Every day, my longing for a certain place and a certain way of life becomes sharper and stronger.
It frightens me sometimes. How intensely it burns inside me, that sometimes I feared it would burst out of my skin like a supernova.
Most of the time it is quiet, becoming visible only when I catch myself wiping a persistent dampness from my face as I lay in bed, fighting insomnia, worrying about too many things, wishing for a way out of everything. Or a way in. Because in many cases I have always been an outsider, caught forever on the fringe of Things, passed over.
I yearn for --
In one of my forays into my recently compiled Life Library, I found this poem. It has not yet been included in my poem collection because it was part of a blog post from a long-dead blog site and the file was saved in my hard drive in html format.
i tap my feet in rhythm with the clock's tiny hands
I have forgotten already what I was thinking about when I wrote this poem, but I suspect it was triggered by a love un-story. Possibly I was going through a period of keeping myself away from falling into another false fairy tale. Possibly I was already on the brink of falling. Reading through it now, I feel that the image of myself as a fence-sitter has been true, for I have been a fence-sitter on my very own life for many years.
I thought that to define myself I only had to have one opinion for every thing. I have heard it said so often that one should always have an answer, and always choose a side. Also, that the sides and answers are by multiple choice — that I could only pick the answers from what were already presented to me. And that changing answers is frowned upon and discouraged (unless it favoured the popular trend where most of everyone stood, or it favoured an unpopular, but "cool", trend). Also, that the questions I answer have to be those put upon me by others.
It took me many years to learn that the answers and the sides can be something new and something else. That the questions can be made open-ended instead of close-ended. That what if is a real option, not just either/or. Also, that the questions I choose to answer can be the questions that I ask myself, and that these questions are more important to my own growth than what others dictate I should answer.
Re-reading the poem I also saw that in some cases there is something to be learned from momentarily doing that balancing act along the fence, a temporary distancing of the self to survey all options. To understand what is at stake, and what really matters to me. See that I say temporary. Because yes, at some point I have to take a stand, make a choice, and hopefully be strong enough to act according to those choices.
If you haven't, read this post first. It's the first part of making. This post is for using what you made.
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