Dagdha's Blog

Always Carry a Pen

Posted in Uncategorized by dagdha on June 14, 2012

As an undergraduate I never used a planner, at least nothing beyond the back of my hand or disorganized scribbles in one of my Moleskine notebooks. In my late teens and early twenties I knew everything, and I felt that planners were unnecessary when I could remember everything I needed to do- the important stuff anyway.

A few years after graduating from university, during which time I did very little studying, I found myself working in a corporate environment for the first time. At the end of my first week I attended a seminar hosted by Franklin Covey, a company known for its pricey executive planners and books like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective [Insert target demographic here]. The seminar covered how to use their planning system along with tips and inspirational anecdotes about men like Benajmin Franklin (half the company’s namesake) and Albert Einstein.

In an interview with the legendary physicist, a reporter once asked Einstein for his telephone number in case he had any follow up questions before the article was to be published. Einstein responded by walking over to a phone book and looking up his number for the man. The incredulous journalist could not believe that one of the most brilliant men in history did not know something as trivial as his own phone number. When he inquired as to why this was so, Einstein responded that he did not memorize anything he could look up in five minutes. The mind, he asserted, was meant for thinking, not storage.

I was taken aback. This short, arguably insignificant, story completely shifted my perception of the how the mind works. Like all the other kids in school, I was incessantly taught that writing down information helped to recall it later, but now that seemed pointless, even defeatist. If this giant among geniuses didn’t believe in active memorization, then why should I? His brain probably had a few more synapses than mine, but Einstein was still human. Fueled by inspiration and the apprehension that comes with starting a new job, I decided I would try everything I had learned in the seminar for a month and see how things panned out.

I began using my new dictionary-sized planner every day, writing down each notable task and appointment, both in and outside of work, and I quickly saw the difference it made. Not only was I getting more done, but I also started managing my finances better and finally understood why my dad had always pushed my brother and me to keep a schedule. The only downside was I stopped remembering the things I needed to do without my planner, and I felt helpless without it if I was ever asked about my availability. Somewhat ironically, however, I started to remember a lot more information and ideas from things that I would read or hear.

Somewhere between then and now, I began to read a lot more, starting as a way to fill my lunch breaks and eventually growing into a substantial habit, temporally and monetarily. I was never a reader growing up, even throughout my secondary education. But, after a few years of mental lethargy, I discovered that I was free to read about whatever I wanted, which was exciting and inspired my main artistic passion: writing. As I continued reading more and more, I began taking notes in a notebook so I would have a place to reference striking quotes and ideas from the texts I was reading. This has naturally evolved into a kind of ledger or literary journal akin to the practice of marginalia, but which doesn’t antagonize my OCD tendencies.

Nowadays I feel naked without a pen, even more than without my cell phone. I write a lot – to do lists, unknown vocabulary words, spontaneous sparks of diabolical genius – and without a pen to record these things I feel like part of me is missing. If the brain is meant for thinking like a CPU is meant for processing, then a pen and paper make up my hard drive (or at least the RAM), neither of which can do much without the other.

And although any old pen can work, it’s just not the same if it’s not one of my fountain pens, with their distinctive hue of green ink. Like using a stranger’s cell phone, a foreign pen might work, but using it feels a bit dirty, especially if it’s a ball point, but I’ll save that complicated love affair for another post.

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