paper, paper everywhere

I have a confession to make: I am a paper hoarder. I hoard scrap paper.

I wouldn’t say that it’s out of control (hoarders usually don’t describe their hoarding as “out of control”) but I seem to be afflicted more than the average person. As I write this, at my desk at home, I am not surrounded by mountains of paper. The only things on my desk are my laptop and a few pharmacy journals that I’ve been meaning to read since a few months ago (I’m also good at procrastinating, but that’s a problem for another post). There’s also a notepad and a pen, but that’s it. I like to keep my desk neat and clutter-free. I’m the same at work, and I’m sure that my co-workers would attest to that.

However, if you look to that table beside my desk, you will find a neat little stack of paper about 10cm high (granted, these are sheets of A4 that have been folded in half, so it’d really only be about 5cm high if they were unfolded). These sheets are all printed on one side, blank on the other. They have served their primary purpose, and are no longer needed. Yet, something in my mind tells me that, instead of throwing them straight into the recycling bin, I should keep them because I can probably use the blank side to write something – a list, a note, a reminder.

If you take a closer look around, you’ll also find more paper – in a maroon folder, and in a red clipboard (what can I say? I’m a Queenslander). These each hold maybe a 1cm stack each of old school/uni worksheets or notes that are no longer needed. I’ll never read these again, but I can’t throw them away without scribbling something on the reverse.

I wish I could stop there but, unfortunately, there is more. There are notepads, notebooks, mini notebooks, and post-it notes. I don’t think I’ve ever bought any of these myself; people just gift them to me (or sometimes they’re freebies at expos or conventions). Some of these are completely empty, some are half-filled, some just have a few pages of notes. I reckon this category of paper is not as bad because they each have a set purpose (well, most of them do). One book is for recipes, one for blog post ideas; I use post-it notes (although sparingly) to remind me of important dates or information; and I have a notebook for writing down interesting points in the books I’m reading. And the empty ones are for… well, when I run out of pages in the ones I’m currently using…

At work, it’s a similar issue, but at least I have thoughtful colleagues who help keep my paper hoarding in check. To be fair, we always need scrap paper at work, and we always need post-it notes (my goodness, we use so many post-it notes!). If someone has to take clean paper out of the printer tray to use as scrap paper, I cringe a little inside.

I learnt recently that, in Australia, we use on average about 230kg of paper per person per year. 230kg! In hindsight, this probably wasn’t a great statistic for me to learn because I might end up hoarding even more paper… But I’ve always been careful about paper usage. I’ll print duplex if appropriate; I’ll scan and email documents rather than copy and send physical copies; I avoid printing things unless I absolutely have to; and I try to condense/limit what I print to the lowest number of pages.

And in case you’re wondering, I do use my stacks of scrap paper at home: I jot down recipes to test (which will be transferred to the recipe book once successfully completed), I copy out my work roster so that I don’t have to print it, I scribble notes about things I need to do (emails to send, events to look up, etc), and sometimes I just doodle randomly because I’m too mentally exhausted to read or write or do anything other than move a pencil back and forth across a page to create odd shapes. It’s just that I accumulate paper faster than I use it.

I have wondered about how this habit developed, and I have a few theories. First, in grade six, we spent a significant part of the year learning about the environment and the plethora of ways in which we are killing the earth. This was potentially mentally scarring, and caused me to become overly concerned about paper conservation (re-use and then recycle!). Another theory is that, all my life, I’ve seen my mum write grocery lists on scrap paper, and even on used envelopes (the ones that  bills get sent in, where the return address isn’t written on the back), so I subconsciously developed this idea that scrap paper is very useful, and I must keep all of it. Another theory is that I’m just a bit weird, and this is just one of those weird things I do.

read vs write

I had a bit of a random thought the other day about reading and writing. I feel like I’ve written a post about this before, but I can’t seem to find it (not that I looked very hard), so please excuse me if you’ve heard this all before. (*Tangent Alert* It’s kind of like when you’ve told a story so many times to so many different people that you forget who you have and haven’t told, and then you kind of have to decide whether or not you want to go ahead and risk re-telling a story that people have already heard before. I know a few people who do this quite a bit, but they’re such fun to talk to, I usually don’t mind, or I’ll just subtly hint that that story sounds familiar…)

I had a conversation with a friend quite some time ago about the relationship between the love of reading and the love of writing. This particular friend loves to read, and reads a lot. I’m pretty much the same. However, she does not like to write, whereas I clearly love to write (I’d assume most people who write blogs like writing too). At the time, I remember thinking this was a bit odd, but I kind of just accepted it because, you know, “each to their own” and whatnot.

In recent weeks, while discovering new food blogs, and watching cooking shows like “MasterChef” and “Everyday Gourmet” and a variety of foodie shows on SBS, I had a thought that maybe the reading/writing relationship could be analogous to the eating/cooking relationship. Eating and reading both feed the soul. Cooking and writing can be such rewarding experiences that enrich the lives of those who undertake these tasks.

If someone likes to eat, and they’ve had delicious meals prepared for them all their life, I’d think it’d be reasonable for them to be inspired to learn to cook and create tastey dishes of their own. Likewise, if someone likes to read, it would not be out of place for them to be inspired to write – right?

I also reckon that people who love to write would also love reading; just as people who love to cook would certainly love to eat. I’ve never met someone who disproves this, but feel free to be the first. So much of cooking is tasting the components of the dish as you prepare it, ensuring everything is balanced, and the flavours are right. So much of writing is re-reading and editing your sentences so that the text flows as it’s intended. It’s hard for me to imagine someone who loves to write but detests reading (it makes me shudder just to think that anyone might detest reading at all, irrespective of their feelings toward writing).

The more I thought about this, the more I realised that the analogy could be expanded to include so many other things. For example, most human beings like music of some variety, but not everyone has an inclination toward singing or playing musical instruments. We can appreciate music (which also feeds the soul, by the way) without having an urge to sing or pick up a guitar or take up piano lessons. However, I don’t think it’s possible for a musician to not like listening to music. The analogy works, right? And it can probably be applied to most performing arts, and art art like paintings and sketches and whatnot.

Perhaps what determines whether you like both the process and the end-product, or whether you appreciate the end-product with minimal interest in the process – perhaps what it all boils down to is inspiration. It just depends on whether or not you reach that magical level of inspiration, where you’re moved to take action. (Sometimes I feel like I’m pretty easily inspired, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it also means there are a lot of things that I want to do.) I could hypothesise that it might also come down to natural talent or affinity, but things like writing, cooking, drawing, etc can all be practised and perfected over time (although generally people seem to prefer doing things that they’re naturally good at).

One last thing – I think reading makes one’s writing better, and writing can improve one’s appreciation of reading. Likewise, eating can help improve one’s cooking, and cooking is likely to enhance the eating experience. Each pair works synergistically.