What’s in a Notebook?
My late father was a very talented and capable writer. Watching my interest in writing develop from a fairly young age, he encouraged me to keep notebooks for future reference and writing use.
I received similar advice from a very famous and versatile English writer, the late Anthony Burgess, under whom I was very fortunate to take a year-long writing seminar during my university days.
Young men don’t always listen to wise advice, but on this point, fortunately, I listened.
My old notebooks now resemble a pack of mongrel dogs: lots of them, all of different shapes, sizes, and colors; many a bit scruffy around the edges, with occasional coffee stains; each one containing eclectic bits and pieces of observation from here and there; all somehow living, breathing creatures at least in the sense that they give life to old memories.
As I have discovered in writing this blog, reading a snippet of observation written many years ago is often a trigger for a cascade of related memories and observations. Refreshing one’s memory of past experiences is only one important dividend which notebooks pay.
Our memory is a similar to the muscles in our body. We have the ability to strengthen and develop it through ongoing exercise, or not, as we choose. Some people associate exercising their memory mainly with the years when they are in school, and the related need to retain information in order to pass tests.
Really smart people, whether in business or other professions, have an ongoing determination and discipline to develop their memory skills, because they realize these skills have lifelong applications extending far past our school years.
There is clear evidence showing that old folks who play majong, bridge, word puzzles or sudoku are less likely to suffer the effects of dementia and memory loss.
One of my high school teachers, a Jesuit priest, had an amazing ability to memorize texts. He was a gifted linguist, and taught Latin and Greek. Some very wise advice which he gave us was that out of every 24 hour period, there are 40 minutes when our memories are super receptive, as compared with the other 23 hours and 20 minutes during which they are cluttered with static and interference.
The “super receptive” 40 minutes are the twenty minutes just before sleep, and the twenty minutes when we first wake in the morning.
This advice also served me very well in memorizing Chinese characters for quizzes and tests. Try it. It really works.
I have met other people with ex ceptionally well-developed memory skills, which I think are a product of training more than innate inherited abilities.
I was part of a 15-member business delegation to Washington, D.C. some years ago. Our group met with a senior US government trade official. She had not met any of us before. We met in her department’s conference room for a 30-minute discussion during which we exchanged business cards. Afterwards, she invited us for a simple buffet lunch in their staff cafeteria.
At the end of that luncheon, as we thanked her, bid farewell, and began to walk out in single file, she addressed each and every one of us by our first name, e.g. “Good to meet you, Tom “, “Thanks for coming by, Frank,” “Hope to see you again, Bill,” etc. An absolutely amazing display of memory skill.
You may be wondering what all this has to do with the main subject of my blog. That’s the answer, of course, to the question posed in the title of this post “What’s in a notebook?” because without my collection of mongrel notebooks, I would not have been able to write this blog.
Thanks, Dad, for another piece of great advice.
Now if you’ll excuse me, since I don’t play bridge, majong or sudoko, I’d better get back to my word puzzles.
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