4 Years, 15 Notebooks

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Not pictured: The notebook in which I’m currently working.

A Design Observer post regarding Michael Beirut’s notebooks, Kate’s amazing photographic retrospective, and Merlin Mann’s thoughts on creativity recently got me thinking about my own growing archive of work.

Like Mr. Beirut, my mind fills with questions when re-examining the worn pages of these tiny notebooks — filled as they are with hurriedly scribbled notes and half-finished sketches. Recorded within them is a kind of personal renaissance, an arc of experience, the daily curation of a creative habit.

The first few — dating from 2005 — are filled with jotted notes for kung-fu classes (written in a particularly shaky I’m-too-worn-out-to-write hand), games of Ravenloft played with friends, sporadic, tiny, humorous illustrations made as time permitted. Throughout 2006 and 2007, a greater and greater portion of these notebooks are given over to personal illustrations and unsent letters.

By mid-2007, I am drawing — more or less — every single day. Escaping into one story or another. Reviewing those images now, I clearly recall everything about them and the setting in which they were created: waking at 5AM into the darkness of the little apartment, the comforting smell of wood smoke from a bakery across the road, the brilliant light and heat of summer afternoons, isolation and loss, a terrible flu, a circuitous resurrection through online communication, Planetes, and new stories.

I feel such chronicles are important. They’re maps of our internal territory, a perpetual well of inspiration and guidance, a reminder of what we’ve survived, what we’ve accomplished. A testament to the fact we just keep showing up.

Comments

4 Comments so far. Comments are closed.
  1. Kate,

    “I feel such chronicles are important. They’re maps of our internal territory, a perpetual well of inspiration and guidance, a reminder of what we’ve survived, what we’ve accomplished. A testament to the fact we just keep showing up.

    Spot-on and simply beautiful. 🙂

    Art seems stitched to memory and thought, no matter the medium or quality in which it is birthed. It’s an amazingly odd sense to leaf through years’ past and return to where you once were without leaving where you are. (However terrible or silly those memories may be.)

    These books of yours should go on collection! They’re rather handsome in their uniform style, labels and all! 😀 (I’m always losing things because I neglect to label them, currently my tripod has gone missing as I think my visiting brother mistook its bag for that of a folding chair… ) By the way, magician cat is pure genius! Is he available for parties??

  2. Fortson,

    “Recorded within them is a kind of personal renaissance, an arc of experience, the daily curation of a creative habit.”

    I’ve always been impressed with your dedication to keeping records of things – letters, sketches, notebooks. Daily curation and being sure to “just keep showing up” are habits worth cultivating, for sure.

    By the way, the sketch of the grey cat with the frog tshirt is brilliant!

  3. Fortson,

    Just read Micheal Beirut’s post about his notebooks he uses for work. Not nearly as inspiring as your notebooks, but still a curation of work-related ideas, to-lists, phone numbers, and miscellany. Until starting my current job, had a collection of 8 old notebacksthat covered about 5.5 years and 2 jobs. Unfortunately, my obsessive recycling habit recycling habit got the best of me and they landed in the recycle bin. Man the creator, man the recycler.
    But, his posting and your neat stack of moleskines has inspired me to approach the ‘work notebook’ in a new way. moleskine’s are small enough that they don’t pose much of a storage hassle, either. Thanks!

  4. ratchetcat,

    @Fortson – You raise a good point about the storage problem. The “form factor” of a moleskine notebook is just about perfect. They’re comfortable to hold in the hand and small enough that storing a lot of them isn’t really an issue.

    (That aspect alone would make them preferable over many other notebook options. The icing on the cake is their (nearly) indestructible construction and excellent paper.)

    @Kate – I just started labeling my notebooks this year. Previously, I relied on identifying marks on the covers or the amount of material stuffed between pages. 🙂 It definitely helps.

    (Magician cat might make an appearance here sooner or later. We’ll see!)