I had a conversation on Facebook with a friend recently, in which we extolled the virtues of stationary shopping. She’s a pen person and “plays in the pen aisle;” this is a fetish I can completely understand even when most of both her and my communication these days is digital. I have “a thing” for sheet protectors, which I use to store all the computer-generated papers of my life in neatly organized (don’t snort, Dear Husband) binders. Most of my stationary admiration, however, is now saved for art supply stores, since office supply stores primarily deal in machines and their accessories; tools designed to show the hand of the individual are relegated to Art.
The phrase “the written word” has expanded to include all manner of producing text, from typing and typesetting to text messaging and dictation into a voice-to-text program. There still remains a meditative and satisfying aspect to the physical act of writing, however. If this was not so, digital tablets with their virtual pens would not exist. The individuality of script and the unique choices of layout, colour, decoration and design that we make when setting text on a page are a often an integral part of the process for those who have a love of writing.
When Tracy (my friend from Facebook) and I were chatting about her pen fetish, it came out that I have a love of blank books. I acquire blank books at a rate far faster than I can fill them and frequently have several sitting around, awaiting their literary or graphic destiny. In fact, I often designate them as gifts for others whom I think will share my appreciation for the potential that is a book full of clean, white pages. This allows me to buy more of them, for as everyone knows, the burden of “this must be used and soon” that falls on most objects in a small house is not applied to gifts.
This got me thinking about this book hoarding (let’s call it what it is) of mine and how long it has gone on, so I delved into the basement, poked in the back of studio closets and found a few old friends. The picture above is of just a few of my journals, sketchbooks and notebooks over the years. There are many, many more. Most seem to have survived, as I found some that dated by to elementary and junior high school as well as a few from university days and onwards.
I tried reading a couple of them and found myself wincing repeatedly at both the language (was I really that air-headed at 13?) and content (there are parts of anyone’s life that make them cringe upon reflection). I cannot read my own journals. Maybe they’re too honest, like a mirror that truly reflects certain parts of my life, or maybe they function more as an exorcism, since the desire to write seems to be at least partially inspired by times of upheaval. Or maybe it’s both and they’re inextricably linked together and intertwined with those parts of me that I think are most secret for whatever reason. Clearly I didn’t intend to ever read them again and I certainly don’t want anyone else to, which begs the question of why they were written and for whom. What is the purpose of a book that isn’t meant to be read? When I’m writing, to whom am I speaking? Those are good questions and ones for which I really have no answer. Does my lack of an answer make me stop writing? Nope.
The blank books on my shelf, of which I currently have five, are all very different; some are nicely bound, one is a Moleskine, one is of hand-made paper and another has nice, heavy paper that can take paint without buckling. When I buy these books, I’m not sure that I actually buy them with any clear purpose in mind. In fact, I’m not even sure I intend to use them. Maybe it’s the allure of the potential that attracts me, much as blank canvas or fabric draws my attention and creativity. When you write in a blank book, you alter it. It becomes a journal, a sketchbook, an exercise log, a book of lists or whatever else you do with it.
When I use a blank book, I almost always change the look of it. I’ve put covers on some, stuck pictures on the fronts of others and even modified the bindings of certain books to make them fit my purpose. A while back, I wrote a review of The Decorated Page: Journals, Scrapbooks & Albums made Simply Beautiful by Gwen Diehn. This is a beautiful, detailed and exciting book to which I keep returning. Every time I start a new journal, I it dig out and allow the inspiration to flow. The corners are becoming quite dog-eared now from use. Diehn’s book is beautiful and she appreciates the multiplicity of reasons for which journals and scrapbooks are kept as well as the need of the users to put their own stamps on books.If you haven’t read this and love books, journal writing, artistry and beauty, you really should pick up a copy. She has also written a follow-up called The Decorated Journal: Creating Beautifully Expressive Journal Pages (which I shamefully admit that I haven’t read but which is probably as stellar as her other works. Oddly enough, I recently discovered that we also have her Nature Crafts for Kids book. It’s a great book, of which I hadn’t even realized that she was the author.)
I should be getting a copy of Live & Learn: Real Life Journals by the same author in the mail soon, for review. I’m quite excited at the prospect. The first book was so spectacularly wonderful that my expectations for the second are quite high.
Speaking of which, I have recently filled a book and need to start and decorate a new one, which strikes me as as good a way as any to spend a sunny Friday afternoon.