I have a thing for paper, specifically notes on paper.
Last week after a hectic stretch finishing up a book proposal, getting another project off to the formatter, and completing several editing jobs, I decided it was time to clean my office.
I’m a less-is-more kind of person so I rarely find myself buried by stuff. I’m also reasonably neat and moderately organized, which means my clutter is usually neat and organized too. If anything, that makes the whole damn thing more insidious because I can fool myself into thinking I don’t really need to clean up at all. Inevitably, I end up with neat clutter piles accumulating on surfaces, in files, between books and (my new favorite go to spot) under my keyboard. When that happens, it’s time to dig out and clean up.
It is a bit of a dig because cleaning and sorting resembles an archeological dig of my last few months. Scattered here and there like notefetti are titles of books I want to read, blogs I mean to visit, quotes I absolutely love, along with story ideas and plot points and bits of conversation I’ve overheard. I find three words on one slip of paper (Dianthus ‘Candy Floss’) and a short recipe on another (for coconut oatmeal drop cookies). Cookies I want to make . . . flower seeds I want to plant.
Why am I writing these things down? Why do I feel the need? Unless I file my notes right away – and I rarely do – it only means revisiting them down the road, and expending energy deciding whether they’re worthy of being kept or worthy of feeding the fire. In short, it creates more work. And I’m kinda sorta done with creating more work for myself.
As I sifted through my stockpile, it slowly dawned on me that taking notes isn’t necessarily a sign of an ordered mind. It can be, at its worst, the sign of an obsessive one. I’m not obsessive – at least I don’t think so – but there are stretches when I think my note taking could be considered . . . well . . . moderately compulsive. I do it, I realized, because I’m afraid. I’m afraid if I don’t write something down I’ll forget it. I’m afraid I’ll miss reading a great book, I’ll forget a snappy bit of dialogue, or I won’t have just the right quote to share with a hurting friend.
I need to trust more. I need to trust myself to remember what I need to remember. I need to trust that if I do forget, the world will somehow bring to my attention the right book or the perfect story idea or that new seed variety just when I need it most. I need to have more faith and take fewer notes.
It’s working pretty well so far, although I have to admit grocery shopping without notes has been a bit of a challenge. We’ve ended up with twenty-two pounds of sweet potatoes. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with them all. I’d jotted down a recipe for a sweet potato pie with a rosemary cornmeal crust but I seem to have misplaced it . . .