I am drawn to new journals and notebooks to the point of an obsessive and compulsive craving.
In the bookstore, Walgreens, and paper goods store, I walk directly to the shelves of Moleskins, Paperblanks, stenopads, Deuts187s and Piccadillys. A journal for me is not a just a utility to write. Before the writing even happens, a journal is loaded with meaning.
The binding and the covers claim a stake on what might become of its pages. Paperblanks’ cover images are restored century or even millennia old designs, whose aesthetic is orderly, geometrical, symmetrical, and intricate—foreign to the modern reductionist journal, one with a white cover and a tiny but rebellious black square plastered in the center. The Paperblanks images, which range from equinoxes, silk work from Lyons, the book of Solomon, to Paris Noir, imbues each journal with a sense of historical continuity and connection. By writing within and bearing images of the old, we restore them to the contemporary and relevant. The journal I wrote in for this blog has a cover with silver filigree which was made in Germany in the 1800s. The description on the back proudly declares to its users: “…silver filigree was made with the intent to celebrate human’s inclination to the ornate, the symmetrical nature to beauty and the delicate system in which beauty participates.”
I was merely hoping toting it around would make me appear as some anonymous authorial mage princess but hey, that’s cool too.
Without effort, I can be a part of this continuum. I can, in my distinctly American consumerist way, make the art live in the front cover. They say there are two ways something dies: when it loses their form and when their name is forgotten in history. We keep restoring these fantastical images to the present, their stories and forms intact, and hence keep them alive.
Black journals are the most alluring of all. Black is the most soulful of colors though it is not understood as such or even considered a “real color.” In objective terms, it is the very essence of color; it is all color condensed, merged at one point. Darkness does not signify the absence of light (something Dexter fans might have taken from the series finale) but the complete absorption of it. This is why pupils dilate around people we like, we want as much light as possible to see them better! Blackness is a black hole—it gathers, collects and condenses, letting everything around it in in an unanticipated openness.
In sum, if the hippies in “HAIR” really wanted to “let the sunshine in” they’d do better to wear black instead of all those silly colors.
When I look at a black journal I see colorful tales and mysteries condensed in the cover. Opening it is a titillating moment and I am shocked by the white void of the blank pages.
Colored notebooks are negligible as they have too heavy of associations with ever-changing personalities and moods. Red hot anger, yellow sunniness, green envy, purple mystics and mischief, all these colors have their own moods with all of the different shades in between. The only colored cover I could justify for myself was a light blue that reminds me of water.
Water’s color reveals what’s underneath, letting sunshine in and reflecting back at the same time. In this way, the water can be a source of reflection, tranquility and wonder which makes it an astute and appropriate metaphor for the work that journaling involves. Water IS a form of writing, in the case of Dumbledore who uses a liquid pensive to store his memories. In writing, we are remembering, wading through narratives, emotional currents and epiphanies made by diving deep. Sometimes the waters are pacified and stilled with the pen and then I see a clear reflection staring back at me with no turbulence threatening my “zen.” And then sometimes I see something close to the mythical Lochness: a dark and mysterious figure swimming underneath that manages to escape before I take a picture. There is something ironic in water as a metaphor for writing because writing implies solidifying thoughts and ideas instead of letting them pass.
But even in argumentative evidence-based writing, nothing is ever absolute, no claim can ever actually be permanently proved to exist, although it can be improved and advanced, torn down and critiqued. Just as I can write my memories down, my memories will change. I will have changed, for better or for worse, and inevitably look back on a memory with more or less insight, emotion, clarity, acceptance, denial and all the ways you can cradle or abuse a memory. My thoughts and memories may pass through but writing them down can catch them as they were at that specific point in time. Yet just like a black and white photo, writing a memory never fully restores the moment as it was. This brings me to the inside of the notebook: the blank pages.
My mania in high school was buying stenopads, composition books, paperchase journals, leather journals, and obsessively forgetting the ones I previously bought. In spite of myself, I always looked at them first out of anything in the bookstore. The other books have already fulfilled their creative potential and their creators will never walk into the bookstore to squeeze in their last edits. All is said, done, in print and for purchase as is. The empty journals are begging a writer to walk into the bookstore. They are pets in the shelter desperately looking for the love of an owner. More so than an actually living breathing thing, they are tragically incomplete and absolute without a writer.
This is why they are also intimidating to start. Unlike real life speaking, the rapid syntactic processing of combining words, writing is slower and mediated with the possibility of rewinding, replacing, improving and all the things we wish we could do when we talk. What we say almost has zero accountability. What we write can be taken apartpeople can take a magnifying glass to it like a detective and interrogate each word. When we fulfill our creative potential in the act of writing, when the pages are full of our ideas, we have to back up their meaning.
This journal features the door number of Sherlock Holmes. While I tend to stay away from movie or book related notebooks, this notebook is surely alluring, clever, and mysterious.
Blank pages are like seeing too much of the white of someone’s eyes. It is terrifying. The glaring white and empty void of the journal’s page are my responsibility. If I don’t fill these pages I am abandoning my creative potential.
A blank page is the blank day we might have ahead of us on our schedules, lucky as that is, or a blank hour between this and that appointment. It is like another stomach waiting to be fed. We have to really listen to know when it’s hungry, when our potential is craving. A blank page is the emptiness any creative person feels before starting the project. This emptiness will persist and therefore the creativity will live on. This satisfies the “logic of the fit”the model of the universe which states that no being exists as a solitary unit, everything is completed by its complementary part. And so the blank pages keep turning as long as we are brave.
Melanie Falconer is a freelance writer and editor living in Los Angeles, California. Her writing mainly concerns philosophy, personal experiences, cultural commentary, and her love of the visual and performing arts. If you’d like to reach out to her, you can do so here.