I shared this doodle from my notebook on Instagram the other day and everyone who commented seemed to assume that it was about Writing, as in, Writing Books, or getting Work done. (See a previous post of mine: “Shut up and write the book.”)
What it was really about was the old idea of having a “loose tongue,” or saying out loud the things that you should keep to yourself. In the home, in the workplace, or on the internet. (Perhaps the phrase needs an update for the smartphone age: It’s our thumbs that get us the most in trouble these days…)
We focus so much on our notebooks as traps for capturing those rare, beautiful ideas that visit us, but notebooks are also amazing cages for detaining what is inside of us that wants so desperately to escape. To write down your rawest thoughts in a notebook is like putting a wild, unknown beast into a holding cell for further observation. Here, you can safely discover what the beast is and figure out what to do with it. Sometimes the beast needs indefinite incarceration, sometimes it needs rehabilitation, sometimes it’s ready for release into the wild, and sometimes it just needs to be put down. But to let it escape at whim is rarely a good idea.
Or, as I’ve said before, a notebook is a good place to have bad ideas.
There’s an old Quaker saying: “Don’t speak unless you can improve the silence.”
Sometimes we need to see the words before we know if they can improve the silence.
Hold thy tongue. Loosen thy pen.