What’s Old Is New Again

When I decided to resurrect Paper Notes In A Digital World I made the decision to host the site myself using WordPress. It wasn’t easy making the transition from Typepad, but I managed to bring over the best of the posts from the first incarnation of PaperNotes in 2005. If you’re a new reader or would like to read some of the older posts, here is a post highlighting the “Best Of” archives and everything since launching again last month. Reading back over the old stuff I was amazed how much could have been written today, some things old just become new again.

You’ll notice I didn’t import all the old comments (and there were many) from the old site. It would have all had to be done manually and I just decided to start new comment-wise. It’s a shame in a way as the post on ‘Writing As Punishment’ had 43 comments and was serving as a running thread on the practice in schools of punishing students with writing assignments. Ugh. We won’t go there again, but suffice to say I still feel the same way despite many commenters disagreeing with me.

I hope you see something that catches your fancy. And feel free to comment! I’m trying to do the Twitter thing (life is full of ironies, huh) and if something looks tweetable(?) feel free to tweet away!

  • Complicated Simplicity (6)
  • Strangest Moleskine Hack Ever (1)
  • The Art Of The Notebook – From Eric Hoffer (1)
  • Readability: A Paper Look On Your Screen (3)
  • The Journal 10+ (2)
  • The Blogs That Sustained Me (2)
  • The Journal Keeper (1)
  • William Powers and Katie Couric (5)
  • The Return Of Paper Notes! (0)
  • If You Can Talk, You Can Write! (0)
  • The Revolution Has Begun (1)
  • Saving Stuff (0)
  • Thanks, Armand! (0)
  • Journaling: What Does It Mean To You? (0)
  • Keeping Life Simple (0)
  • A Pencil Story (0)
  • Writing Our Personal History (0)
  • Back-To-Paper Article In SF Chronicle (0)
  • Prize Winners To The Rejection Pile (0)
  • Quick Handwritten Notes (0)
  • The NEW YORKER as – LitBlog? (0)
  • Another Reason To Love Paper (0)
  • Lock Up Your Private Writing (0)
  • Creativity and Madness (0)
  • Too Late To Send Holiday Cards? (0)
  • Creative Travel Journal (0)
  • Pencils VS Pens (0)
  • Writing As Punishment: A Rant (0)
  • The Gift Of A Letter (0)
  • Moleskinerie Notes Essay Series (0)
  • Encyclopedias. The Real Thing. (0)
  • Truth Prevails (0)
  • You Write…WHERE? (0)
  • Long Live Paper! – A Lifehacker Special (0)
  • The Man Behind The Palomino Pencil (0)
  • Handwriting and Learning (0)
  • My Magazine Love Affair (0)
  • Keeping A Diary (0)
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    Complicated Simplicity

    Having a love for paper often goes along with a desire for a simpler, minimalist life. That is true for me and I have enjoyed reading several blogs that focus on personal development, simplicity, decluttering, and minimalism. However, try to define all of that and you run into problems. Some of the blogs I once enjoyed in this sphere I have dropped all together because I saw a hypocrisy that didn’t sit well with me. Some of these bloggers became “celebrities” within their niche and quickly became everything that simplicity, to me, was not. I moved on to others. However, I have watched with a curious eye the latest developments among bloggers in this simplicity/minimalist niche and what I have seen is not the least bit pretty.

    What is simplicity to you? What is a “minimalist” life to you? It is now a bone of contention among several of the “minimalist” bloggers just how one must live to meet their definition of “minimalism” or “simplicity.” Most are reasonable: You scale back until you are comfortable with what you’ve done. Get rid of a lot of junk we may have carried from place to place, clean out the closets with clothes not worn in years, empty the garage of things stored but never used, etc. To me, I am perfectly comfortable with that level of simplifying my life. But…welcome to the days of Complicated Simplicity. Blogs, ebooks and now, even published books preach the rules of minimalism. What many of them have done is to take all simplicity out of the idea of simplicity and replace it with rigid rules and “recommendations,” on how to simplify. Some take it so far as to say we should all strive to live with a certain number of items. Some of these bloggers decided 100 items (!) was the sweet spot, only to decide that was too much. Yes, they were true minimalists because they were now living with 50 items. Then, one particular blogger decided even 50 was too much and on and on it goes. To me, this sounded like scarcity rather than simplicity.

    Now, we are being told that books are something to get rid of. Ruthlessly! Keep only books that are, “Desert island books.” Before, it’s always been along the lines of, “If you think you might have too many books, think about donating some of them.” Things have changed. I have noticed a downright hostile attitude toward books from some “minimalist” bloggers. In fact, I read a blog post yesterday that almost made it seem that if we wanted to keep all of our books, we deserved a diagnosis that you might find in the DSM-IV. Try this: “Honor your emotions. Your sentimental attachment to your books is not something to feel ashamed of or sad about. Acknowledging your emotions as you sort through your books can be the first step in helping you move past that attachment and towards a more minimalist reading habit.” All this complete with tips on helping us break this “attachment” to our “reading habit.” If a book has been on the shelf, unread, for 6 months – the advice? Get rid of it!

