Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Notebooks Unbound

I've got a confession to make:  I have never completed a notebook, journal, or sketchbook.  I have come very close, closest perhaps with a sketch journal I started in grad school. As an experiment in non-linear thinking, I would collect ideas organized by subject on different pages rather than by date.  It started out with a lot of profound headings, followed by free-associative riffs.  As I lived with this book,  the poor writing and bad drawings irritated me.  I started whiting out embarrassing bits, editing them over and recreating the book like I would a painting.  Eventually the pages became so fat the book had difficulty closing.  When it was finally abandoned, this notebook too had blank pages. (Punctuation?) While I can accept the book now as a snapshot of a 23-year old mind, I will never divulge the secret location where I buried it.   No one has to ever read it.  

I dislike the binding of notebooks.  Aside from locking information into a  progressive order, it also binds the good with the bad; nothing can be discarded.  I write down a lot of thoughts: ideas, rants, manifestos, bad poetry, great starts to short stories that I'll never finish.  If they were written down in a notebook, I would rarely look at them again.  My preference now is to write things down on scraps of paper and take them with me. My sketches also roam free:  I take them out of their bindings, pin them up on the walls, and place them in boxes and portfolios.  I tend to show my writing a little less respect than my drawings.  I think of Milan Kundera's definition of Graphomania from 1979, which all but predicts blogging, and places my abundance of words in perspective.  However,  I am reluctant to throw something handwritten away.   As a compromise, I've been tearing up the notes for the last year and saving some of the benign bits in boxes.   This past Friday, I started recycling the unfinished notebooks, pasting pages along with the bits together looking at the text as mark and collage. 

The dog doesn't care if I am doing this or painting. One act is just as strange looking to her as another, and both products bore her equally.  While it will be interesting to see if either of these "drawings" can be brought to any end, I don't imagine showing them in a gallery setting. Phrases pop out like in William Burrough's cut-ups, but no narrative is intended either. They are simply a way of loosening up the mind, an oddity of my studio process. I certainly find them more fun to keep around than old notebooks so far.  If only I could do this to the blog in a few years....

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