Clean Slates


I am hopelessly addicted to stationery. Paper, pens, erasers, post-its, fancy paper clips, cute thumb tacks, and bound diaries and notebooks.

As far as fetishes go, stationery supplies are a great thing to be obsessed with. It’s quite practical, since I use them daily and it adds a little cheer to my day when I’m not so happy to be stuck in an office. However, my fascination with notebooks is quite silly, actually. It started in childhood and has never left me.

As a child, my Dad used to bring home stacks of scratch paper from work for me to draw on — instead of the walls. Piles of 8-1/2″ x 11″ slices of opportunity to create something wonderful. I would write “books” with illustrations drawn with colored pencils, stapled and presented to mom for her approval. Loose sheets of paper were fine and good, since it allowed me to make mistakes. A drawing didn’t come out just so? Just crumple the sheet and toss it. No harm, no foul. Pick up a new blank sheet and start again.

Around the 6th grade, I had given up drawing in lieu of creative writing. Ruled notebooks seemed much more practical for that purpose. Shelves of spiral-bound goodness at Longs Drugs overwhelmed my young mind. So many colors and sizes. The thick notebooks with multiple dividers were my favorite. Even back then, I had a need to organize and categorize everything. One section for character profiles. Another section for plot outlines. Another section for the actual story.

However, my 6th grade writing teacher has ruined me forever in terms of writing in notebooks.

We were given an assignment: buy a composition book and keep a daily journal. We were to write an entry each day and never, EVER tear out a page. No matter what. Because she could tell if you did and she promised that she would mark off points for that despicable sin. Back then, I still had the fear that adults had superhuman powers with the knowledge of inexplicable and wonderful things that our simple minds could not yet comprehend. So, I believed her when she said that she would KNOW.

I was an anal-retentive perfectionist even back then. One day, I started an entry and it wasn’t turning out quite right. I wanted so badly to rip out that page and start anew with a clean slate. Crossing things out or covering up with liquid paper offended my sensibilities. Surely, my omniscient teacher was watching me from afar at that very moment as I struggled with the intense desire to fly in the face of her authority, disobey her and rip the page right out of my black and white composition book.

My fear of disobeying a teacher’s instruction was much more intense than my aversion to a messy sheet of paper. So, with much reluctance, I crossed out the paragraph and continued writing. That big “X” haunted me every time I flipped past that page for the rest of the school year.

Somehow, this assignment and the mandate to never, EVER tear out a page has always followed me. Now, any time I have a notebook that is stitched bound, I can’t seem to bring myself to start writing in it — for fear of messing it up and wanting to rip that page out. These days, I know my teacher isn’t around to mark off points, but I know that tearing pages out of a bound notebook ruins the stitching. But, yet, I am strangely drawn to these notebooks and have even bought a few — all of which are empty, devoid of content for fear of making a mistake and the unquenchable desire to tear out the offending page.

It’s one of my many eccentricities. Whenever I go to Borders and inevitably find myself in the Paperchase section, I have to restrain myself from buying yet another bound notebook. Because, if I do, it will just sit with the others: unfulfilled, never realizing their potential to carry anything more than blank pages.

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3 Responses to Clean Slates

  1. Pingback: all books » Blog Archive » Clean Slates

  2. joo says:

    Get an exato and cut out any offending pages. art class we’d use large sketch books and cut out works to frame.

  3. Ryan S. says:

    Moleskine rules! I got one for SF a few weeks ago (the planner for 2008) and she was very happy (but she likes gifts anyway…)

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