Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ode to the Post-It



Those little rooms of paper—stacked inside a miniature pastel high-rise on our desks—are a chance to exit a writing block.

Here are a few important characteristics of this humble office stationery which can help with the process of writing.

·        We associate Post-Its with a particular context for writing: notes to the self (or informal writing, low-stakes writing) which are usually action-oriented (reminders, lists, To-Dos).

·        We also associate Post-Its with disposable writing. Once whatever written on them is accomplished, we crumple and toss them in the recycling bin.

·        Post-Its have an unusual audience dynamic. They’re typically private writing (not meant for another reader or evaluation) but yet they are frequently displayed in a public place—say, on the wall above a desk or on the outside of a personal scheduler.

Consequence # 1:

The to-do list dimension makes whatever we’re writing a bit more transactional. In other words, with writing done on Post-Its, the sense is that it is referring to something that has to happen in the world. Like a grocery list or a reminder of a dental appointment, the content on a Post-It suggests a matter-of-fact action.

When writing resembles more an action than abstraction, it becomes a gesture one has to do, a gesture that doesn’t require much heavy thinking. Writing becomes more of the “just-do-it” mentality of freewriting…less precious.

Consequence #2:

To write a document on Post-Its (I’m talking about the standard size, not the micro or pad-sized ones) means to be constantly interrupted as your voice/writing moves from square to square.

This can feel a bit like leaping over hurdles, but paradoxically, one result is that you may have more of an athletic sense of your intrapersonal voice. It feels more present, more eager to continue, to press on.
The gesture of “filling in another page”—albeit a micro page—also carries satisfaction, helping to create a positive association and self-confidence about writing. And the more positive associations about writing you are able to gather, the more motivation you will have to write.

Consequence #3:

Post-Its increase the physicality of writing. In other words, the confinement of writing on the small squares writing forces you to notice your materials more than you might normally.

This can draw your attention to the present moment and away from imaginary audiences. The heightened sense of the present moment of writing may seem annoying at first. Lean into that sensation of annoyance and observe it. After a few moments, it too will likely fade and change, and the attention to the present can give you greater access to your inner dialog for writing.

Consequence #4:

Of all these points, it’s the way Post-It writing seems disposable—and how it automatically takes on the sheen of low-stakes work—that may help the most.

The association of Post-Its with disposable or low-stakes writing reduces expectations and predetermined thought about ability and outcome.
It can shift your audience dynamic such that you feel less responsible to a (possibly strict) audience or judge.

The fact that the Post-It genre typically involves notes to the self reinforces the idea of your writing as intrapersonal dialog, as self-talk. As a result, no matter what you’re writing, the text takes on the appearance of freewriting.

You could be writing a highly formal document or exploring a complex idea that’s intended (eventually) for the most critical of audiences, but on a Post-It, this writing begins first and fore mostly for you, your eyes. You’re talking to yourself, no matter the topic.

In this regard, the humble Post-It is the stationery of the intrapersonal, the call to you, the note that says, Write about it.



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