You know the story, right? How Spencer Silverman of the 3M Company had invented a “low tack” adhesive that didn’t seem to be very useful. Nobody wanted it. But a fellow scientist at 3M, Art Fry, needed a way to temporarily attach bookmarks to the pages of his hymnal (no word on whether he was an organist or something) and used some of Spencer’s “failed” adhesive to do it. It worked so well, he proposed making pads of little repositional “notes” to use as memos. Initially, another division had lots of scrap yellow paper and they used it to make pads of the notes. Voila. A legend was born.
Interestingly, as ubiqutous and ever-present as the notes are now, they were kind-of slow to catch on. Who wanted memos, they said, that stuck– but not very hard? They were first produced in the 80’s but didn’t make it big until the 90’s. . . when they took off and have now become part of our culture. What does it say about us as a culture/civilization that we love the temporary sticky-note so much and find it so useful?
Those little sticky notes have been used to slip notes to presidents in high-level international negotiations and to decorate office mates caught sleeping on the job. Everything from serious notations in legal cases to comedy sketches and scenes in movies. My most recent scene was in the Josh Hartnett movie about lovers with Asperger’s Syndrome, “Mozart and The Whale”. . . a great scene, as unexpected as it is funny and poignant.
I confess, you’ll find Post-it’s peeking out of the pages of many of the books in my library. I use them constantly to mark interesting/useful passages. . . so much neater than underlining or highlighting. And since I often share books or pass them along to others, I have left the text pristine for others to read without having to slog through my defacements.
I also use them to sop up messy inspirations that occur in places that make them hard to capture. I keep a pad in my purse and jot things down while waiting for an oil change or in a doctor’s office or even driving down the road. Yes, it’s risky, but I have been known to attach a pad to the center of the steering wheel on long trips and jot down the ideas that leak out of my brain.
I even use them to plot books. Somewhere after the introduction of a book, I sit down with a stack of larger Post-it pads (the 4×4’s) and start jotting down scenes and actions I want to include. . . stream of consciousness style. Just let it all flow. And in a later session, I lay them all out around me and start putting them up on a blank wall in various orders that may or may not make sense. I arrange and rearrange and see where gaps occur. . . I brainstorm to fill the gaps with. . . you guessed it. . . more Post-it notes filled with ideas. As the story is written, I take Post-its off the wall when each idea or scene is completed. By the end of the book, I have a blank wall again!
Lately, space is at a premium, so all of the notes get transferred (in order, of course) to a cardboard display board from Staples. Which I leave against the wall in my study and consult regularly. Sticky notes still get torn off when the scene or action is written.
Then there are the usual grocery lists– which I stick to my purse or the car dash or the buggy handle. And reminders and “to do” lists. I have even stuck one to the dog and sent him to my sig other with a message! Okay, admittedly I’m a little obsessed with office supplies. . . always have been. There’s just something about pads of paper and new pens and folders and desk gadgets. . .
Now, of course, the patents have run out and there are lots of “repositional notes” on the market now. All shapes and sizes and colors. Some with funny sayings. . . my sister got me a pad some years ago that says “Eat, Drink, and Re-marry.” Post-it humor. You gotta love it.
What about you? Do you love Post-it Notes as much as I do? How do you use them? Do they help in your writing/reading? I’m giving away a package of my favorite Post-it’s to a commenter. . . so you writers, get it there and post a note!