I am a bit of a magpie, I admit. I love hoarding shiny things. They’re not always shiny in the conventional sense, but they always hold a great deal of excitement and wonder for me. Planners and stickers and pretty new pens definitely fall into this category. As do LEGO mini-figures and things in the same colours as Paua shells. But by far the thing I hoard the most is notebooks.
I have been reading the wonderful new book by Tom Cox, coincidentally called NOTEBOOK, and it inspired me to have a dig through my own, rather haphazard collection, some I had even forgotten about owning. Tom’s book is a collection of thoughts and ideas from notebooks past and present. These do not form a necessarily linear narrative – random musings in notebooks rarely do – but they do shine a light into his personality. Like all of his nonfiction books, it reads like going for a ramble with a friend, exploring the nooks and crannies of the countryside, secret places most people never see.
And so, in keeping with the theme, this a piece I wrote in a new notebook about writing in new notebooks…
As many others have already said, writing in a new notebook feels like a strange parallel to your life. Do you want your entries to be perfect, your handwriting neat and all spellings correct? Or will you simply get into it, scribbling your thoughts randomly and excitedly as they come to you, without a care for how they spill out onto the page?
The first page, of course, will always be the best; the cleanest and neatest, the one with the most promise. But as you continue and your arm gets tired, the angle of the paper more awkward or the ink in the pen begins to run out, you notice the changes. I suspect what worries us most sometimes is other people noticing the changes. Which rather begs the question, are we writing in notebooks for others to read or simply for ourselves? And if it is indeed the latter, what does it matter if our penmanship is not neat, or if our spellings are wrong, our sentences incomplete? We must write for ourselves, first and foremost. Write because we want to tell our story.
I do not wait for the lovely thoughts or the most optimal circumstances, narrating some sanitised version of my life. I use my writing as a mirror to reflect and examine, and also to explore. I don’t like feeling scared of a new notebook, succumbing to the pressures of keeping them “nice”. I have far too many notebooks in my possession, most of them filled with thoughts and ideas, even those of the dull and mundane, because in life, nothing is truly dull and mundane. It is all part of a journey that may lead you to another adventure. Living IS the adventure.
Being and loving and exploring and experiencing, all of that makes us, us. And yet, each and every one of us, no matter how great or important, can be reduced to two simple dates; our birthday and our death day. Everything we are, everything we become, condensed into the little hyphen that connects them. Our whole lives written only as a —
The trouble is, you think you have time… Everyone thinks this. They look at their lives and they save things for best, or they hold off doing something until they are older or retire, and they fail to recognise or appreciate the time they have right here, right now. The time they have been given, not to put in a little box and save for later, but to use NOW.
Our being here is powerful. Life is a complex, messy twist of events in which we are entwined. We can try to make sense of it, or we can celebrate it or we can allow it to simply push us along. We might even do all that and more. But we should endeavour never to become stagnant, or to squander our time. Don’t save something for a special occasion. Every day of your life is a special occasion.
And so is true for new notebooks.