I Am Joe’s Blog:

October 20, 2005 • 8:42 PM

The Lost Notebook

Tragedy struck this evening. I lost my Moleskine notebook. I was on my way to meet Morgen after work, pick up a bite to eat, check out a new bookstore, and then go to the 2005 San Francisco kick-off party for National Novel Writing Month, which begins on November 1. I’d brought my trusty notebook along to record the inevitable flashes of inspiration. Instead, my notebook and I parted company along the way—I’m guessing probably on the subway or in the station somewhere.

Following Bruce Chatwin’s advice, I put my name and contact information in the front of the notebook, along with the promise of a reward if the notebook is found and returned. No one has contacted me yet, and BART’s lost-and-found office was closed, so there is yet hope that some kind soul—or, hey, some greedy soul who wants to pick up an easy $100 reward—will yet come through with it. But I find it hard to be sanguine.

It feels a little bit creepy to have lost it, sort of like losing a wallet, or maybe a diary. It didn’t contain any money, or big secrets, or million-dollar business ideas, or details of sordid affairs. In fact, I think it had nothing in it of any value whatsoever to anyone but me. Still, those were personal thoughts and ideas, dreams and observations. I would be annoyed if it had been destroyed, but I’m much more disturbed that someone else could be reading through that little corner of my brain right now. That stuff wasn’t meant for public consumption, or even for private consumption. It was just for me.

Ironically, I’ve been working the past few days on updating my ebook about backups, and this data (analog as it is) was not backed up. I’m not even entirely sure what all was in this particular notebook. At the party, when I mentioned my loss to a couple of fellow novelists-to-be, they sympathetically suggested getting into the habit of photographing each page as it’s filled or faxing myself copies of the pages. Those sorts of tactics would, of course, provide the necessary backup (albeit at a significant inconvenience), but they still don’t protect the information already in the notebook from prying eyes.

It’s funny, too—I wouldn’t have been the slightest bit worried about losing my computer. Everything important on it is heavily encrypted (and religiously backed up) and the hardware is insured, so I’d simply report it to the insurance company, go buy a new one, reload my data, and continue on my merry way. But paper, for all its virtues, denies me that security. I could write in code, but that’s way too much bother. I could use a PDA, but I’ve found them just too cumbersome for taking notes. I did buy a replacement notebook, but there’s no way to replace the lost ideas, or the lost privacy.