Friday, January 11, 2013

Blank books and new years

All who have been around me for a while know about my passion for blank books. I keep buying them, more than I can fill. When a beautiful one snags my gaze, I grab it and bring it with me. Accompanying this passion is one for pens, but I don't buy those as frequently. I do have a couple I love and guard though, like the engraved fountain pen which was a present from my colleagues for my Ph D. I love that one. I am keeping it in a drawer, though, safe like the blank books, which are on the book shelf. What is up with that?

The thing is - what I love about both pens and books is their potential. Most of my writing happens under pressure, with deadlines, and in a hurry. I sit hunched over the computer for a week or two, and a new article or chapter is borne. Then I send it off and move on. There's no cherishing the process in advance, no anticipation of the beauty of the words I am about to shape, no glorious joy of the ideas I tackle and play with. All of those things are lost in some nostalgic memory of writing from when I learned to write. When I learned an elegant longhand, and trained myself to write it, fluidly and easily. When I wrote my first poems, and hid them in the first journal I kept for more than a few weeks, and filled it slowly with words I'd go back and play with, poke at, tug around. The first academic papers, when I dropped the fluid script of writing lessons during childhood, and reinvented myself with something clear, easy, readable and modern looking, a black line marching determined over the white page. It was all by hand, back then, and I think it's me missing that process that makes me buy all these books.

Because when I do start another journal (I do use them, quite a bit, really) there is always this thrill, this moment of breathless anticipation. It can contain anything: The next great novel, or the theory of human-text interaction to make everything make sense - potentially, that's in that blank book, in that beautiful pen, just waiting to flow out of me.

And yes, that is all about the new year, too, because right now, the year is really mostly potential, and can take us anywhere.

And it's about the Hobbit, because of what Bilbo says to Frodo: "He used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. 'It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,' he used to say. 'You step onto the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.'".

 Happy new year, happy new book, happy new road to you all.

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