I owe you guys three posts. One about my summer, one about looking at education a different way, and one about the Seth Godin speech in Minneapolis last week. Really each of those could be multiple posts (especially the later two) but we'll see how that goes. This post does not concern any of those topics. Sorry for the let down.
Yesterday I was buying a new notebook in my university bookstore. Dreadful place, but the shopping experience is entirely different topic than the point of this post.
Anyhow, I was shopping for a notebook to use as a news journal. And i'm pretty particular about the notebooks I use. In the store I like to pick them up, see how the pages feel, let my fingers run over the cover.
Really particular actually.
So I chose the style of notebook I would like and looked at the different options. College ruled, wide ruled, graph, dividers, no dividers. The choices were staggering. But there were no notebooks with blank pages in the style I wanted. And I thought it might be nice to have an unlined notebook for this use.
Rather discouraged I went back to the other styles. Peering into the notebooks. To quote South Park, "All the lines! Lines! Lines!". There was not a single notebook in the entire bookstore without lines. Not even a sketchpad.
To some of you this may not seem like such a big deal but it is rather troubling to me.
You see, the way you write in a lined notebook is entirely different from the way you write on a blank page. Collecting and synthesizing information is done in a different fashion when writing on a blank page.
With lines you write to fill the lines and do not deviate from the system. Left to right, whoops out of space, next line. Rinse and repeat. Because that's the system. You fill the containers that are made for you on the page. Connecting information with arrows. adding little indents for side comments or thoughts.
With a blank page this does not happen. By being blank the thoughts can be constrained to entire lines or little cubes of thought. They can be written vertically, horizontally and diagonally. Because the page has no rules. You group information together side by side. If you've never tried it please do, it's a very interesting process.
When I am writing on a blank page I often find myself condensing the core of what the information is and surrounding it with little thoughts. The writing is more free-form but the thoughts become much more complete through dissection.
And I think this freeform style of writing is instinctual.
Let me take you back to my high school. During classes I found truly interesting I would orient my notebook so that I was writing across the page. The lines were still there but were no longer the guidelines for how to write. And those classes that I ended up turning my notebook during I did far better in than the ones in which I was taking notes the traditional way. Without even realizing it.
By all means, if you want to memorize or take notes for information's sake use a regular notebook. But from time to time, especially when coming up with ideas, try using a notebook with blank pages. Or at least writing across the lines, you never know where it will get you.