In With the New; Now What With the Old?

I have a problem with notebooks.

As problems go, a notebook problem is not a huge problem, but it’s still a problem.

All though I tend to prefer to write things down as it gives me an excuse to buy pens, one of the problems I have with analogue notebooks is that once I finish them I still have them.

I then have the problem about what to do with them.

I have this problem with books too, but I rarely have to go back through a book and decipher my handwriting. Although, in all fairness, there are some cryptic notes in the handful of textbooks I kept. For example: LitCrit; B.S. P.H.D; and 8 Wombats Live. The first, I think, was a comment on a character’s comment that sounded like something from literary criticism; the second was my reaction to someone’s literary criticism (the P.H.D. means “Piled Higher and Deeper” you can guess what B.S. means); and the latter I think must have been some graffiti I saw somewhere and then scribbled in the margin of the book. Or it’s a band name I thought of. Or it’s an actual band. I don’t remember.

With books though, as long as I’ve not marked them up too heavily, I can always sell them off or give them away. With notebooks, though, I have to find a way to save the few snippets that I wrote down that are actually worth saving. I can photograph them and upload them to Evernote but that still leaves me the problem of finding stuff on my computer or on my phone whilst hoping the batteries don’t run out. Even searchable storage reaches a critical mass of “that’s too much mass” to be useful.

I can also transcribe the notes into a computer but that means I have to come face to face with my handwriting.Then there’s still the problem of critical mass and easy searching.

That, however, isn’t as bad as what I actually find in my notebooks, especially the thicker ones I’ve kept around for years. There are the false profundities scribbled haphazardly during a commute. There are also the moments that seemed like a really good idea but I don’t remember where I was going with them. For example “I can’t believe I’m here writing for the sole purpose of making a mess” seems like a really catchy opening line, for something. As is “The disaster is now the backdrop. The people only props” which I think I wrote after the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The trouble is I didn’t date it or add any context.

Lately I’ve been doing daily or weekly transcriptions. This lets me enter the material while it’s still fresh, but that can steal time from real work.

Then there’s the final problem: throwing the notebooks out or storing them. I’d prefer to store them, as thumbing through the old notes can be inspiring, but storing them requires space. Now that I’m using smaller notebooks, it’s easier to transcribe them and throw them out, but there’s still a part of me that thinks I might need that someday.

2 thoughts on “In With the New; Now What With the Old?

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