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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Invitations to note-taking

Nothing sets off the fantasy of literary creation like a blank notebook. The fancier, the better. I have my own set of unrealised fantasies unwritten in the pages of a number of beautifully inspirational notebooks. Pages that are smooth, textured, handmade, machine-pressed, ruled, plain, white or coloured.

I'm one of those who cannot pass by a Moleskine display without feeling an acquisitive twinge. Just as some people collect shoes and handbags, I collect notebooks. This weekend, I spent some time cleaning out my shelves and was amazed at the number that emerged, some entirely blank and others with a few pages used. In sum, they seemed to represent a whole lot of aspiration and very little work.

The aesthetic of the bound empty pages seems to work in a particular way to drive my imagination--and so I spend a good few minutes looking at the inviting blankness, thinking of how they will look in a few months, filled with violet (or black, or blue) ink. I imagine that all those words that run around my head constantly but seem somehow reluctant to make an exit on to the page will be prompted by the promise those notebooks hold. Each time I pick up a notebook, or am given one, that dream renews itself...but soon enough, it's placed firmly on the shelf alongside all those other lovely spines.

Increasingly, I find myself writing directly at the keyboard. I take notes on my cell phone when an idea strikes me--and it's great, because I can put that idea down no matter where I am, no matter if I'm taking a walk or find myself at a concert or in the middle of grocery shopping. Even so, I never leave home without a little notebook and a pen: it's a habit left over from journalism school training, I guess. And while the convenience of electronic note-taking cannot be denied, writing in those paper notebooks holds a particular charm. Notes that reside on my phone or computer (I don't have a notebook PC!) get deleted after use, but those that are scrawled, written over, neatly lettered, or even struck through, remain intact, providing a kind of history of an idea, often one that has been discarded. When I come across them (as happened this weekend during my bout of cleaning), they resonate in new ways, often coming alive again, and suggesting that their time may have come for fuller exploration.

But that of course is when some writing has actually made its way on to the pages of those beautiful notebooks. More often than not, though, the books lie in waiting, and I...well, I escape to those lazy afternoon fantasies that occupy their blank pages, leather backed or spiral bound, thick Auroville sheets fragrant with pressed flowers, vacant volumes gifted by trusting friends, anytime books and yearbooks, diaries full of dates and designs and unmade appointments....

Maybe one day, yet, I will fill them with something more.