Remember pink margins on a wide-ruled page? I used to shy away from those. I’d write away from the margin.
I’d start my first sentence at the top of the page,
touching the pink line (if it were a letter, “D” in “Dear” would be flush with the margin)
from there I would gradually drifter further and further away from the margin.
My teacher, dear Miss Welker (we called her Miss even though she was a Mrs.), would write reminders on my page, telling me to write uniformly
I wasn’t bold or rebellious enough to think about writing outside the margins, I would not dare, not unless it was absolutely necessary to finish
a word (without a hyphen),
or a sentence which
I was not yet ready to drag down to the next line.
I tried to stay away from that red straight solid wall that was a threshold not to be crossed.
It was an interruption, the place you had to always come back to again, even if you weren’t quite yet ready to do so.
(I wonder what my pages would look like today had Miss
Welker not so kindly reminded me to conform to my page.
I hardly believe the page itself cared.)
People in Italy write on graph paper like all daily doings can be reduced down to a mathematical equation. It’s disappointing that grocery lists, doodles, address books and school notebooks are lifeless pencil marks on tiny-grid graph paper. I hate graph paper. It’s my pet peeve. It boxes me in. It pushes my mind into tiny convulsions. Graph paper triggers bad memories from my childhood, forces me to recall my numerical ineptitudes. Just looking at it makes me feel as though I am doomed, trapped in a prison. What can possibly fit into that small box? Who can read all the lines that slice through the words, all the words that jar through the imposing lines?
I prefer unlined paper, imperfect in color, off-white in tone. It helps me feel more at ease with my thoughts. It helps me let go of the pressures of perfection. It is one place I do not feel forced to conform. If ever I get queasy staring at a blank page, a blinking cursor, I conjure the thought of graph paper, a margin. Sometimes I begin on the middle of the page in a new notebook, because I can. I don’t let the page determine things that it does not know. It feels illicit and luxurious to let the words decide where they want to go on the page. It feels like something expensive, something I can’t afford.
When I write in these notebooks of mine, it is not absolutely necessary to finish anything. The only requirement the page asks of me is a beginning. A commencement of sorts. And that feels like a responsibility. Heavy heavy heavy. But if I can just get past that point, the beauty eventually comes when I’ve begun to press the tip of my pen to the page and let go. Every time I get the guts to do it, I remember that it’s an act I can’t afford not to do.