Thursday, September 29, 2005

Some Thoughts About Bound Journals

During my free time, I enjoy visiting the Border's bookstore and the Barnes and Noble bookstore. Easy proximity to those stores is one benefit of living where I live.

Usually, when I'm in such a bookstore, I'll go through the magazine section of the store, as well as several book sections (particularly the sections containing books about art, photography, music and computers). After grabbing a handful of books and magazines which interest me, I'll sit down in the coffee shop (after buying a drink or some food, or both) and I'll spend several hours writing down book titles (plus information regarding the author, publisher, ISBN, copyright date, price, binding method and related notes), as well as useful information I find in various magazines.

I don't always carry my notebook computer with me. Therefore, I generally prefer to record the aforementioned information on the inexpensive 3x5-inch index cards I always carry for that purpose. I have thousands of these index cards at home, containing a lot of very useful information (which I periodically sort and organize according to topic). I guess you could say that I'm an "information junkie", which is why I find the Web to be so useful. As addictions go, I can think of addictions which are far more harmful, and far less useful, than an addiction to information.

Both of the aforementioned bookstores have a nice selection of beautiful blank journals (in a wide range of prices), with covers made from leather, wood, fabric and/or other materials. For a person who enjoys writing, as I do, these can be tempting.

Several years ago, I resolved that I would finally spend some serious time writing my thoughts down, in a beautiful leather-bound Cavallini journal I'd bought at Border's. I poured my heart and soul into that journal. As pretentious as it might sound, I think I had visions of being the next Anne Frank. I wouldn't want to go through the horrors she and her family experienced in Nazi Germany, but I had always thought that it would be wonderful to be able to write a journal which would eventually be published as a book and read by millions of people.

Alas, it was not to be. I mailed the completed journal to a close relative of mine, intending to share my thoughts with that person. That turned out to be a huge mistake. It turned out that the person to whom I sent the journal had no appreciation whatsoever of the fact that I had spent hundreds of hours writing in that journal. In fact, it seems in hindsight that the recipient must have resented the fact that I had found the time to record my thoughts in a journal. What else can explain the fact that she maliciously destroyed the journal by tearing it into pieces? (I never saw the torn-up journal. She voluntarily told me that she had destroyed it! Talk about cruel!) Destroying my journal must have taken a fair amount of effort on her part, since the book had such a tough leather cover.

When I was told that my journal had been deliberately destroyed, I felt as if someone had ripped my heart out, grilled it over an open flame, and eaten it with toast. I was already under a lot of stress to begin with, on account of severe financial problems caused by a prolonged period of unemployment. The news about my journal's destruction only made things worse.

A couple of years have passed since that time, and while I can't say that my memories are free of pain, I have survived.

Now that I've discovered the joys of "blogging", I can't help but notice that it offers some distinct advantages, compared with old-fashioned bound journals with paper pages. Specifically, one can instantly share one's thoughts with the world, without the expense of traditional publication or distribution, and without the need to persuade a publishing company that it's economically viable to publish and distribute the book. Unlike that Cavallini journal, there is little or no chance that anyone can maliciously destroy one's only copy of a blog. Yes, a hacker could theoretically destroy or alter the digital files residing on the file servers owned by the blog hosting company, but that's what backup copies (and occasional printouts) are for.

Still, I admit that there is a certain visceral pleasure associated with the act of writing one's thoughts down in a beautiful bound journal. Therefore, I may do so periodically in the future.

However, I have learned my lessons well. If I ever share such a handwritten journal with anyone again, I will photocopy or scan all of the pages first, just as a precaution. In some cases, I may also upload blog posts consisting of thoughts which were previously recorded in the handwritten journal. That way, I won't need to send the physical journal through the mail in order to share it with others.

Most importantly, I will never again send such a precious, irreplaceable thing to any person who has proved to be unworthy of my trust.

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