Monday, July 19, 2010

Paper Love

It’s a funny mix of skills we need in this business. We act as “professional readers” in our finest hours, and I often count my blessings that I’m actual putting my English major—not entirely practical, some warned me during college—to good use. At the same time, many New York publishing companies, some housed in giant skyscrapers and buildings so large they need more than one elevator bank, have a distinctly big company feel. Those of us who serve as assistants walk the fine line between artistic passion and administrative and organizational wizardry. Though we get to offer input on manuscripts and collaborate on jacket copy, there’s a slew of less glamorous tasks that sometimes call.

The solution to this paradox for me has always been my all-purpose notebook. Always in hand, this is where I house not only my lists of to-do lists and work related tasks and production schedules, but also my notes on whatever manuscripts or books I’m reading, the list of books I hope to read in a given amount of time, blog post ideas, short story ideas, free writes during writing classes, etc. It’s my way of containing the madness and putting it all in one pretty place.

I say pretty, because the aesthetic of these books has always mattered. A sucker for thick or artfully textured paper or a unique or arresting image or pattern, I have long been in the habit of seeking out notebooks that in some way fit my temperament or fancy. This has never proven a problem in the past. In fact, living in Park Slope, where adorable paper and luxury goods boutiques are a dime a dozen, I often have a line of these bad boys waiting patiently for their go, and sometimes debate for days between two potential books. In best case scenarios, I’ll even stumble upon or be given a book of blank pages that bears significant emotional weight—a beautiful blank book the casing of which is intricately woven from multicolored threads that my boss gave me one Christmas with a note saying how much she wishes she had kept a journal during her days as a young twenty something in the city, encouraging me to do so; the blank journal I recently found during some spring cleaning that my favorite professor gave me when I graduated from college with a creative writing emphasis.

Recently, however, I’ve hit a lull. About two and a half weeks ago, I realized I was about 3 pages away from the end of the sharp red “Keep Calm and Carry On” journal that I had lusted after for weeks before finally buying and that, for the first time in a long time, I had nothing else at the ready. As the cruel hand of fate would have it, this realization hit at the end of my pay cycle, and I found myself with exactly $11.53 to spend on a new journal. Feeling optimistic, I popped into the fancy “Paper Love” stationary store on my block in Park Slope that evening and found exactly one blank book in my price range and purchased it without a second thought, relieved that the paper gods hadn’t left me empty-handed.

It was only later that I realized that my new little constant companion was, well, ugly. Covered in pink, purple, and blue flowers, I realized upon further inspection that they—gasp—sparkled. What had looked like a cream background in the cheerful summer light of that July evening looked fearfully closer to puke brown in the artificial light of my apartment. Never one to give up easily, I swallowed the lump in my throat and decided to make the best of it.

Well, two weeks later I can tell you that quitters sometimes do win. I’ve had this journal on hand for 14 days and haven’t gotten past the third page. I’ll be generous and give myself the benefit of the doubt, assume that I’ve been full of the same amount of brilliant ideas and inspired thought, but have been considerably less enthusiastic about taking the time out of my day to record them in an object the presence of which I just can’t stand.

Perhaps it’s just impossible to store the physical manifestation of your brain in an object the aesthetic of which you’re at odds with? On a more positive note, perhaps all any of us needs for inspiration of thoughtful feedback is a fitting outlet for it that represents our creative sense, no matter how subtle or unentwined it is with the final product or content? Perhaps a bad case of writer’s block or a bout of job irritation can be solved with a quick trip to your nearest paper store?

1 comment:

  1. i'd get a new journal. rip out the pages you wrote on and paste them into your new pretty journal! (and, um, recycle the ugly one?)