The spectrum of notebook keeping in science and in life – Part II

A little over a week ago, I wrote about making the most of my mini-vacation.  The whole concept of “organized relaxation” is quite ridiculous, but probably common in a lot of our lives. We are so pressed for time, that when we get a chance to breathe, we find ourselves thinking about the best way to take that breath.  It mostly leads to more stress.

While on vacation, as I was going through my ever growing “to read” list, I came across the concept of bullet journaling, which I have referenced in my previous post.   Not long before starting my blog a few months ago, I felt a strong urge to revisit some form of personal notebook keeping, preferably in digital form.  I downloaded an app, and started recording some details of daily life, and how they made me feel.  It gave me some sense of control.  I guess there is something laughable about an adult keeping a diary, but I felt like I needed to find a way to keep track of my life.  Pretty soon after that I began my blog.

But here is the issue.  A personal journal versus a publicly published blog are the polar opposite ends of the privacy spectrum.  Writing for a blog puts on constraints that would be absent if the person were just writing for themselves.  Not only does it need to be interesting for others to read, but the writer also needs to be very cognizant of how much to share.  All while remaining authentic and true to themselves.  There is a fine line between being genuine and unintentionally putting on one of the masks we use in our daily lives.  For me, this also echoes the process of lab notebook keeping, where legal issues prevent people from giving themselves the freedom of thought and creative expression on paper.

While writing is typically thought of as a creative process, scientific writing enforces strict constraints on what you can put down on paper.  Not only do you need to follow a certain framework, you also need to stay super vigilant about not letting a drop of you personal opinion seep through the cracks.  It is a tug of war between sticking to facts that are already known and trying to push the envelope with some novel ideas.

Published work may have its own rules, but in the context of notebook keeping, a bullet journal appears to give people the best of both worlds.  It is a place for free expression and organized information, that does not need to follow any particular style.  It is supposed to be an abridged version of our stream of consciousness.  Yet, if you look up bullet journaling, what do you find?  Mostly, people posting the types of super organized and super neat multicolor pages they make with special banners to top them off.  It appears that no matter how private a practice might be, people cannot resist the urge to impress others.

Art is a way of self expression that comes from within, but once formulated is meant to impress and please the eyes of others.   The key is to remain true to one’s own vision.


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