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Notebook Vs. Legal Pad

I started writing with pen and paper again this year. I bought a nice notebook and a new pack of V5s, the only pen you’ll ever need. I wanted to give myself a space for slow, thoughtful reflection to find some clarity of self and ideology. I wrote almost every day for the first few months of the year, but I eventually fell off the wagon and it’s been sporadic since late April. This is a regular occurence in my hobbies. Even when creating in complete privacy, I get overly critical of myself and become paralyzed at the thought of continuing due to feelings of inadequacy. I feel useless or trite any time I start writing and like I’m not making any valuable point to myself or anyone else by continuing. I even feel like that right this instant! And that feeling is its own topic for another day. From this paralysis, though, I recently found one small piece of reprieve: a legal pad.

The one with the black bar at the top gluing all its pages together and yellow, legal-ruled paper with the double red line on the left. I grabbed it randomly on my way to a meeting one day at work because I couldn’t find my usual notebook and knew I would need to jot some things down. The clarifying moment came when I noticed how casual I was about my scribbling throughout the meeting. Using a notebook, I’ve often assigned some invisible importance to what gets written down in there, but the legal pad felt closer to scrap paper for stray and meandering thoughts. I wrote more in that meeting than I had in several months. Sure, not all of it was perfectly jotted down and maybe won’t be referenced again, but I definitely felt like I was more present and that I took more from the meeting because of it.

When I went to think about writing for myself again, I realized that my “nice notebook” and favorite pen may be making me overly ritualize what needs to feel more casual, so I picked up another legal pad and started writing there this time and I instantly felt more at ease with myself. I was able to quickly fill up several pages with random thoughts and ideas I was considering and swapped between them as I saw fit. I never felt overwhelmed by the idea of needing to follow-through and stay on topic or write War & Peace in one draft. I scratched things out, wrote in the margins, left myself notes, crossed things out, and rearranged whenever I wanted. It made writing more personal and less stressful than it had been in a long time, and I think the casual, “scratch pad” framing of the legal pad helped me reach that point.