The other week, at our semi-regular music-listening hang, I had a moment of notebook envy. Not the computer kind, either. We were listening to a few tracks from Undun, the new Roots record [Moon NPR review is here], when my friend Andy pulled a sleek black sketchbook from his bag. It was slightly smaller than an iPad, and as I watched him riffle through the unlined pages, I felt slightly like I was eavesdropping on a private realm. There were doodles, and notes in red felt pen that had urgent-looking underlinings. There were dashed-off ideas, names of songs and albums and probably grocery lists too.
I was struck by the stonecold simplicity of it. And by the sharp sense of missing this type of book, some necessarily haphazard permanent record of momentary obsessions and free-associative “what if?” thinking. Some place where wild ideas were welcomed and expected. It reminded me of the little Clairefontaine notebooks I kept in my back pocket years ago. This was before the smartphone era, when it wasn’t so easy to organize and sort information. The pages in the one I carried had no order at all – phone numbers were followed by quotes that seemed brilliant at the time – and as a result, they were highly inefficient for storing data. But they in some ways, the randomness served as a creative catalyst: It’s possible to dismiss the cluttered pages as rambling or to read them as a kind of internal news-crawl poetry, a symphony of mental beats sometimes leading nowhere, sometimes leading to life-changing notions.
Talking to Andy about notebooks, I realized how much I have missed this mode of capture. Ideas are like gold; even the impossible unrealistic ones can enrich daily life. Maybe in the very act of relying on a device for everything, we deny ourselves a bit of farflung dreaming, the simple analog pleasure of stalking an idea, framing it Venn-diagram-style, mulling it again while waiting for a train. And then turning the page….
I agree with you completely. I feel like real creativity comes from un-organization. It just has too. There is no way you can be creative if you’re organized because you have to use divergent thinking. Kinda like John Coltrane, you never knew where he was going to take his playing.