1. Beginnings

December 1, 2007. Filed under writing 31

When I was in junior high school I once sat down with my father to work through several math problems that were giving me trouble. While working through them he made a simple instruction that has stayed with me: "Always leave enough whitespace. Always use more paper if it makes your work easier to understand."

This sweeping permission to value expression over a sheet of paper is easily lost on a child, but has come back to haunt me as an adult. We're killing the environment and ruining our oceans... but my ideas may be all I have. Is it wrong to use two sheets of paper when one will suffice? What if it is a really important idea?

I couldn't answer that question. Pitting science's calculated reality against a visceral love of uncluttered paper is an equation I didn't know how to balance. That and a thousand other uncertainties about living compounded into one simple scene: sitting in my childhood room, and staring at my life packed into two suitcases and a messenger's bag.