Thursday, October 11, 2012

Written Windows

I’m sitting here at work, working on some equations from a customer.  We’ve been going back and forth on these silly things for way longer than I care to think about.  First it was with one person from the site, now another.  It’s going much better with this second person than it was with the first.  With the first it really seemed like even though we were speaking the same language, the words weren’t meaning the same things.

Anyhow, I’m a pencil and paper kind of gal.  I have stacks and stacks of notebooks I’ve filled over the years at my job.  My earlier ones even have tables of contents (listing site/problem and even page number, sometimes date) and several have lots of sticky notes sticking out the tops.  You can trace all that back to my chemistry and other lab classes in college.  If you didn’t take notes, and in your official lab book, it didn’t happen.  Of course, it had to be in pen, pencil wasn’t allowed.
I just can’t take notes digitally.  I draw too many arrows and diagrams.  I write thoughts and cross them out as they are disproved or underline and exclamation point them when I was right.  I doodle in margins while I try and wrap my brain fully around what I’m thinking or working on.  I use color when I need something to stand out, or to differentiate between things that are similar or need to be grouped together.  Somehow the physical act of tracing the letters and numbers onto the paper makes it actually stick in my memory some how, and in a way that typing just doesn’t do.
That’s kind of a side note, leading up to the heart of the post, but a little background I felt was needed.

So, back to the equations I’m tackling for a customer.  I’ve gone through them and in my notebook I’ve written them out, crossed out units of measure that cancel each other out, just as I was taught throughout school and drawn my arrows, written my thoughts and doodled my doodles.  I then typed up my findings into a Word document and send them off to the customer.

What do I get back in return?  A scanned copy of my document with notes and scribbles all over it is what I find.  And he also sent three pages of hand written notes and scribbles on the equations.

I smiled at this.  I feel like this man is a kindred spirit when it comes to how we figure things out.  We physically move things around, even if it is just symbols on the page.  Suddenly, working with this guy doesn’t seem so impossible.  Maybe, just maybe, we’ll finally put these issues to rest and we’ll be able to move forward.

Then I think about how personal sending someone your writing is.  Sending someone the scribbles from your notebook is like sending them a picture of the innermost workings of your brain. 
Mine are messy and dynamic and impermanent in pencil, and colorful yet super organized and downright anal in places.  And yes, that really does reflect the inner me.  I’m a total mess, but if certain things aren’t “just so”, I go crazy and can’t function.  I need my color and my action and direction, but there has to be a central calm to my world as well.
My customer’s are neat, in pen and permanent, with sparse use of color, and no real arrows or anything dynamic to speak of.  He must be a much more organized, calm and “settled” kind of person than I am.

I know I’ve reflected on writing before, comparing my writing to my dad’s, and even my mom’s.  I see a lot of my dad’s stability and logical thoroughness in my notes and how I take them, but I also see my mom’s dynamic attitude and visual and spatial learning.  Those aren’t quite the right words, but they’re the best I’ve got.

I just think it’s really amazing what you can learn about a person just looking at the how they take notes, digitally or with good old pen and paper and by what those notes look like.  The written word is very much a window into the mind and soul of the person writing them, and not just for the verbal content.

I just had to share these observations while they were fresh in my mind.  I’d best head back to my calculations and enjoy the act of writing my notes.  (I really don’t know what would happen if I couldn’t write…)

Peace to all and may you have pleasant surprises in your day and windows into peoples’ souls.

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