For over eighty percent of my life (I’m currently thirty) I wouldn’t dare think of writing or underlining in a book. I even loathed opening a book to wide, hating the idea of messing up its pristine structure. Folding a book halfway was blasphemous. I know, I was weird (aren’t we all).
I honestly don’t know where this quirk came from. I just really had the desire to take care of my stuff, and treat my books like they were brand new.
Now I’m the opposite. My younger self would feel whiplashed from the amount of underlining and writing I do in my books. The flip was a gradual process, but there were three defining moments shot me out of the canon.
One was a simple thought: there are thousands—sometimes even millions—of copies of books. My scribbling in a hardback now-and-again isn’t going to marginal have much of a difference.
The second defining moment was learning about the marginalia libraries of grand figures, such as Isaac Newton and Oscar Wilde.
And this leads us to the final defining thought: writing, highlighting, and underlining is like a time capsule of your mind and life at a particular time. And every time you revisit a book, you are layering in another version of who you are in a given moment. By writing out thoughts and underlining passages that stand out to you, you are leaving a lasting impression of who you are for your future self.
Does that mean I’m going to scribble in my signed copy of The Name of the Wind? No! Of course not. But I am going to use the books I own and get the most meaning out of them as I can.
Marking up your books is a small thing, but it highlights (pun intended) a big idea:
Making your mark doesn’t require permission.
Perhaps it used to, before the internet age. But now, anyone can pursue an idea or passion and share it with the world. Of course, being able to share doesn’t mean everything is high-quality. Put it does give us a direction to setting higher standards for ourselves and going after big ambitions.
If there’s something you dream about doing, what’s stopping you?
Are you stopping yourself?
What if you got out of the way?
STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1167