Sorting my notes

As a result of all the cleaning and organizing I’ve been doing, I finally located all my writing notebooks. In theory I only have one notebook at any given time and I carry it with me. The truth is that sometimes I’m hit with an idea I need to write down and my notebook is not where I expect it to be. Then I grab a new notebook or an older notebook that still has blank pages. Right now I have one completely-full notebook which I need to refer to, and two mostly-full notebooks. And for once I know where they all are.

Last Friday I sat down with my writing notebooks and began sorting through them. I culled out the pages of ideas that I’ve already used as well as the random non-writing notes which are no longer relevant. It is critical for me to have the notebooks to capture ideas. It is just as critical for me to clear out the notebooks so that I can find the ideas that still need attention. I know that there is value in retaining notes, sometimes raw notes trigger memories for me that finished writing does not include, but I feel that storing huge boxes of old notes is a waste of space that I need for other things. I can not fill my life or my mind with clutter. I must let things go if I am to retain spaces for new thoughts and ideas to form.

The tossing of notes does not just create physical space, it also gives me mental room. When I look through the old notes, it is obvious to me that some of the ideas are still alive. I can see that they are good and that I should save them for later use. Other notes feel dead. The zeitgeist that prompted me to write them is gone or my life has shifted and they’re simply no longer relevant. In such cases tossing the notes can be symbolic. I let those thoughts go in the physical act of tossing the paper. In an odd way, this frees the concepts. Most of them are just gone, but more than once I’ve had an old concept come back to me transformed by a new event. This transformation is harder if I have the concept pinned to an old shape in note form.

As I go through the notebooks I often discover that I’ve written notes on the same topic on several places. In such cases I consolidate and copy these notes so that they are in one place rather than several. This means that when I go to find that topic it is easier for me to recall all the thoughts. It also means that once things are copied I can throw away the superfluous pages. I kind of enjoy tearing pages out of my notebook and throwing them out. I particularly enjoy it when I’m throwing notes away because I’ve already written something using them. It is the same sort of satisfaction one gets from checking off a task, only tearing out a sheet of paper is more tangibly satisfying. I like seeing my notebooks get thinner because I’ve used the thoughts that were in them.

Part of my brain pictures one of my heirs or a future historian lamenting the fact that I threw away notes. But honestly most of the notes are so fragmentary they would me little to anyone besides me. Also I would rather have my children lament a shortage of notes than to saddle them with boxes of irrelevant papers to sort through. They’ll get enough of that anyway what with all of the journals and blog entries that I create. The world will have plenty of words from me without keeping old, dead notes.

And now, having written this entry, you must pardon me as I go tear out the note that I should write about sorting notes. I’m done with it now.