I have been busy re-crafting the draft of a novel I wrote in 2012. I have also been busy compiling poems that I plan to publish as an illustrated book.
In the process of sifting and searching through my notes and my journals for material, I stumbled into an old rabbit hole and found a Wonderland that has eluded me for quite some time.
This was what happened.
For quite a few years now, since I left my regular job in 2010 and have had more time to write for myself, I had started to get frustrated at the general difficulty of finding and accessing my own information when I need them. My selves have been scattered across too many forms, platforms, and storage systems. I have not had the proper time nor strategy to pull it all together into a coherent, accessible, useful system that would help fuel my daily movement forward, and that would put all those writing commitments and efforts to continued practical and creative use.
(You see, I believe much in the idea of having a direction, even a loose one, for any writing and creative endeavour. Everything is a potential seed, and I like the thought of all my tiny daily steps accumulating into the semblance of a whole. When I practice, there is a purpose behind it, no matter how light or small. I have suffered the regrets of absent-minded actions, default actions, half-baked habits, and doing things just for the sake of being able to say you did them, without a clear idea of why exactly you’re doing it — and no, the answer "because everyone else is doing it", or "because it’s really cool", does not count in the long run.)
The problem of this "full writing access" has been more pronounced with my digital files -- which are composed of notes from various apps and some that have repeatedly migrated from older (even obsolete) systems and softwares. Despite the current efficiency of Evernote, there was just something slippery about working with data purely on screen. The forms and layouts change as softwares and apps change, distorting many pieces I’ve written before if not altogether corrupting them. Not all the apps I like are available across all gadget types. Every phone I’ve owned had gone through a mysterious reset that lost me pieces of writing. Faulty cloud syncing sometimes end up with missing portions of files. And if the internet connection is wonky like it has been for the past few days, well, you get the drift.
In the past few days when I have been seriously rewriting a novel draft, I keenly felt this need for a simple straightforward system that I could use regardless of whether I had the computer on or not, or whether I had internet access or not. It had to be a system that could integrate literally almost everything — writings, notes, even sketches on scratch paper, photos. All in one place. And must all be editable with marginalia, and re-arrangeable, and I should be able to add or subtract pieces while keeping a specific order to the information. And the whole thing should allow me to keep track of all it contained and can easily integrate anything I add to it with the minimum of fuss.
After having tried too many possible solutions, I found myself going analog and old-school. Simple, straightforward, tactile.
So — Hard copies. I want to see and feel the physical weight of my output rather than looking at megabytes and file counts. Physically moving bits of paper around. Post-it markers. Highlighter pens. Literally pasting things. Punching holes. Multiple mediums but all boiling down to a single accessible system that remains unchanged until I desire to change it, not subject to the whims of software and hardware developers, not subject to the availability of gadgets, electricity, and internet connection. Computer-crash-proof. Organic and open to playing with — a garden of all my selves.
It is essentially my digital files translated into my paper notebook journals. The way I have always liked it — layered, colourful, limitless, textured, mixed media, changeable yet also retaining the original spirit in which it was made (the type and aging of paper, ink smudges, handwriting, images used, erasures…)
The other advantage of this physical form : it works better with how my “mind palace” works — that is, how my mind processes and stores information. It may be showing my age but my mind works better with visual AND tactile counterparts. I can better recall which notebook from a year ago had what post more than I can recall which folder I saved a digital file yesterday. As I have said, slippery. (Interestingly, I have a similar experience with reading via Kindle versus reading paper books. I recall more details reading from paper than from a screen, and I am better able to keep to the thread of the story longer if I’m reading it in paper book form.)
A Rough Guide On How To Do It