Paper Vs Digital

I fear the laborious task of creating handwritten notes is becoming a lost art. Penmanship used to be such an important part of early education where little fingers with big fat pencils practiced making perfect loopy tails all slanted in the same direction. (And if you couldn’t do that you were urged to consider becoming a doctor where illegible scrawl was the norm, or a pharmacist highly skilled in interpreting all kinds of erratic scribbling.)

We used to write personal little thank you notes, birthday wishes, congratulations, holiday hellos, sent by snail mail, often with photos enclosed. Now we zip off e-mails with attachments. Or send a text message, or post it on Facebook. It’s easier, and it takes less time. But it’s somehow less personal too.

You’d think the list making queen would get a clue and start using the Notes app on her I-Phone instead of doodling on scraps of paper and then wondering where they went. But old habits die-hard. I am also a stationery junkie. I dearly love my gel pens and fancy note pads that have a magnet glued to the back so they can be stuck up on the fridge. Of course they’re never actually there because I take them somewhere else to write on them and then they have this weird habit of going missing.

I also have spiral bound notebooks where I keep important passwords and numbers and ID’s that have mysteriously vacated my brain. I’ve been smart enough to keep these more or less in the same place, by my computer, because they’re completely useless anywhere else. And hopefully completely useless if somebody picked them up and leafed through them because I’ve been cunningly cryptic about what all these doodles mean. (Considering that my son figured out my password and W’s for both our laptops in under 30 seconds, perhaps we’re not as enigmatic as we think.)

Handwritten journals and diaries are now blogs. It’s so much faster to type than to write. More legible. Fewer spelling errors. No erasers or scratching out involved. Thesaurus and Dictionary and Google and Wikipedia at your fingertips. No burning of incriminating evidence required. Just hit the delete button and it’s all magically gone.

Pen and paper was my first love though. I don’t want to completely give up on notes. We don’t have electronic files at work and still record patient files on paper and put them in neatly labeled file folders. Often my writing looks like hell. (I guess I should have been a doctor.) When I take my time it can be beautiful, even if what I’m writing down isn’t so much. “Warned patient to reduce contact lens wearing time” (WD PT < CL WT) written in sky blue gel pen in fat little capital letters. Because I’m a big fan of short forms. Like PITA which you would not like to see on your file if you knew it meant pain in the ass.

Well I’m not going to let you in on any more of my record keeping secrets. What was the question again? Oh yeah – I suppose I prefer my keyboard for most things. If I’d tried to hand write this entire post it probably would have killed me, never mind that I’d still be writing it at midnight tonight. Digital is the way to go if you want quantity and speed. And accuracy. Even doctors have realized this and now their prescriptions are zipped electronically up to the front desk to be printed and picked up on the way out. Pharmacists have either sighed with relief or cursed how boring their jobs have become.

I think it will be a very sad day when post-it notes go digital. Not sure how that will happen but I assume it’s only a matter of time. Sticky notes and a liquid ink pen can keep me happily occupied for a long time. Electronic doodles are going to take over soon enough. Brush up on that scribbling and graffiti before it goes the way of the cave drawing and we all forget what the point was and why it was so much fun.

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Thrown Away

I wish I had never thrown away my diaries.  And papers and poetry and notebooks and stories and public speeches (I’m not kidding, I used to write speeches!) that I started compiling pretty much from the time I learned how to print.

Of course 99% of it was no doubt insignificant drivel, as evidenced by the few pieces that have survived the years,  but there might have been some hidden gem in there.  Now I’ll never know.

When I met ‘the love of my life’ and knew it was serious I also wanted it to be perfect.  So I had to be perfect.  With no sordid past.  One weekend I came home and gathered up all my diaries that I’d been keeping for the last dozen years of my life.  There wasn’t time to sort through them or even give much thought to what I was doing.  I just lugged all of them down to the wood furnace in the basement, ripped them apart book by book, fed them in small doses to the flames and watched them burn.  Getting rid of all the incriminating evidence.  I’m not kidding, those were the exact words I had in my head.

I suppose it’s some indication of how important the relationship was to me, that I didn’t want anything to put our future happiness in jeopardy.  I thought if he ever found out about even half of the things I did before I met him he’d be completely put off and disillusioned.  So all the damning data went up in smoke.

It was all pretty pointless.  Turns out he is a complete respecter of privacy and not even all that interested in how I got to be me.  I probably couldn’t have forced him to read one of my journals at gun point.  He’d have given up after a couple of pages and reached for the newspaper or a biology textbook, both of which he would have found infinitely more fascinating.

So all that teenage history of angst and passion is gone.  All the names and dates and crushes and mad flings, hopes and dreams.  Although even if they’d survived the years and our various moves over all this time, there’s a very good chance I’d have destroyed them all eventually anyway, if only to save myself from potential embarrassment.

But man, there were a lot of stories in there.  The honest truth, because in a diary you don’t lie to yourself.  Now I have to rely on selective memory and invent the details and I’m probably not getting it right at all.