“A frightening thing awaits you. It has made strong men cry and sent women fleeing from its very presence. It is a blank piece of paper. What are you going to do with it? What threat lies beyond its snowy white innocence? You are going to have to make a mark on it -- you are about to violate its purity. Can you do it?” --Kurt Hanks and Larry Belliston, Rapid Viz 3rd Edition
Here at Wndsn Expedition Headquarters, we have about 20 notebooks laying around. From cheap Rhodias, to more expensive Midoris and Nuunas, to Cason art notebooks of various sizes. What do they all have in common? They are untouched, pristine as an overnight snow on a quiet winter morning.
Certainly, we are not alone in our stacks. Show us one person, any person, with a fondness for all things stationery and we will show you a mountain of empty notebooks filling nooks and crannies of their home. Sure, while we all stood in the store with this object of unfulfilled promise in our hands, we had plans of what we would actually do with it. Those plans rarely come to pass once it leaves the store. Life gets in the way and the demands to slow down that a notebook presents often means it goes ignored in the daily hustle. And slowly, slowly, that one notebook becomes many.
Why do we do this? We’ve talked about this before on the blog. It is certainly a fetish to collect something that is full of potential, that has not, will not, and cannot disappoint. After all, there is not all too much perfection in this world. One of the harder things that we learn as we mature into adulthood is that what we imagine could be is often not what happens. Indeed, Plato had it right. The ideal is only available in thoughts and never actually in form.
Let’s say we break through and open up the notebook. Once we actually put pen to paper, our ideas can seem less cool than we had envisioned. Or we realize that our ability to actualize our creative impulse is less than we would hope for ourselves. Ever look back on diary entries from when you were a teen? Cringe worthy.
Life isn’t perfect, and neither are we. Relationships, bodies, politics, society, culture are messy. Ideas are messy. We may have significant self-esteem issues and we all have life challenges to work through. But here’s the secret: the gulf between what we desire and what actually manifests is where life actually happens.
Live your life, fully, completely, as messy and complicated as it -- and you -- are. Get that notebook out, and commit to writing, drawing, dreaming in it. Commit to scratching things out. Commit to looking like a fool to yourself. Commit to wondering what you were thinking when you wrote that. Commit to learning. Commit to living life.
Your notebook is a tool, not the thing itself. And like all tools, they are designed to be used in order to further and enhance your life. There are no unused hammers laying around a workshop; no one says: “Hey, don’t use that hammer, we are keeping it new because it is so shiny and we like the lines.”
Life isn’t pristine. Your notebook shouldn’t be either.