American Elephants


My Secret Vice by The Elephant's Child

I am compulsive.  I am not comfortable unless I have a notebook or tablet at hand.  I make lists. Oh, ordinary enough ones: grocery lists, Christmas lists, birthday lists, to-do lists, lists of all the birds I’ve seen at my bird-feeder, that sort of thing.  Then there are lists of plants seen at the nursery, plants seen in the botanical garden, plants I covet, economists, historians, books I want to read, books I want to take out from the library on a trial run to see if I might want to buy. Names for snow, names for storms.  Names of scientists I find interesting and their specialty.

I make lots of book lists; histories on specific periods, histories I’ve read, environmental books, best children’s books,  a list of the best books I’ve ever read, lists of authors I’ve liked, movies, recipes.  I have lists of family names—Grizzella and Tryntje are favorites.  I have an annotated booklist in three parts that I share with friends (who think I’m nuts).  I have a 68 page list of quotations insights that I’ve collected from my reading to which I refer frequently — which bores my family immeasurably.

Then there are the unintelligible lists—the list of ideas jotted down in a hurry, often undecipherable in hasty handwriting,  and I wonder what I could possibly have  had in mind.  I have stacks of notebooks, and have to go back through them to see if they can be discarded and find that I am fascinated with a list I have made long ago and wonder why I troubled to write that down.

My compulsion seems to be a matter of putting it in writing. A line from Richard Mitchell comes to mind —”the business of writing is to stay put on the page so you can look at it later and see where you have been stupid.” Not a direct quotation, but that’s the idea.

Writing it down fixes an idea in your mind. If I have made out a grocery list, I can usually remember everything even if I leave the list on the kitchen table.  A list may organize my mind, but I am, in general, no more organized that anyone else —probably less.

Am I alone in my personal weirdness? Anybody else out there? Just curious.

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3 Comments so far
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I have grown used to having a fountain pen or two with me at all times, and I keep a (fountain pen friendly) notebook or two nearby. For airplane trips, it is a rollerball, but something to write with, and something to write upon.

I take notes, underline, and ask questions in the margins of books. I can go back to those books and see what interested me, was underline worthy, and realize how I’ve both learned, and moved on in my learning.

As for lists, like you I’ve learned that list-making, note taking help me to remember even if I do, usually, forget the list. Just making a note of something in my weekly planner makes it more likely to get done.

In the modern age, I send myself email reminders. This works better than an alert in a calendar.

Comment by zeusiswatching

Oh thank you Zeus! I am not alone!!! I had never occurred to me to send myself email — what a good idea. But I never write in books, though I fill them up with post its and post it tags.

Comment by The Elephant's Child

I buy used books, often written in already. These are my work tools. Other books are never written in out of a sort of reverence for the book itself. For those books, I take notes in a notebook and note the page number.

Comment by zeusiswatching




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