Unnecessary notes

My 2023 challenge is to take 
a random piece of paper 
from my stash of ephemera 
and write a short piece every day.

#randomsbitsofpaper 003 points to the elasticity of the idea of “bits of paper”. The selection was not entirely random. I am breaking my own rules already.

Yesterday 36 years ago, I began working, and “Translator” was in my job title. Today’s pick from my plastic carton of ephemera is in keeping with the work theme. It is an A5 notebook which I used to keep track of translation jobs from May 2012 to July 2013. That little fact alone tells me that the book is due for the toss! Sigh, where did all the time go? Looks like I spent it translating and writing in my little book.

Gens X, Y and Z and accountants of all stripes will be thrilled to know that these are not the only records I kept, as proven by a pretty pie chart based on real data that I sticky-taped into the book at the end of 2012. It shows that 58% of my time in 2012 was spent translating for a single agency, 31% spent on two other clients (16% and 15% respectively), and the remaining 11% on six or seven others.

Visualisation is a powerful tool, as is voicing one’s vision. I voiced my plan to the 16% client: to roughly double the work from that client so that it represented over 30% of my total income. The client liked that idea; it helped with her planning. I know I had to work and wait a whole year for the result, but once the mop had flopped, I was rather pleased that the 16% client had grown into a 32% one, and the 58% client had trimmed down by a disparate number, but sufficiently to reflect a healthier spread, with less reliance on any one client and a good platform from which to cultivate more direct clients as I headed into 2014.

In 2014, I used an A4 notebook—possibly to allow for more doodling—because I needed more space for planning many of the larger projects I worked on. The at-a-glance approach was no longer the be-all and end-all of my raison d´être. Packing loads of hyphenated words into a sentence ending with a foreign loan word might have been, however.

The random bits of paper that are the subject of this post contained only one doodle. I have reproduced it here since the original is two short steps away from being transformed into ash by way of starting fires in the fireplace. The ashes end up in the garden. That is possibly a more sustainable practice than placing the paper in a recycle bin, but I digress.

The only doodle in the notebook:
Purple BIC Crystal gel ink on 70 gsm notebook paper. 70 x 40 mm. Plant of indeterminate provenance and several different leaf morphologies. Image is thought to represent humankind’s attempt to integrate with nature.
That thingy in the top left corner is the digital scratching out of an unwanted element and should in no way detract from the artwork itself.

What other gems did this notebook contain? Ha ha, not much. For a translation agency, there are notes like “could not merge segments 82 & 83; 153 & 154”, rough calculations for quotations, back-of-the-cigarette-pack lists of when payments would be coming in and their amounts, and what I planned to use them for, as well as a short, bad poem written while waiting at the tax department once (I was 26th in the queue, and The Logical Song by Supertramp was playing on the loudspeakers, apparently. Go figure.). It seems I was disgruntled, for I went on to write, “I know who I am”, and “Everything is logical”, which is simply absurd given the crazy plastic chair I was sitting on at the time. To prove my point, you should know that written in purple ink at the top of the poem was a possible title for something: 30-LITRE DUSTBIN BAGS.

There are three pages at the back with people’s names and phone numbers. Even more amusing, there is also a list of the styles and sizes and other features of my favourite Levi jeans. I know for a fact that all those were given away or cut up for rags ages ago, and those sizes would not fit me now. KWIC searches were just starting to trend, it seems. Some words scrawled were definitely because I had hit upon a good translation, but was not actually working on that part of the document. Why else would I write “abandoned and betrayed”, since I have never felt either intensely enough to write about it?

The most disturbing find is a scribble, the first line of which must have been either something I heard in a sermon, or something someone said on the news: “Defend the innocent against unjust punishment?” The question mark represents my natural contrariness. I then have a jolly essay outline, of all things, to answer the question, “What about defending the guilty against unjust punishment?” I have never put my chief arguments in writing and perhaps I never will, mainly because I fear that it would be too big a philosophical chunk for me or anyone else to swallow. Nevertheless, I will indulge myself, and put that sheet of paper back in the plastic carton.

The saying, “from the sublime to the ridiculous” has the last word in this notebook. I have a list of words, most of which I have crossed out. A mystery! Most are not synonyms (my preferred “genre” for lists of words), and my editor’s eye shuddered to see “wasted time” taking up real estate among these adjectives:

The mystery list

And then it hit me: This is the list of options Facebook gave posters when it first brought out the feature “[Name] is feeling —”. Yeah. And I wrote it down. <smiley face>

©2023 Allison Wright

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