THE planner I chose for next year disconcerts. It marches the months in a row before inserting the weekly pages. The journal plots 2020 but begins in December 2019.
Then I remember why I liked this journal, its simple lay-out, almost bare except for fine lines and grey print. I am seduced by all that expanse of unmarked paper inviting contact with a pen’s nib or the gossamer brush of daydreams.
Yet, choosing a planner these days has become a chore. Do you need one for goals, exploration or inspiration? Will it be a-page-a-day, a weekly spread, monthly, five years, or a lifetime?
The word “planner” itself is a giveaway. Do I “plan” each day, let alone 365 days? While I live with some intentionality, productivity is a grid that I chafe at rather than welcome.
Perhaps this mindset has something to do with my start in keeping a journal. In grade school, my father passed on to me the diary given away by pharmaceutical companies. I could doodle in it and buy with my savings a book instead of a sketch pad, he suggested.
Later, my maternal grandmother gave me the journal a bank gave at yearend to clients.
How would I fill all those pages? Nothing much happens to a seven-year-old.
I did not know then the effect paper has on imagination. I tore out and cut up the medical ads inserted in the journals. Purple intestines, blue hearts, and rainbow organs became paper mosaics. I drew cartoons in the readymade panels of the corporate diary.
And I experimented with my handwriting, trying and discarding attempts to copy my classmates’ admirable cursives before settling down with the scrawl that is no one else’s but mine.
Even though I compose now with a keyboard, I think there is no better way than holding a pen and letting it flow on paper to hear myself better.
Keeping a journal is like taking a walk. Why one does, where one goes are minutiae; what matters is keeping the conversation running.
The bead of ink from the ballpoint becomes a trickle, a gush, then a slipstream widening into a channel where the unknown tempts and daunts.
Ever the good listener, paper receives everything unspooled by the pen, absorbs confidences, makes omissions palpable, nudging the voice to move on to the next recall, coax the lurking insight, claim the orphaned memory at the fringes of self-conceit.
In these digital times, when each is hell-bent on talking to all, writing to oneself, an attentive, thoughtful audience of one is not just another analog anachronism, not a trend in communicating in bullet form, not a selfie in long form. If we cannot hear ourselves, who can?