I Hate Blank Books

Coffee and Notes

I’ve been in love with reading ever since I can remember, and in love with writing since at least the age of five, if not earlier. For the sake of the argument, we’ll say five, because that’s when I “published” my first work: a collection of poetry that my mother mimeographed and send ’round to all the relatives. Somewhere, some aunt or cousin probably has a copy of those purple-stained pages covered in my childish scrawl, and I just know it will come back to haunt me someday, but that’s not really the point.

This is: for as long as I’ve been writing, people have been giving me blank books. Well, okay, sometimes they’re not entirely blank. Sometimes they have lines in them, or grid squares, but even when the insides are completely blank, they all have one thing in common: they have been presented to me with the expectation that I will fill them.

There are three problems with this:

  1. I’m not a diarist. If I want “something sensational to read on the train,” to borrow a phrase from Oscar Wilde, I have a Kindle full of books. I have no interest in writing down every tiny detail of my life, and even if I did, I don’t believe in writing things with the intent that they remain private. This blog is the closest thing I’ve ever had to a diary that I’ve managed to sustain, and it’s both open to the public and infrequently updated, Holidailies notwithstanding.
  2. They’re never what I would choose. Honestly, if I were choosing a blank book, it’s more likely to not be a book at all, but a spiral notebook (college ruled, green lines, 500 pages preferred, but I also like those top-bound ones). But no one ever gives me those. Instead, I get gilded pages, stiff bindings, and once a picture of cats. I am so not a cat person.
  3. They won’t get used. Even the moleskines that I did choose are rarely touched anymore, first because I do upwards of 90% of my writing on a computer, and second because anything other than a spiral notebook makes me feel like whatever goes in it has to be good and perfect and ready for publication. To me, those pretty books mean that I’m banned from writing what Anne Lamott calls a “shitty first draft.”

Despite this, and despite the fact that blank books and journals are never on my Christmas wish-lists, I keep receiving them, and then I either have to pretend to use them, re-gift them and hope I don’t give them back to the original giver, or keep them around and call them “art.”

If you really want to make me happy, instead of a blank book, give me candles, bath bubbles, and lotions, because I write better when I get to enjoy long soaks in the tub. Coffees and teas and the associated paraphernalia are always welcome, as are baked goods and homemade art. I’m also a sucker for pretty pens and stationery – I still write actual letters from time to time – and I never turn down chocolate.

Look, I know it’s rude to refuse gifts, but I just can’t handle any more blank books. If you must give me something to write on, a ream of printer paper would be much more sensible, and I promise, it wouldn’t get tucked away in a drawer until the paper crumbles. It would actually get used.

This year, I’m actually PODCASTING my holidailies entries. Go HERE to listen to yesterday’s selection.

Holidailies 2014

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