Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Humble Composition Book

I love doing my writing on a computer, but there is something so much more satisfying about the tangibility of writing permanently on paper.  I understand the satisfaction of completing a piece of writing on a computer, but it just doesn't seem real until you have a professionally printed and bound copy of your work in hand.  There is something magical and complete about holding your work in an actual book.

These days it isn't difficult at all to self-publish -- technically you could say I've already written several books and had them printed -- yes, in hard cover.  Until I had those books in hand, ready to place on a shelf and forget them, ha ha ha, they seemed like little more than a project to me.  I can't even tell you where to find the first book I was published in -- somewhere at my Dad's house, I believe, in a grey plastic file box full of my high school and college memorabilia.  It's a small box.  A lot of the small collection of memories I had disappeared while I was at school during the week, along with my skates.

If I have any advice for any young people living in a house where they are denied the chance to hang  onto any tangible memory items, it is this: make www.shutterfly.com your ally. Scan and upload all those precious memory gems (junk to an adult who just wants you out of 'their" house the moment you graduate) to Shutterfly, create your own memory book, and if your treasures disappear, you'll still have pictures of them.  Someday you'll be able to save a few dollars and have a book printed with your old photos, class notes, drawings, certificates, awards, and school projects.  I wish I had mine, but they were taken away from me.  It wasn't him.  It was her.  And vengefulness.

Sad face.  I have almost nothing of my childhood.

In high school, I took a year of computer programming as an elective. Someone else's dream was for me to make millions as a computer programmer.  Time has told the tale that programmers don't make much unless they create something so innovative that it revolutionizes the industry.  To be quite honest, I found programming to be as dry and dull as dust.  There was nothing fun about it.  (I'm not blaming the teacher -- only the subject.  I suspect they took her out of her subject area to teach that class.). I just wanted to get into Print Shop and create banners and posters.  

A little career guidance in 10th grade would have steered me toward graphic design and art, both of which I possess decent talent for -- who knows what I could do with a tiny bit of training??  But no, the guidance counselor never bothered with students like me.  He only ever had a firm grip on that coffee mug of his and his paycheck.  In the 80s our guidance counselors didn't take the initiative to guide or counsel us about our future (unless your parents were "prominent members of the community").  They only bitched at us about mistakes we made at school. (I heard from other students.  I never took any chances / never had any fun in school, simply because I wanted my parents to love me for bring a good girl.  Fail.). I only ever had one meeting with my guidance counselor, in the ninth grade, and that was to give me a bogus IQ test to exclude me from a program.  

What I learned from programming class, other than the oppressive bore factor, was that notes taken in pencil would smear into oblivion within a couple of years. There's no permanence in graphite.  I ended up with a lot of dirty paper, essentially.  The plastic binder I used for my notes was as tough as iron, and I still use it today, 26 YEARS later.  I think it was made by Mead. Impressed?  I still am.  Good old days of sturdy school supplies!

In my only teaching methods class, my instructor required us to use a sewn composition book for writing class notes and teaching tips.  He explained that the sewn books will last decades, because there is no glue to loosen and drop pages.  I continued writing my teaching tidbits in that book until I filled it several years later. Then I bought a new one and started writing in it.  Yes, very sturdy indeed. I have separate books for very personal journal writings and poems I've written as well.  I just need a house with a library for my books.

On my trip to Italy in 2012, I carried a small Moleskine journal to write in.  Purple, my favorite color.  Such a happy little book to look at, so promising.  It took up little room in my bag and had a lovely writing surface.  But you know, I couldn't customize that cover to save my life! I wanted to write my name on it -- no ink I possessed would stick to it -- not even Sharpie! Paint wouldn't stick! I just wanted to make it MINE! It took some doing to hold that small thing open for writing, and it was so plain.  There were no pockets to hold any little keepsakes.  I still haven't put together my book about that trip, and it's a shame, because it took over 4000 photos.  (Using my iphone as my main camera was very useful, because it not only snaps pictures super-fast, it also geotags them so remembering where a photo was taken is much simpler. :)

I think that on my trip to the UK and Paris, I'll take along a composition book that I've altered.  I've been customizing online maps to include places we will see, and I've also been getting together terminal maps to make airports easier to deal with.  I don't need a map to get me through everything, but I like having an idea of the general layout of any place where I am.  It makes me feel less like I'm wandering blind through a gigantic rabbit warren, and more like I know where I'm going. That's a good thing. "Flying by the seat of your pants" stops being a cutesy, fun concept the second you understand you are completely lost. 

Plans for my custom composition book travel journal: visually exciting cover, bookmark, pockets for ephemera, maps, background info to read before traveling (lots of things that I saw in Italy I didn't understand the significance), preview photos, and lots of places to write my thoughts about where I've been.  Sort of my own combination guide and journal, and keepsake when I'm home.  I think it will help me remember the trip better.  


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