Thursday, September 2, 2010

How I Use My Notebooks

I’ve noticed that I have a peculiar character trait when it comes to using notebooks. The notebook itself determines how I will use it. I have some wonderful notebooks with the best paper in the world (Clairefontaine) and I have everything in between down to my Wal-Mart 10¢ Back-to-School notebooks (which are now 15¢ each). And I write almost exclusively in fountain pen.

Wal-Mart’s 10¢ Back-to-School notebooks functioned as my journal for years. I bought them by the case. Some of them I covered in fabric to jazz up their appearance. (I carried an army green messenger bag for a purse and the notebooks fit vertically in the back pocket so I could take it everywhere with me. I loved that bag! When the bag wore out, I reluctantly replaced it with a conventional purse and the notebook stayed home. I’ve been searching for another bag just like the messenger bag, but haven’t found a suitable substitute.)

Then I started using Miquelrius notebooks. The paper takes fountain pens beautifully. I used a full-sized Miquelrius notebook for the entire year of 2009 but as its page count wasn’t equal to the whole year I found myself pasting in extra pages and sometimes writing two days on the same page. I purchased a 400 page (200 sheets) notebook (in a close to A5 size) to use for 2010’s journal with the promise of a glorious unfettered year. Unfortunately, this made the notebook too thick and out of frustration of needing a paperback book of the same thickness to balance my writing hand and wrist to write the last third of the page, I junked the book at the end of June.

At the same time I was winding down with the thick Miquelrius, I was using a 10¢ notebook as my “junk writing” receptacle. While I could only use one side of the page due to the extreme show-through (but not bleed-through) of the fountain pens, I found I was unbothered by WHAT I was writing. I grabbed that notebook when I just needed to write down the internal crap or story snippet that popped into the little grey cells. When I scrapped the thick notebook, I turned to the cheap notebook exclusively until it was finished.

This is when I discovered that my local Target has a few Rhodia products. They are usually well abused while still on display due to the bottom-of-the-display-rack positioning and the large population of small children who roam the store unsupervised by their parents. (Another topic for another post - maybe.) Luckily, I found one in pristine condition.

So, now my current journal is an A4-sized staple-bound Rhodia notebook. It has the best paper in the world. It has 96 pages (48 sheets) of smooth writing surface and its larger format allows for larger thoughts and long stories. But, I struggle with my junk writing. I simply cannot put it in this Rhodia notebook. It doesn’t deserve to be filled with that kind of tripe. My regular tripe is bad enough as it is!

Author Barbara DeMarco-Barrett said in her book Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman's Guide to Igniting the Writer Within:
Earlier I suggested that for freewriting, you might use a cheap notebook so you can let loose and be as wordy and rambling as you like.  Journals are just the opposite.  Journals tend to be for an audience, even if that audience is only you years from now.  You take more care in choosing a journal and tend to be more deliberate with what you write on its pages.  I choose journals I like the look and feel of and that have paper - usually unlined - with an appealing texture.
Therefore, I’ve made the decision to return to my 10¢ notebooks to keep my journal and junk writing together in one place.  I know myself well enough to know that keeping seperate notebooks just doesn't work for me.  And I cannot allow those random comments or descriptions or phrases or overheard remarks to be lost.  Who knows when they will work their way into one of my pieces?

Nevertheless, I won’t stop using the Rhodia or other Clairefontaine paper notebooks. There are some things that I write that must be put on great paper.

Update: 09/28/10  The author of InkyBlots agrees!