I love annotations.
This is a big deal for me, previous to my Literature classes the thought of writing in a book absolutely appalled me. So did dog-earring books. Well, that still appalls me. I’d sooner brush my teeth with steel wool than dog-ear a book.
Once I started to really study literature I realized quickly that I wasn’t get very far without annotating. I am too forgetful and unorganized to remember to take notes and then have those notes properly coordinated to the place I am referencing in the text. At first I began to lightly, with a pencil, mark stars by passages that stood out to me. Pretty soon I figured out that wasn’t going to work. Like I said, I am very forgetful and I would be going through my text and I wouldn’t remember why I marked a particular passage.
After that, I decided to take the plunge and started writing annotations in my book. I started writing in my book. On the page, with a pencil.
Okay, so I couldn’t bring myself to use a pen at first. I am all for baby steps and I’ll tell you, those first words written were some of the hardest words I’ve ever marked on any piece of paper. There was no way I was going to use a pen though, that was just wrong. Pencils can be undone, but pens and their irreversible ink would blot the page forever.
Then the day came when I forgot to bring a pencil with me to class.
I had quietly been studying a line of Shakespeare when suddenly the heavens parted and pure clarity alighted upon me and revealed to me the hidden meaning of that confounding line of blank verse. My hand sought my pencil in order to record this revelation on the margin next to the now clear line of verse when I realized that I had no pencil. I sat in quiet agony and decided that this precious thought was more important than my desire to keep an ink pen from touching my text. With a hesitant hand I picked up the ink pen laying atop my notebook and gathering every ounce of fortitude in my body, I disclosed my thought with an ink pen on to the margins of that page, never to been undone from that text again. I sat back to view the carnage and reflect on the hideous crime I had just committed.Then I thought to myself:
“That’s wasn’t too bad.”
Over time I became more comfortable with the pen. It was an odd thing to get over. After while, I couldn’t understand why I was so against annotations in the first place — with or without a pen. I learned that they could be lots of fun and I began to annotate with wild abandon. I’m pretty sure if I went back and read some of my annotations from a year ago I would roll my eyes. I was overzealous at times and it was not uncommon for me to cover most of the margins around a poem with notes and ideas. I reckon that this was merely my newborn practice taking advantage of its youth.
I took the summer off from school and when I came back this past fall I found a more mature annotator had taken the place of the wild adolescent that I left in the spring. I still annotate, and annotate often. However, I’m more mindful of my annotations now. I still prefer annotating in pencil, just because if I decide I don’t agree with what I wrote, I can be rid of it easily.
All in all, I enjoy the practice now. I still remain as respectful to the text as I can be. I don’t write anything unless I feel it’s important. I also take better notes, because I think the essays are best for a blank piece of paper, rather than the margins of a book.
I do however, still use stars. Old habits die-hard I guess.