During July, I made myself a reading theme: maps, which gave me an opportunity to finally read all of the map-related books I’d been accumulating. One of these books was Maphead, which Leanne so wonderfully gave me as a birthday gift last year! I brought Maphead with me to a 24-hour sleep study, which meant I had plenty of time to read. To my surprise (and horror), I quickly got the urge to start making notes in the margins of the book, so (of course) I tweeted about it!
First time I’ve ever felt the urge to make notes in the margins of a book: Maphead by Ken Jennings. Do I do it, or restrain myself? o_o
— Oh, the Kelley! (@anovelread) July 17, 2014
@anovelread Doooooo it! And then write about the experience in a blog post 😛
— Asti (@ABookishHeart) July 17, 2014
…I decided to give in to the urges, whip out my pen, and start notating the margins of my first book ever.
NOTE: I do make a habit of highlighting and bookmarking and making all kinds of notes in my ebooks, thanks to the multitude of options available on my kindle and kindle app, but thus far, that was the ONLY kind of notating-in-books that I’d considered. Completely virtual.
FIRST: Why did I do it?
Obviously, this is a rare situation for me. Though I sometimes enjoy the idea of notes in the margins of books, I had never done it before this book. So what make me want to do it? I think it was a unique combination of factors:
- The book made me think. It is full of ideas, observations, questions, and trivia that got my brain working and excited.
- The writing incited reactions. Many times I just felt compelled to RESPOND and needed to do it right then, right there.
- I wanted to remember things. It’s rare that a book mentions so many things I want to look into later, but in this case I just needed to highlight them immediately, so I could find them again later, easily.
- The paper was just asking to be written on. It isn’t that smooth paper you often find in books. It’s got some texture. It’s got some teeth.
- I had a Sharpie pen in my purse, which was the perfect tool. A felt-tip pen, soft tip, smooth and even inkage, no bleeding, no running, no smearing… I mean, the paper was begging to be written on, and this pen was pleading to do the writing!
- There’s just something about maps that makes me want to start making notes. Anyone else? I just felt the urge to doodle and notate and scribble, and put my mark on it. You know?
AND SECONDLY… How did it go?
I have to say, it was pretty awesome.
NOTE: All of the images can be clicked on so you can see them larger!
Look, I admittedly got a thrill from writing in the margins of this book. It was like I was diving into a new world, breaking a sacred rule of book lovers everywhere, and tiptoeing into the pool of people confident enough to leave permanent markings in a piece of literature.
I started looking for excuses to uncap my pen and underline a passage, make a little doodle, or add my own thoughts to the pages. I mean, what fun is it to only have two or three pages with notes on them? I at least wanted it to look like I’d made a decent effort! It felt delightful to underline a passage that I particularly enjoyed, making it stand out from the rest of the words on the page, but in a subtle way that didn’t detract too much from the book’s minimalist-designed innards.
In a strange way, it actually helped me gain more confidence in my own thoughts. You have to be sure of yourself to write what you think or feel in the margins of a book (especially in ink) — even if you’re the only person who ever sees it later. I stopped to contemplate the words I’d just read, considered how I felt about them, and carefully composed my thoughts before scribbling them in the space on the page.
But at the same time, I was also able to let go and NOT think too much before doodling, which allowed me to trust my creative self more and not worry so much about perfection (as is often the case with me and drawing).
I really enjoyed the tactile experience of pushing my pen across the pages of the book. Let’s face it, this isn’t paper one normally uses to write on (and it was also a pen I rarely ever use), so it was a new experience.
I also really enjoyed looking at my underlines, scribbles, and doodles on the pages. As much as I love color, it was especially satisfying to make my markings completely in black, just enhancing what was already on the pages without drawing too much attention to myself (if that makes sense).
Would I do it again?
It’s hard to say. As much as I enjoyed this experience, I think part of that delight is because this is now a special treasure among my books. It’s the only book I’ve marked in, and I feel a little tingle of glee whenever I look at it. It’s possible I might feel the urge to write in the margins of another book someday, but I doubt that day will come anytime soon.