Write or Wrong?

Go ahead; pick a day, any day going back to 1968 and I will tell you what was going on in my life. I’m a keeper of significantly insignificant information. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been systematizing my life with pen and paper. 

Some of my favorite keepsakes are my calendars. Starting with the free Hallmark giveaways and advancing to a Filofax, I’d take great pleasure in jotting down as much as could fit into those little squares. 

Then, there were the outfit lists. In junior high and high school, I would write down what I wore each day on a monthly form I had designed. Besides keeping me fashion forward, this may have also had something to do with helping me with my confidence level. 

Rereading some old journals recently brought back some wonderful, almost forgotten memories. What surprised me the most was the detail in which I wrote. 

As the New York salesperson for a housewares company, I prided myself on my notebook. Written in a code that my Dad had taught me where each number was assigned a letter, I had all the pertinent information about every account at my fingertips. In those pre-computer days, this was the equivalent of carrying around a file cabinet; invaluable. 

There I stood feeling confident, my notebook tucked under my arm, fully prepared and ready to meet with the Bloomingdales buyers in our company showroom during show week. Not known for their kind, approachable personalities, the entourage strutted in, dressed to kill in black, hiding behind their designer sunglasses. Even my boss, known for his jesting, quietly whispered a greeting, almost bowing in reverence to them. 

Yet to make eye contact, they settled in, calculators in hand in order to determine the 15% additional markup they would add to the retail price of each item (from that day forward, I never shopped at Bloomingdales again). Just as I was about to begin my presentation, I felt a tug on my precious notebook. 

It was Arnold Adler, the company’s leading salesperson. Famous in housewares industry circles, Arnold’s career had started 50 years ago as he rode trains across the country, selling his wares. I was fortunate that Arnold would take the time to mentor me whenever we would see each other, but on this day, all Arnold did was take the notebook from me and whisper “You really don’t need this.” There was no time to panic; any second I could lose the interest of my aloof audience. I continued on, obtained the order and never let them see me sweat.

I have Arnold to thank for reminding me that, while my writing might guide me through life, it should not become a crutch. Maybe my focus on organizing myself was just a way for my Type A personality to be slowly introduced to the A B C’s of writing, something that I enjoy to this day.

Times have changed and unfortunately, the month at a glance calendar on my iPhone, though ever so handy, leaves me no room for details, but I carry on. Still, nothing lights up my life like an excuse to prepare an Excel spreadsheet. Some might argue that these little projects of mine are time wasters, but to me they are quiet reminders, chronicling my life into little blocks of minutiae that only its creator could love. 

Oh, and if you’ve ever been invited to my home, all the way back to 1983, I can tell you what was on the menu.

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Write to Make It Right

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Photo Write 2

Which pen should I write with today? It always takes me a while to decide. I review my collection of pens carefully, rolling each in my hand and deciding which has the best fit. Thin or thick point? Blue or black ink? I’m finally happy with my choices, so I dive right in, opening my notebook and feverishly writing. My thoughts are spilling forth so quickly that I can just about keep up. Once finished, I proof read it over and over, agonizing over the proper grammar and just the right words to use. And, when it’s perfect, I read it out loud twice. Then, I rip it up into tiny little pieces and throw it away.

In ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, the need to maintain history and culture, disseminate knowledge, form legal systems and correspond were all motivations for writing. My motivation is much simpler; I use it as an emotional outlet. Pouring my heart out onto those pages is the healthiest way I have found to release me from feelings that might haunt me if I let them.

As a teenager, I thought of myself as quite cunning. I had devised a way to keep a diary that was 100 percent secure from ever being read. I would use this practice as an extension of positive thinking by writing a letter to a friend and telling them of my good fortune, detailing what it was that I wanted to happen. My anger, jealousy or sadness would be directed to its source with every element itemized and accounted for. Every decision I contemplated was documented on a folded sheet of paper noting pros and cons at its top.

As time went on, the subjects became more complex, but the ritual remained the same. The pen preferences make the process something special. The actual writing forces me to gather my thoughts and disciplines me to be precise and thorough. The ceremonial feel of reading the words out loud and then physically ripping up the paper always gives me a sense of power, of being in control over the situation (whether I really am or not).