I’ve been an avid writer for as long as I can remember. As a child I would make up stories and write them as neatly as possible on sheets of lined paper. If I were feeling particularly grand I would get hold of a small notebook and try to fill it up as if I were creating a novel. At school I loved nothing better than to be in my English class with an essay assignment.
When birding came along (aged 15) I was able to transfer this wordsmithery to notebooks in which I recorded the observations I had made, in both a diary and a ‘posh’ notebook, which would expand the sightings into a narrative. These were written, by pen, in neat hand. To re-read them now is both entertaining and cringing - they can come across as pompous, with my writing obviously geared not for my eyes but those of an imagined reader. Some verged on rambling saga and flowery narrative. They always mentioned numbers.
As the 1980s progressed, the birds started to share the space with moths and butterflies, and plants began to get a mention before the end of the 90s. And slowly, almost imperceptibly, the wording was pruned back, the descriptive writing reigned in and the handwriting not given the care that was once lavished upon it. There was a brief flirtation with computer generated notebooks, pages printed out and bound together, but I was never happy with this, it lacked warmth and feeling. Not organic.
And now I find myself, if not at a crossroads, then certainly at a point where I am questioning my loyalty to the medium. I have no intention of getting rid of my 46 years worth of notebooks - in some ways they define me, particularly those from the 70s. I now find writing up my observations a bit of a chore, so am wondering why I still bother. BirdTrack, as worthy as it is, is updated with a huff. But it is not the writing that is the problem...
I have several ‘projects’ on the go: this blog still gives me pleasure and there are lists and databases that I collate with gusto. At times I have been inspired enough to write papers and articles on particular events. Maybe these ‘extra’ items are rendering the ‘old way’ of doing things - how I commit my observations to paper/computer - obsolete. But I cannot stop. The thought of breaking the unbroken run of notebooks is too sad to contemplate. My written up notes may not be the grand productions of the past, but truthfully communicate how things are today in the natural world - not once what they were.