I recently joked to a friend that I need an endless piece of notebook paper. I seems like I always find myself with an unfortunate lack of paper when a new idea pops into my head. I am too often left scrambling to find any piece of paper to record the idea on. Legal pads, Post-its, the back of a receipt . . . I have a 3-ring binder that is full of big sheets of paper and little scraps. I love that binder.
My 3-ring binder is purple and worn, but it is the roadmap through my imagination. I’ve had this binder forever. As a result it contains years and years worth of writing. The very first poem that I ever wrote is in that binder. I was fourteen years old when I wrote that poem.
Hundreds more pieces of paper have followed since I was fourteen. Some of those pieces of paper are ripped and torn. Some of those papers are folded or wrinkled. Some are purple or yellow. Some are printed from a computer. Most of them are covered in scribbles as my pen searched from the right words. Each of those pieces of paper is a piece of me, though. They are a snapshot of the moment in my life that inspired me to put pen to paper. And all of those pieces of paper are held together in my well-worn, purple, 3-ring binder.
I know it sounds crazy to rave over a cheap binder, but as a writer that binder represents my heart. If you were to hold that binder in your hands you would be holding me. You might look at it and see the same generic binder used my high school and college students, the same binder filled with paperwork in an office. It is nothing special on the outside. What is special about that binder is what it holds on the inside.
I bought my binder when I was attending broadcasting school to hold all of my class notes and artist info for use when I was on the air. I picked that binder because it was big and it was purple. That was it. Clouds didn’t part. Angels didn’t sing. I needed an office supply for school and was lucky enough to find one in my favorite color.
At that time the pieces of paper that were my writings were housed in an ugly turquoise binder, and they were straining the 1-inch rings. To open the rings that of that turquoise binder was to tempt a disastrous explosion of paper. You could almost hear the papers sigh when they eventually got moved into the much roomier digs of the purple, 3-inch binder.
People may look at my binder, especially in this technological age, and ask why I don’t just do my writing on my laptop and save my work there. Sure, it would make editing easier. It would get rid of the problem of not being able to find a piece of paper when I need it. Using my laptop would also be easier (and more aesthetically pleasing) to transport than my purple, 3-ring binder. But I can refute each of those arguments.
I enjoy the feel of the paper beneath my hand. I love the feeling of having my fingers wrapped around a pen. I enjoy watching the letters form into words as they flow from my imagination. I love looking at a completed piece and seeing the scribbled out lines from where I changed my mind on wording. I love the sloppy handwriting of a frantically written piece where my pen raced to get the words out as fast as my head was spewing them like a literary volcanic eruption. I love the neat, round penmanship of a piece that took time and thought to write. I look at the original copy of a completed piece and know that it’s not perfect, but I also know that it has character and personality. It is rough around the edges. It is raw and beautiful. It is everything that I am in my most vulnerable state.
Part of that goes along with the paper that the piece is written on. I’m sure you know that inspiration can and does come from anywhere and from anything. The words write themselves sometimes and it’s just a matter of getting them written down before they are forgotten. That’s when the fun begins . . . the search for anything to record the words so that you can purge yourself of the idea before you go crazy or before it is lost in oblivion. It is part of the adventure of being a writer. That and finding a pen that actually works. It always seems like whenever I have a truly GREAT idea I can NOT find a single pen that works.
As far as transportation of my purple, 3-ring binder . . . Does the Mona Lisa travel? How about the St. Louis Arch or the LeaningTower of Pisa? Do you pack up the pyramids and take them with you wherever you go? No. People go to those works to revel in their beauty. I am not trying to equate my writing to those or any other priceless work of or feat of engineering. But that binder is my personal work of art. To me it is priceless. It is my trophy of a life well lived. I don’t need to carry it around like a billboard. Instead I write more and continue to add to it. Some people keep scrapbooks or a memory box. I keep a 3-ring binder.
As a fellow writer how do you do most of your writing? Do you fire up the laptop whenever inspiration strikes, or do you keep it old-school like me and put pen to paper?
How do you organize and store your collective writings?
One day (soon) I will outgrow the purple binder. Will I buy a bigger one and replace it? No. I will buy a new one and start the next volume of my writing career. Until then the collective works of love, hate, sadness, joy, silliness, anger, and every other emotion that has inspired me to write since I was fourteen-years-old shall continue to grow in the worn, dusty, cracked-plastic-covered, 3-inch, purple 3-ring binder. It is the body that holds my heart and soul.
What does yours look like?
Until next time . . .