Kevin Hodgson, @dogtrax, recently cited Austin Kleon’s newish book, Reading with a Pencil, in the tweet below.
— KevinHodgson (@dogtrax) February 10, 2019
I responded with my own tweet and scanned sample page where I read with a pencil (and pen and highlighter and marker).
@grammasheri @EatcherVeggies @tutormentorteam #clmooc Here’s a sample of a page I marked up over Christmas. I use lots of ways in to the text (highlighters, markers, inks of many colors) to slow my reading to learning pace. Would love to see scans of your books. Post to follow. pic.twitter.com/weIwrA63f3
— Terry Elliott (@telliowkuwp) February 19, 2019
This short exchange reminded me how I had re-invigorated my own reading life over the last several years. It happened in part because of the new digital annotation tools I folded into my own professional reading but also by the hand annotations I was making in my personal reading. I think it all started with the joy of the tools.
I have been a very amateur calligrapher over the years. I taught adult education classes in calligraphy that were so much fun, but I let circumstance draw me away from that. I still had the tools and I always meant to get back to my projects including a map of our farm and some poetry to frame for my children. What I’m saying is that I think pens and paper are a form of alchemy, of magick, and that their spell over me is an old one.
The urge to apply this magic to the page is a natural one. So much white space to be shared. So much good to note in the writer’s hard work. The page is a map, a blazed trail, for the reader. The urge to mark “This way be dragons” cannot be denied. Isn’t that what we do when we annotate a page?
Here are my tools (some of them,anyway). The picture makes me think of a very large family reunion but not one that meets only so often. This family is in reach all the time.
If I had more time (such a stupid refrain) I would expand into sketchnoting, scrapbooking, zine making, and calligraphy projects. These tools beckon me to longer forays and happier feldgangs.
The rediscovery of the joys of the tools has drawn me into the joys of the mental tools of slow, engage, creeping quiet reading. When I say creeping I am reminded of a Japanese tractor we onced owned, a Yanmar 2010. That tiny tractor had what is known in the farmer parlance as a “creeper gear”. This gear is super slow and is especially handy when you want to put pressure via chain on…anything. For example, you could attach a chain to a stump, engage the creeper gear, pull tight, and then go back to the stump with an ax or a pry bar and yank on it while your handy Yanmar in creeper gear keeps tugging. You will win eventually unless you bit off a stump bigger than you can chew. I use these tools on a text in much the same way, pulling out the meaning with the fulcrum on my mind and the tools as my levers: theoria (thinking), poiesis (making), and praxis (doing).
Yes, that is a satisfying analogy.