of books read is approximately eleven to fourteen per notebook. Don’t ask me why that matters. It’s just something I do. Not everything has to have a meaning attached to it. If you want to know, I also write a sentence or two review of each book read in the notebook.

I also keep things in my notebook that seem like they might be important at the time. In one notebook is a ticket from the first home playoff game in Colorado Rockies history. In another I taped the ticket stubs from the first movie E. and I ever saw together. And in yet another are the ticket stubs and some notes from when I took Madison to see Dr. Doolittle starring Tommy Tune.

There are drawings for client projects throughout all of my notebooks, logos, brochures and website designs. I even have one notebook that was dedicated to only drawing. In my older notebooks (and by that I mean going back to 2004) I used to doodle a lot. I don’t doodle any more. That change was a quiet one and I didn’t notice it until I came across the box with all of my old notebooks in it and started leafing through them. One day I just stopped doodling.

My collection of notebooks only dates since 2004. I moved that year and my old notebooks were lost or thrown away in the move. With them I lost a collection of short stories and some other writings, most of the writings were from before the dawn of PC ubiquity. They were one-off hard copy imaginations. Now they sit at the bottom of a garbage dump somewhere, more nameless flotsam in the endless stream of humanity.

In 2004 – in a hard-bound brown leather notebook with gold leaf on the cover – I wrote the first draft of an essay. It was an idea and a perspective that didn’t mature for almost ten years. It was interesting to read my nascent thoughts on the subject. My thinking was good at the time, though not as mature as it is today. But then, ten years is a long time to spend with an idea.

Most of the things I write begin on the pages of my notebooks. I prefer using a pencil and paper when writing first drafts, though sometimes I forego the process and write directly on my computer. Sometimes there are one and two line thoughts hastily written. Then, pages later, I write out a draft surrounding those thoughts.

I’m not certain why I keep a notebook today, but I can tell you when it started. In college I learned that if I wrote something down in a notebook I could close my eyes later and see what I had written. Somehow, writing it down made it permanent. The better the notes I took the less I had to study – and the better I did in school. Maybe that’s part of why I keep doing it. I associate it with success. But it’s more than that I think. I think the notebooks, as I said earlier, are an extension of me, a bit of permanence in an always changing universe.

Of course, it could easily be said that my keeping a notebook is just another manifestation of my OCD. Like my numbering of the pages. On the bottom of every other page – in the lower right-hand corner – I write in the page number, always odd numbers. I don’t do well with even numbers. We aren’t friends. Years from now, if she does’t just throw out the notebooks, my daughter will notice the numbers and smile. She has seen this minor affliction in action, in particular on the car radio. No way I can ever stop the volume control on an even number. It would haunt me for days.

As I said, what’s in the notebooks is a sort of permanence in the ever changing cycle of life. They are like scrapbooks of old photos and newspaper clippings. They are a glimpse into me and my days.

in category Life

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Tags for this article

notebooks, moleskine, keeping a journal