Recently, the powers that be at my workplace offered to provide each of us with another axillary monitor – bringing the desktop total to three. I said no. As this response was not in keeping with the majority of my coworkers, I’ve had to frequently explain my refusal. My reasoning? The proffered monitor would take up space currently devoted to my Bic pen and legal-size notepad. This space is sacred, mandatory.
I’m a pen-to-paper girl.
Throughout the workday I jot notes to myself, make lists, and scribble bits of information onto the pad of paper that is always by my side. Without this notebook – and this space to take notes – I would be lost.
I’ve always been an avid note-taker. I have a well-worn callous on my right ring finger where the pen rests as I whip across the page. I filled notebooks with schoolwork and journals with teenage angst. I have a basket of stationery and have long been an active pen-pal with anyone willing to receive my letters.
Handwriting was initially a struggle. I held my pen “improperly” and struggled to form cursive letters with the flow and ease of the other students. Mrs. Harrington, my third grade teacher, would hang examples of proper penmanship on the bulletin board for everyone to admire. I longed to have my own work featured, but continued to fall short.
Formal cursive was later abandoned for my own special longhand hybrid. By the time I entered high school, my script had become a point of personal pride. I experimented with letter-formation: dotting my i’s with bubbles and curving the tails of my y’s elaborately. I copied my mother’s capital H’s and my friend’s lowercase e’s until I developed my own, wide font. My notes were now as neat as they were complete. The employment of several different ink and highlighter colors to further accent my notebooks would come later.
For me, there are certain situation that require pen-to-paper to be properly processed. I learn by writing things down. My brain makes connections as ink spreads my new knowledge along the college-ruled lines. I wonder how I would have done had I started at University any later than I had – in a time when laptops would become ubiquitous and spiral-bound notebooks scarce. Would typed notes have the same resonance? Follow the same well-worn kinesthetic channels to my long-term memory? Be as easily recalled? My learning style requires something more tactile than tapping on a keyboard.
With school and most of my frantic, avid note-taking now behind me, I still reach to a pen to document ideas. I storyboard, I doodle, I make maps. I circle, I highlight, I pin to bulletin boards. While, invariably and understandably, these ideas are typed before they are shared with others, they begin life on a humble piece of paper.
Helena Butters lives in Chicago with her fiancé and two cats. She blogs about life, love, and the pursuit of better body image at Bye Bye Bitters.