Google the word ‘shorthand’ and go to the Wikipedia page. There you will see a series of symbols that made perfect sense to my mother as well as thousands of secretarial workers in the mid-20th century. As a child I would see this mysterious shorthand appear every now and then on my mother’s grocery list in the kitchen. It fascinated my brother and me, and when we asked her about it, she would smile and say, “Well now, that’s a secret.” The best times were when she said, “Your birthday is coming up, so it’s a very good secret.”
Having a regular-if-not-daily sketchbook habit has enabled me to create my own version of shorthand, giving me access to information that no one else can see. When you look at my sketchbooks you may see questionable renditions of coffee cups and windows and a table lamp. You see squiggles, but I see the ‘birthday presents’ behind the symbols.
I feel the temperature of the air the day I stood leaning on the granite post in front of the cafe. I hear the saxophone of our downtown Concord busker playing the theme song to The Pink Panther, making everyone within earshot smile. I hear the radiator hissing in my tiny apartment, and remember opening the window a crack, so the frigid January air could blend with the excessive heat the landlord struggled to regulate.
You might think my sketchbook is full of drawings, but it is actually full of shorthand films of precious moments. You don’t have to draw well at all to create your own shorthand. You will invent it yourself automatically.
It does help, though, to hang out with other people who are practicing their own shorthand too. I have started a monthly sketchbook meet-up club called Sketchbook Adventures Open Studio, and we meet monthly at Kimball Jenkins here in Concord as well as at city parks, along the river, and any places that group members dream up for outings. Contact me for further details if you would like to join us, it is free of charge and all are welcome! If you live too far from here, why not start your own merry band of doodlers?
Do you have a favorite pen? I hope so.
Do you have a favorite sketchbook? You will soon.
Do you have a magic decoder ring to help you read your sketchbook later on?
Of course you do, right in your heart.