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There was a time when I knew whether “Be” was supposed to be capitalized in that title.
When I was in high school, I was very uniquely misunderstood. I had feelings no one else could understand. I took to long bouts of solitude. I wrote very emotional poetry to try and express the depth of my turbulent feelings. You know, like everybody else in high school.
I did take it a bit overboard though. I mean, this was back in the days when LiveJournal was a big thing. So it was very common for me to spit out a thousand words every night. On top of that, I had notebooks that I filled with random thoughts. Poems, freewrites, short stories, it was all just waiting for me to jot down, rather than, say, listening to the lecture.
The Overly Ritualized Notebooks
I remember being incredibly picky when it came to how I wrote. I had notebooks that I would carry from class to class just to facilitate my writing — after all, spoiling one of these notebooks with actual notes would disrupt my process. These notebooks had to be graph-lined. And none of those large-graph crap. 5x5 Quadrille was my dose, and if you tried to force 4x4 on me, I’d never forgive you.
I’ve never had particularly good penmanship. I have this very aggressive way of holding my pen (and don’t you come near me with that disgusting pencil), that feels like I’m writing with a cigarette. But what was critical for me is that I could get everything down. Wide-ruled was too slow. College-ruled didn’t improve much. But give me some 5x5 graph paper, and I was off to the races!
And I recall having very strict guidelines as to how everything should be formatted. Everything was datestamped (and occasionally timestamped), in the top right. Exactly three squares from the right margin. And if, for some reason, I started writing on the incorrect margin on subsequent pages, I tore out the page and started over. What’s the use of sprawls of ink on a page if they’re going to be inconsistent?
Now I Use Vim
I do nearly all my writing now on my computer, in a text editor that was designed in 1976. I throw up a console fullscreen, and use a plugin called VimRoom that adds some pleasant margins. I like it. It’s fast, it’s dark, and it’s free from distraction. And I’m a bit faster with a keyboard than I ever was with graph paper.
But there’s still a part of me that misses the ritual of filling up page after page of notebooks, and being able to flip through my rambling when I was done.