Open Books

I started the year with a visit to Ed Ruscha’s exhibition in the Gagosian Gallery in NYC.

There are a lot of fascinating pieces all related to books, but the one that strikes you when you walk in is a series of paintings of blank oversized books, each in various stages of aging.

photo credit:

photo credit:

Ruscha’s books reminded me of a wonderful project some of my friends are involved in called Ecriture Infinie.

It celebrates the art and gesture of writing by hand. There are 8 giant blank notebooks that travel the world, and people are “invited to write as if it were the last time they could write by hand. The focus is not so much on the words, but on the gesture, the flow of the pen on paper, recorded on video.”

If the notebook isn’t in a town near you, you can go to the website and download a video or photograph of your own handwritten project (or just spend time looking at the gallery of what other people have submitted – it’s so much fun!)

The gallery:

It was interesting to start the new year contemplating blank pages and the words we can possibly fill them with.  I think that an open notebook can mean being open to taking note of what’s around you, trying to give shape, and perhaps meaning, to your thoughts.

And there’s always more to write, isn’t there?  There are always more blank pages ahead waiting to be filled… Happy 2013!

60 thoughts on “Open Books

    • Yes, definitely more personal. I also believe it affects the way you think: you think one way when you type, you think another way when you write by hand. At least, that’s the way it works for me.

  1. Happy New Year, Letizia! I definitely agree about the personal quality of writing by hand. It feels more as if you are in a conversation with the notebook that way – you can’t just erase something you don’t like forever. For better or worse, whatever you write in a notebook exists…. Maybe that is why writing by hand is so special?

    • Happy New Year, Jeremy!

      I like the idea of being in conversation with your notebook. In part, being in conversation with your own self of course but perhaps more than that too.

      It’s true it’s a lot more personal as well as intimate.

    • Writing clubs, now there’s an idea! People could pass handwritten notes to each other like we did in class when we were little or compare how they write different letters of the alphabet. I already want to join!

  2. Happy New Year! And what a great art project. You are so right about paper – what pleasure one gets from writing on a beautiful surface with just the right instrument. Good job we have this technology though so we can all exchange views about it 🙂

    • So true, I’m all for computers as well, of course 🙂 But the pleasure of writing in a notebook (and reading what others write in their notebooks) is such a treasure, I agree!

  3. That is wonderful. I love the idea of open books which anyone can fill! And you know, out of the three blank books in your photo, I think I like the oldest one the most.

    • Isn’t it a wonderful project? So fun and inspiring!

      I liked Ed Ruscha’s exhibition a lot too. It’s hard to see in the photograph (I wasn’t allowed to take photos myself) but the second and third paintings of the “aged” books were more cartoon-like (for lack of a better word) than they look here. So I ended up liking the first one more as it was more realistic although the series as a whole was so interesting together!

  4. What a wonderful sight to see. The Ecriture project is such a great idea. I love the flow of pen on paper though I seldom write by hand these days. I agree that we do think differently when we put pen to paper. I think I am correct in saying that Barbara Arrowsmith-Young ( uses handwriting exercises to help students with learning disabilities. Will handwriting become a lost art I wonder?

    • What an interesting book. I wasn’t familiar with it but, based on the description, now want to read it. I also think handwriting in classes can be a useful way to process information and shouldn’t be substituted completely by computers in the future.

  5. Calligraphy, hand-writing, can be so many things – a work of art, an expression of the personality, an efficient scrawl to get the words down as quickly as possible, the best way to write a poem, and the only possible medium in which to compose a love letter… the sort that can be kept and tied with a blue ribbon…..

    • I agree, a love letter really should be written by hand…. so true. The image of the blue ribbon is lovely.

      And handwriting allows you to write in a nonlinear way, which I do quite frequently in my notebooks. Well, I’m sure there’s a way of doing that on an ipad, I suppose, but that way of thinking and taking notes comes to me more naturally through handwriting.

  6. This is absurdly cool, and a bit jarring to think about the inevitable disappearance of handwriting. A notebook is my constant companion – open and dependable, a reliable keeper of creativity in all its scribbly glory. My handwriting is no longer what it once was, it’s messy and almost unrecognizable, a common side effect of the modern day typist. Yet seeing my words in my own writing will forever be a special connection that I will cherish, no matter where technology whisks me away to.

    • And it’s the scribbles that make it so personal, so unique to us, the individual, right? Sometimes when I look at old letters or manuscripts of famous authors, I strain to figure out what in the world they were writing, but just seeing the words in their own handwriting brings the authors to life somehow; reminds us that they were human and that adds something to our experience of the text.

      How lovely that you bring a notebook with you everywhere.

  7. That is so impressive, Letizia. I generally don’t write by hand very much, but I do write reviews of books I’ve read in long-hand. Helps me think of the positives of the book. Great post! The exhibition is amazing!

    • That’s interesting that you write your reviews in long-hand. I do a lot of my writing in long-hand and then type it up on the computer; the handwriting is often more conducive to my thinking (just like for you it helps you see the positives of the books) and then typing in the computer ends up being the first editing process. I don’t do this for everything, but for some projects it works quite well.

      Interesting that each of us has specific uses for writing in long-hand!

  8. The miracle is that we can create. With every word, sentence, noun and verb, preposition, we build our lives. So let us write with passion and excellence. You have inspired me to get out my note books.

    • Your email, that’s funny 🙂 And as it would be handwritten, it’s possible that some people might read it wrong and email other people by mistake which would lead to all sorts of mysterious emails.

      Unfortunately I haven’t seen the books in person yet, but I did send in a submission. It’s more about the handwriting than about the words which aren’t always legible (intentionally so) so it’s hard to explain here in the comment box.

  9. Happy New Year, Letizia. I don’t know what I would do with out my notebooks and journals. My handwriting is atrocious, but at least my thoughts are down. I’m afraid hand writing will be a thing of the past one of these days. I must go to your links and read.

    • But even atrocious handwriting is personal and therefore wonderful! And there’s something quite sweet about handwriting that only loved ones can interpret 🙂

  10. I’m something of a notebook hoarder. My co-workers all prefer typing notes onto their ipads, so anytime they get paper journals, they give them to me. Fools! I hide them because I think at some point they’ll realize their mistakes and want them back.

    I still love writing things by hand. I hope I never lose that. I doubt I ever will.

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