When did I become a person who can’t stand ruled paper?
Most of my life I couldn’t stand to use paper *without* lines. I was afraid, in part, that my writing would slope toward the end of the line, that my lines wouldn’t be parallel to each other or to the top of the page. That I’d look silly. Or stupid. That I’d make a fool of myself.
The lines kept me in order, told me where to start.
When I worked as a newspaper reporter, I took most of my interview notes in a reporter’s notebook. Now, a reporter’s notebook is different than other notebooks in a few notable ways. For one, the dimensions of the page are different — the paper’s narrow enough to fit in one’s palm (or back pocket). And second (and most relevant to the topic at hand), the lines are really widely spaced. I was used to the narrow rules of college-ruled paper, and the reporter’s notebook is nearly twice that wide in its rules.
As I abhor waste, I could barely stand to leave multiple notebooks half empty, which is what happened when I wrote only on each line of my reporter’s notebook. Plus, doing so would require me to flip the page more frequently than I’d otherwise need to, which inevitably slowed down my note-taking. So, with only rare exceptions, I began writing two lines of notes above each rule of the notebook. This, naturally, required that the first one float, not anchored by a blue line.
I recently purchased a couple small blank notebooks, unruled. I’d run out of others that size, ruled or unruled, and I needed a place to take my book-reading notes, make lists, etc. And I’ve been using these, but I still felt hemmed in. I think the small dimensions of the pages were too stringent, too small for me. See, I had a larger-format blank book for a year or two, and apparently I became accustomed to being able to spread out, at least figuratively. A single page might have several lists, oriented in different directions. And I’d started sketching design ideas, or simply sketching to attempt to illustrate a point in conversation. I can’t draw, but some ideas are most quickly jotted down in lines, not words.
Today, I await for the arrival of my first-ever purchase of a moleskine. Large, with unruled paper. I’m looking forward to getting back some more of that freedom.