On Caring to Write Real Paper Notes | “I Could Write a Book”

               SongNotes from the Birds is a collection of songs and articles, issued each month via blog posts and good old-fashioned mailboxes. Below is article 2 of 3 for October’s theme, “Loose Leaves.
Click here for the full intro to this month’s theme!
Click here to read article one and hear “Autumn Leaves”

by Naomi Bird

rose on pages horizontal

This week’s loose-leaf feature is Paper.

In the spirit of celebrating papers, papers, papers, I am sitting at the library with stacks of books around me gathering facts, scribbling notes, and trying to remember how in the world to format a bibliography listing. Is that even the right word – bibliography? Annotated bibliography? References?

Long past, for me, are the days of research papers and formatting rules and word count requirements. Or so I thought. Somehow I managed to work us into an occupation that calls for weekly articles, unending technological formatting debacles, and an obsession with word count. And I adore it.

Publishing on the internet is a very different process than publishing paper products. Do people even do that anymore?

Yes, yes they do.

Despite the fact that so much has gone digital in our global world, paper is not dead. Paper books, paper journals, paper calendars. You name it. They’re not going away. In fact, a case could be made that the quality of these paper products has risen because people won’t bother with them unless they’re really great. And after some time of intentional shifts away from so many of the common uses for paper, I think there is something to be said about the average American consumer missing it.

(for a hilarious 30 second video expressing just how important paper still is, click here)

After years of trying to manage our family’s schedule with exclusively digital online calendar systems, this summer I finally realized that for my mental clarity I needed to go back to a simple paper calendar. I love it. I’ve heard other says similar things.

My new favorite planner. 

There are so many things to say about the psychology of holding paper versus looking at a screen, or the power of the smell of paper, or the kinesthetic nature of looking at and holding paper. Books could be written on the subject. (sorry).

What we are highlighting here this week is that a physical thing – a piece of paper, a journal, a letter, a book – shows care. It says, I care about this information. I care about the person to whom I’m writing this. Or I care so much about the experience of reading this, I’m going to give up space on a shelf in my home so I can remember it and even do it again some time.

selective focus photography of brown wooden book shelf
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

The song “I Could Write a Book” is an expression of doing something tangible and meaningful to show just how much you care. Here’s the basic backdrop: a guy likes a girl and flatters her with claims to knowing her enough to write a book about her – even though he’s a little dim and not really the bookish type. The way he sets up the song, in the intro (which is rarely included in recordings), the character Joey explains that he doesn’t see himself as a scholar, much less an author. Yet, he claims he has good enough reason to become just that. And not just reason – he has the content. He sees her (how she walks, whispers, looks) he values her (wants the world to remember her) and wants to be with her (make two lovers of friends). She reciprocates with similar sentiments and they eventually (*spoiler alert*) end up together.

Not staged.  This is the corner of our living room.

Within the first year of our marriage, I recall a friend, who was nearing divorce at the time, iterate to me the importance of tangible expressions – cards, letters, real things to communicate and mark the value of the person and the relationship. We haven’t been fabulous at this, but we try.

For our first Christmas, I printed our vows and framed them, along with a picture of our wedding. Does it change anything? Not really. But creating a physical representation of your personal values definitely makes a statement. It was a tangible thing on the wall triggering a mindfulness that could be easily escaped if it remains a distant memory in a keepsake box or computer file.

It’s waiting for a different frame, so it’s not on the wall, but you get the idea.

On one of our early wedding anniversaries, Nathan surprised me with one of his trademark super sentimental gifts. He had printed out and bound all of the emails that we had exchanged when we were dating and engaged. We could have looked at them any time on the computer. Why bother finding them, printing them, running to the shop to get the bound? Making a physical record of our communications, pulling them out of the digi-sphere, was him saying to me “I care about these words we shared. I love the journey they’ve brought us through. I care about you. You are important. We’re a team.”

Here it is.  See – he wrote a book.

I just recently created a folder in our file cabinet for the beautiful notes that have been sent to us over the years. As choir director and accompanist, and guest musicians for various events, we often are told lovely things in a phone call or email to encourage us. But when we get an actual paper card in the mail, this takes it up a notch! Someone took care to underline a word or two, or maybe type out the whole thing, find our address, place a stamp in the corner, and put this in the mailbox. For me!

Gosh, these mean a lot.

Ultimately, our job here on earth is to show that we care about the people in our life. Papers – full of scribbles, colored with paints, or beautifully scribed with sonnets – can do just that.

What can you do, with paper, today, to tangibly show that you see and care about someone? How can you say, “I see you, You are valuable, and I am here for you.”

close up photo of book pages
Photo by Ravi Kant on Pexels.com

Read lyrics of “I Could Write a Book”

Listen to Nathan and Naomi’s recording of “I Could Write a Book”

Song: “I Could Write a Book” from the 1940 Broadway musical Pal Joey
Authors and Dates: Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) and Lorenz Hart (1895-1943)

SOURCES and links for the curious…

About the Song

Read the lyrics

About the composers Rodgers and Hart

About the musical Pal Joey (starring Gene Kelly)

About the 1957 film Pal Joey (starring Frank Sinatra)

A great PDF with 10 reasons why print isn’t dead

Funny YouTube clip

Featured Photo by Dustin Lee on Unsplash

Listen to Nathan and Naomi’s recording

Send someone a special paper subscription gift!

Add to the Wish List! – Our monthly SongNotes from the Birds publication was invented because we knew that some folks prefer paper to digital for reading things like this.  Who do you think would like to receive it, but can’t or won’t get it for themselves?  Click here to make a suggestion to the Wish List!

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