I’ve been a list-maker since I was a boy. My first memory of list-making goes back to when I was probably seven or eight years old who knows exactly? It was a list of daily chores I would do around the house on pages for each day of the week and attached to a small clipboard: Monday: Take the garbage out. Tuesday: Dust. Wednesday: Clean the bathroom… those kinds of things. Simple in their purpose but deep in meaning as to the reasons why.
Those lists of things to do were probably the first sign of my compulsion to write things down. But why would one so young be so inclined? It certainly wasn’t something “normal” for a boy to do, but I did it nevertheless. And what of my propensity to be organized? Did it all have something to do with a need to bring structure, some kind of order to an otherwise unstructured, disorderly life? Was this my way to gain some control?
Later I would add those little pocket address books and later still keep track of birthdays and such. Eventually, by my early teens, I became the family historian and was by-then writing everything down! Years ago I graduated to notebooks.
Author Joan Didion wrote in her essay “On Keeping a Notebook.”
The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself. I suppose that it begins or does not begin in the cradle. Although I have felt compelled to write things down since I was five years old, I doubt that my daughter ever will, for she is a singularly blessed and accepting child, delighted with life exactly as life presents itself to her, unafraid to go to sleep and unafraid to wake up. Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.
Now that’s deep! And here I thought I just liked to write things down. Suddenly I’ve become a rearranger of things, a malcontent and afflicted with “a presentiment of loss”. Presentiment, for those who like me may not have known, is defined as a feeling or impression that something is about to happen, especially something evil; foreboding. Frankly, all of that sounds just like me. Who knew!
Well, I’m still a list-maker and a notebook keeper and will remain one so long as I can write. My lists on computer run the gamut: things to do, movies to see, books to read, blogs to write, questions to ask, even a bucket list. I have hundreds! I’m always trying to perfect my “system” but not any single method seems to work, not yet anyway. Don’t know what I’d do with one of those fancy notebooks that you can find in the finer stationery stores. All mine have a limited lifespan, no need for them to be expensive. Durability is all I need.
No matter how hard I’ve tried to clean up my act I still find loose slips of paper, Post-its and other paper like substances containing my various thoughts that plague me nearly every day. They’re in my car, they’re in my computer bag, in my pant pockets, shirt pockets and scattered about. Despite my efforts to digitize, prioritize and organize them it remains a daunting task. Many of my blogs you’ve read here found their beginnings on those tiny slips of paper or napkin etc. Even with efforts to use a hand-held recorder and note program on my “notebook” computer — and even on my cell phone — many of those thoughts remain committed to paper. I love the computerized programs but they’re not always around! Barring a disaster by failing to have backups, once written and stored digitally, those notes will never be lost and will continue to pester me beyond the second-coming. Paper notes and notebooks however can be misplaced as I recently experienced. Major disaster! Maybe an iPad is in my future? Problem maybe… finally solved!
Often in reviewing old notes I find items that although uncompleted no longer have the sense of importance they must have had when I wrote them down. I’m not sure what’s worse… losing all those notes — that when written were of such noteworthy value — or being constantly reminded of all the things, over all the years I have failed to followup on?