    Obviously, the author of the blog post, as well-intentioned as she may be, is offering blanket advice to do what she would do. Have some of these bloggers never heard of a personal library? (See picture above and click to enlarge. It’s very nice and I wish it were mine!) The Personal Library – dedicated rooms to books and a fireplace. Or, simply, a wall of books. Or how about an office surrounded by books? The personal library has been around since the printed word has been around. I would like to have seen somebody try to explain to Thomas Jefferson that he needs to deal with his “emotional attachment” to books. It’s all gone too far.

    Many simplicity/minimalist bloggers are also keen on ebooks, being affiliates for each others ebooks and marketing this whole idea of “minimalism” with such flourish that they have made “minimalism” something akin to the latest get-cash-quick scheme (simply, of course). I say, “enough.” I have dropped several of these blogs from my feed reader because I don’t want to read how what I have done to simplify and minimalize isn’t quite good enough. Some have taken it to such an extreme that they castigate those who dare have enough that they might burn an extra light bulb for too many hours in the day. Many of them connect themselves to the most radical of “green” groups that they go so far overboard as to be laughable, yet they fail to see the humor in their zeal.

    This may have been harsher than I intended. I’m just tired of constantly being told I’m not doing something “right” because I’m not doing something the way some blogger is doing it. In this case, simplifying. Ironic, huh? The joy of simplifying and trying to live a more minimalist life is caught up in debate over how many things a person should own and how we should keep our book shelves limited to “desert island books.’ The post about books and the “emotional attachment” was just too much. Misplaced zeal. For the record, I say, Long Live Books. I hope they are around far longer than blogs suggesting we suffer from some psychological disorder if we choose to maintain a personal library!

    Simplicity has become much too complicated.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

    Strangest Moleskine Hack Ever

    Okay, I love Amazon. LOVE Amazon. But this is too funny…..

    Amazon always has a place under the books that aren’t out yet for their Kindle asking customers to “Tell The Publisher!” how you would like the publisher to make the book available for the eReader. Well……sometimes that makes for some good fun. Check out the Amazon plea at the bottom of this particular book!
    (You may need to click on the image to see the larger version.)

    Just what you wanted, right???

    Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

    The Art Of The Notebook – From Eric Hoffer

    Eric Hoffer was one of the great thinkers of the 20th century. A simple longshoreman from San Francisco, Hoffer wrote several books, the most famous being “The True Believer.” He was an intellectual who was mostly self-educated. There is a treasure trove of letters and journals available for study at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. However, only a tiny portion of his jottings have been made available for publication to the public. Harper’s magazine got a glimpse back in 2005 (a must-read called The Art Of The Notebook).

    To give you an idea of just how much is at Stanford, the register of the Eric Hoffer papers describes the collection as, “142 ms. boxes, 3 cu. ft. boxes, 10 oversize boxes, 7 card file boxes…speeches and writings, correspondence, reports, minutes, memoranda, printed matter, and audiovisual material.” In other words: Hoffer Heaven.

    Here’s one of the only released letters from Hoffer:

    Hoffer letter

    What I wouldn’t give to see a “Complete Journals & Letters of Eric Hoffer.”

    Some good Hoffer information can be found around the web:

    The Eric Hoffer Project

    Eric Hoffer HubPage

    The Longshoreman Philosopher: A great piece from Tom Bethell.

      UPDATE May, 2012:

    Tom Bethell has completed and published, Eric Hoffer: The Longshoreman Philosopher. This new biography mines the papers from the Hoover archives of Hoffer material. Highly recommended!


    Hoffer Books Reprinted By Hope Publications

    Check your local library for Hoffer books. My personal favorite is a journal he kept from June of 1958 to May of 1959; it was published as “Thinking and Working On The Waterfront.” If I’ve read it once, I’ve read it a few dozen times.

    Discover Eric Hoffer. One of the great philosophers, notebook keepers and – a national treasure.

    “By circumstance and perhaps also by inclination, I think in complete intellectual isolation.
    To expect others to help me think seems to me almost like expecting them to help me
    digest my food.”
    – Eric Hoffer from unpublished notebooks

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

    Readability: A Paper Look On Your Screen

    I’ve loved Readability for a long time. If you’re not familiar with this incredible browser extension, I have made a video showing just how easy it makes reading the web. It’s like reading Paper Notes on your digital screen! I’ve referenced Firefox in the video, but the free browser add-on is available for Firefox, IE, Chrome and Safari.

    If you have a really fast connection – you can go to the YouTube site and select in the menu to watch it in full HD (720p): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBpnLmf_M_Y
    The HD version allows you to really see the detail on the screen and the true power of Readability, or just go grab Readability and give it a spin.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments