As I sifted through my many journals to find some entry to write about today, I found one of my most and yet least favorite journals. It's a small book, only 4.5 x 6, and it came with a title...a little brown notebook. On the cover, there is a picture of Shakespeare sitting at a writing table with two men sparring behind him with Shakespeare's name written in all capital letters along the bottom. All of the unlined pages have the color and texture of a brown paper bag and have either quotes from Shakespeare's or pictures depicting one of his many works.
My mom bought this tiny book for me at a garage sale in 1999. When I got her care package and found this little book in there, I loved it right away. It was fitting because of my theater background and love for Shakespeare and because I love any kind of book that offers blank pages for me to write my thoughts.
When I get a new journal, I like to let it sit for a day or two, out in the open where I can see it inspiring me to write something interesting in it. But this little brown journal sat for more than two days. I looked at it everyday as I got ready for work and again when I came home to my empty apartment at the end of the day. It sat on my bed for a week before I moved it to the floor where it sat in various places around the room for a month. I put it on top of my TV where it collected dust for awhile, and then I finally just put in on my bookshelf. I didn't want to put it between the books on the shelf right away because I knew I would eventually think up something great to write in this little book.
One night in the middle of the night, the light coming from outside the window was shining on this little book reminding me that I had to write something in it or it was going to end up blocking me. I sat up at realized that I was having a hard time coming up with something to write in it because I didn't want to put my words next to the words of Shakespeare. Enough was enough! I wasn't going to let Shakespeare psych me out. What I had to say was just as important as Shakespeare, at least to me. After I briefly explained my communication problems with this journal I went on to write some crazy notion about the exclamation mark.
January 27, 2000
I love exclamation marks! They automatically make the reader think that the writer is in a good mood. But if I think back to a time when the exclamation mark might have been invented, I think that maybe the writer wasn't in a good mood at all. I picture this: a guy sitting at a wooden table with only the light of a candle next to him, writing on a piece of parchment with a quill pen. If I think about it even deeper, a long line with a dot at the end of it tells me the writer was probably bored, or out of something interesting to write. His quill pen touches the paper in thought, quivers in a downward motion, but no word comes out so dot, that's the end.
Off this parchment is sent to the king who says, "what the hell is this? Bring the writer to me!"
Like a joker sitting in front of the king who has just asked him what this line and dot on the parchment means, the writer fumbles for words and then spews, "It's a sign of happiness in writing!"
The king looks from the parchment to the writer and back to the parchment.
The writer starts to sweat. He doesn't want the king to know he is lying or think that his work is sloppy. He knows the king loathes liars. If the king even suspected the writer's white lie, it would either be off with his head or his favorite quill pen in exchange for a joker costume. In this moment the writer thought maybe it would be better to face the guillotine than the general public wearing a joker costume. But of course the choice wouldn't be his, he thought.
Finally, the king looks up from the parchment and says, "I like it!"
And thus came the exclamation of liars.
I returned the journal to the bookshelf and never wrote in it again.