Cultivating Obsession

 

A doodle from one of my many notebooks

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. So it’s time to come clean: I have an addiction to notebooks. I am a danger to myself if left in a stationery store. I buy them whether or not (most often not) I’ve filled the ones from previous purchases. There is an entire box in the closet of my study that is nothing but empty notebooks. This peccadillo is perhaps made all the more shameful considering I do most of my “real” writing on a computer. I am a creature of the times, and I type much faster than I can write longhand. And yet, the problem persists. The notebooks that do have writing in them are full of notes, chronologies, errant sentences. They range in dimensions from pocket- to full-sized. There is always one with me, at the ready. I once had a long commute on winding roads that made notebooks deadly, so I bought a voice-recorder to keep ideas from getting away from me. But the effect was not the same as a notebook. I could record key ideas or plot points, but the prose that came together in my mind would fall to pieces the moment I tried to articulate it. Sentences that sounded great in my head would evaporate when spoken, nothing left but idle “uhs” and “ums” on the recording. The same thoughts that so easily transferred from thought to paper were lost in the translation to speech. The occasions when I do start writing in one, I hit my stride, and switch to the computer. Though, recently I have made a go of actually using the notebooks in the closet before purchasing more. (This is a huge step, believe me.)

At times classification is difficult. Is my problem an addiction, obsession, or compulsion? Clearly there is an element of each. It is not always an active quest, often it doesn’t rear its head until I’m in the presence of notebooks. Then, however, the switch is flipped, I salivate, and I must find the “perfect” notebook. No mere marble notebook will do (although sometimes I buy those too, mostly in fits of nostalgia), it must be made of stronger stuff: binding that will withstand repeated opening and closing, covers that offer some resistance to rain, paper that will bear the full weight of my pen! Ring binding is right out  — it’s cumbersome to a southpaw.

A bit of armchair psychoanalysis has yielded the hypothesis that my obsession is rooted to a certain element of nostalgia or wistfulness: romantic notions of filling scores of notebooks with stories or a novel. Columns of notebooks, piled to the ceiling in certain corners of the room, would certainly be a more gratifying testament to hours spent writing than the minor increase in the number of bytes taken up on my hard drive. So there it is: progress in a concrete form. This, of course, is the same impulse behind embarking on the solitary (and frequently aggravating) enterprise of writing in the first place.

So, I have completed the first step, but I don’t think I will go any farther. While I’m not sure that I will ever fill a notebook with a story or novel in its entirety, I am certain that I don’t want to recover from the desire to see my words take up physical space in the universe. The obsession is just something I’ll have to learn to live with. That being said, I will now print out this blog post.

 

–by George Kamide

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