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A note-taking lacuna
Noun: lacuna (plural lacunae or (obsolete) lacunæ or lacunas)
(particularly anatomy) A small opening; a small pit or depression, especially in bone.
(microscopy) A space visible between cells, allowing free passage of light.
A small blank space; a gap or vacancy; a hiatus.
An absent part, especially in a book or other piece of writing, often referring to an ancient manuscript or similar.
Any gap, break, hole, or lack in a set of things; something missing.
(translation studies) A language gap, which occurs when there is no direct translation in the target language for a lexical term found in the source language.
I haven't added a note in Obsidian since Friday 4th November. That's over a month ago – 36 days, to be precise.
There's a multitude of reasons why – I started a new job on the 7th, for example – but after a while I started to feel guilt, like a pressure at the back of my skull. The longer I went without taking a note, the worse the pressure became, until I paradoxically started to avoid the idea of note-taking at all. I closed Obsidian – unheard of, for me – and put my books back on the shelf. I removed Zotero from my macbook dock. I didn't open Reader other than to review my daily Readwise highlights.
Why is this? I love note-taking. I can lose myself for hours in it, the same as I can when gaming – I easily slip into a flow (or hyperfocus) state.
The problem is, you see, that I'm pretty awful at consistency in, well...in general. I get into something obsessively for a few weeks and then, almost overnight, feel nauseous at the very thought of it – and never touch it again, often to great monetary waste and an ever-present sense of shame.
Had this happened with note-taking?
At first I thought so. How else could I explain the pressure-like guilt? This was just yet another thing I’d started and then dropped, like the flake I am.
I’ve often felt guilty over my struggles with consistency. The narrative is that you Must Do The Thing Daily if you want to succeed.
But what if you don’t always need to do something consistently? What if the give and take, wax and wane, is part of it? What if the gaps are valuable?
The definition of ‘lacuna’ at the start of this post included the following: A space visible between cells, allowing free passage of light.
I think a lot in metaphors and similes, so this resonates. You need light to see, and sometimes a break from something allows you to look at something from a distance and reorient yourself. The space lets the light in.
The other part of the definition that stands out to me is that sense of continuity despite the momentary pause. The bone continues beyond the small pit and the manuscript continues after the blank. A lacuna doesn’t mean an end; by its very definition, it must be bookended.
In the meantime, that pit in the bone, that gap in the manuscript, they both tell a story. There’s a meaning in that space – and sometimes that’s more valuable than what otherwise might have been there. When I was studying literature at university, I was always fascinated by what was absent as much as what was present – searching for the unspoken amidst the spoken. I never saw the absence as something bad, but instead something interesting.
So why wasn’t I applying this to myself?
With this in mind, when I look at my ‘recent notes’ page in Obsidian, I don’t see evidence of fickleness I should feel guilt over. Instead, I see the story of a change of career, a change in shift pattern and therefore daily lifestyle, a story of family emergencies, a record of deep personal reflection and growth.
I’ll start note-taking again shortly, I know. I also know not to force it – the lacuna will take up as much space as it needs.
But it’s a space, not an end.
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