Manuscripts don't burn

On writing, without typing

Going to try something new for just today, don’t worry, the transcript is below the page scans :).


I’ve been writing a lot more in notebooks lately. I always have this vague, existential fear that I am not writing enough things that or not on the computer, and that one day, at the end of my life, I will have nothing to show for my work other than a bunch of Tweets (Twitter will no longer be around, having been ultimately cancelled in 2025 after it was tried for war crimes in the Hague, having started World War 3 because of a misinterpreted Jonas brothers tweet.)

Why do I think this? Because I can no longer find all the digital things I’ve created before, starting with a comic parodying Star Wars (“Car Doors”) that I created on some proprietary Windows software when I was 11, all the way up to my undergraduate Honors thesis on Russia’s oil industry, lost as a PDF, on a flash drive somewhere.

I’m more careful these days - I back up everything to AWS’s Glacier service, but still.

Manual is better.

And, as one of my favorite writers, Mikhail Bulgakov wrote in Master and Margarita, “Manuscripts don’t burn.”

What has remained for me? All my old paper diaries and notebooks. Dead trees, as I’ve seen, last.

This was only confirmed recently by two books I read, “Мой отец, Корней Чуковский” “My Father, Kornei Chukovsky” by Lidya Chukovskaya and “Записные книги”, “Notebooks” by Ilya Ilf.

Both were extremely prominent Soviet writers who did their thinking in private first (as did Bulgakov and probably everyone of their era), and reading their thoughts, intimate, jotted notes and ideas somehow feels more well-thought out, more intimate, less subject to algorithms.

So, I’ve been trying to do more notebook reflections. First, of course, I’m writing down what my kids do and say.

It’s an annoying process. As soon as one of them does something, I jot it down in my Notes app on my iPhone, and then copy it over manually into another notebook. it’s not ideal.

But, there is something comforting and permanent about writing on paper that I’d like to do more of it. And, also on paper, you can’t start a war because of a tweet (yet.)

What I’ve been reading lately:

  1. How to stop doomscrolling, I deleted Twitter off my phone after reading this

  2. The pandemic is changing office friendships

  3. Thinking of a cybersecurity career? Read this

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    The Author:
    I’m a machine learning engineer. Most of my free time is spent wrangling a preschooler and a baby, reading, and writing bad tweets. Find out more here or follow me on Twitter.