I have a somewhat unnatural, although not very surprising, obsession with notebooks. And while it is perfectly natural for a person who calls herself a writer to be interested in notebooks and their various properties, it isn’t natural for her to spend a great amount of time thinking about, and writing about, her notebooks. But I do. What can I say?
Currently, I am using notebooks by Clairefontaine. Clairefontaine is the only notebook maker that I know of that makes their own paper. In fact, they’re more of a paper manufacturer who has branched out into making notebooks. Lovely notebooks, to be sure. But the paper. Oh my god, the paper. I could sleep on this paper, it’s so soft. Which is a plus if you’re like me and you spend a lot of time writing in your notebook, and with inferior paper, the side of your hand that rubs along the paper as you write gets all red and shiny and annoyed. This does not happen with Clairefontaine paper. I’m using these notebooks for my journal right now:
I’m actually not a big fan of wire-bound notebooks, but these are too pretty. They have plastic covers in which real dried flowers are embedded. This is a bad picture, actually. I have them in many different colors and designs and I have a hard time picking which to use next. That’s because I’m a fucking whack-job.
I use these notebooks for working on my novel:
They’re very plain and have these black cardboard covers and cloth binding. They’re kinda like those composition notebooks you used to have to buy for English class in high school, only they cost six times as much. It’s the paper, though, I tell you! The paper! I can use any kind of ink, for god’s sake I could probably use a fucking Sharpie marker and the ink wouldn’t leak through to the other side. Which is the problem I had, and the ONLY problem I had with these:
I absolutely love the Moleskine notebook, and I’ve been using them for YEARS. They are, purportedly, the notebook of Hemingway and a bunch of other artsy-types. I bought my first one, a little pocket-sized one, at the Architecture Museum store in Chicago. They have these sturdy covers, so you can write on them anywhere and not have the notebook flopping around all over the place. They have a built-in bookmark ribbon to mark your place (because it seems to be oh-so-difficult to find the last place you wrote and the next blank page), and a handy pocket in the back for assorted scraps of crap. I had been using them for a while before I went back to grad school, and no one was using them then. I felt quite special. I have ten of the larger size on a table behind me, all completely filled with writing. But then the damn school bookstore started carrying them and now everyone has one. I can’t have that. And besides, the paper allows ink to leak through, which is a problem for me. So, with only one remaining of several that I’d ordered online, I’ve switched over to the Clairefontaine with the pretty flowers in the covers. The wire binding isn’t working for me, however, and something must be done.
The notebook I use for taking notes in class is this, also by Clairefontaine:
It has very hard covers, which makes it easier to take notes in the semi-circle, where we are not allowed to use the stupid flip-up desktop thing. And the multi-colored page edges make it easy for me to separate my classes, of which I only have two. I use the other two sections for writing nasty things about some of my classmates who annoy me.
If I could find a Moleskine notebook made with Clairefontaine paper, my life would be complete. I know, it sounds crazy, but it’s true.
For my daily to-do lists, I use this notebook, by Miquelrius:
Only, mine’s black and it is a 6, not a 4, meaning it has six sections of differently-colored edged paper instead of 4. I bought it on a whim and didn’t know what to do with it. It’s not as sturdily-bound as my big Clairefontaine notebook, so it’s useless for school notes, plus it’s smaller, maybe 4×6 or so. Maybe 5×8. I don’t know and I don’t feel like getting a ruler. The paper is nearly as nice as Clairefontaine paper, actually it really is equally soft and lovely. Each page has a block at the top in which I can write the date or a title or whatever, and along the side of the paper is the Miquelrius logo, and inexplicably, at the bottom of the page, is the words NOTE BOOK. Just in case I’d forgotten what the hell it was I was writing in. It’s also made in Spain, which means it’s cooler than other things not made in Spain. I use it for my daily to-do lists and my assignment lists because I didn’t know what the hell else to do with it. It has perforated pages, which rules out using it as a journal. I don’t want the option of removing an entry from my journal. I like, however, the option of removing a to-do list from a notebook once I’ve either completed or given up on ever completing all of the tasks in a list. If I find some other use for it, I can stop using it as a to-do list notebook and start using it for whatever the hell I’ve thought of.
Actually, I’m thinking that Miquelrius might make their own paper, too. But I don’t feel like checking into it.
Today, FedEx brought me this: (I told you, I have a problem)
It’s a Circa notebook by Levenger (www.levenger.com). My mother turned me on to these, and while I would never use it as a journal, because the pages are easily removable, it is very handy as a means of organizing my life. The paper is lovely, 60 lb. stuff, and it has a blank space on the left side for little scribbles or extra notes or what have you, two nice boxes at the top for a title and the date:
The nice thing about this notebook is that the paper is removable and put-back-in-able. Meaning, if you take some notes, and then you decide that note belongs in another section, or you go and try to organize your notes for some specific purpose I can’t think of right now, you can pull them out and then put them in another section. If the paper wears out, you spend a lot of money on some Levenger paper reinforcements. If you have a bunch of stuff, like, say, a syllabus or some handouts, that you would like to be part of your notebook, you spend $60+ on the Levenger Circa Notebook hole punch (which I’ll be requesting for Christmas). It’s customizable and reusable and I haven’t yet fully grasped how I’m going to use it. My current plan is to have different sections for the writing class I’ll be teaching on Saturdays to teenagers, the college kids I’ll be tutoring, the high school kid I’m going to tutor, the 5th grade class I’ll be teaching as part of my teaching class, and the writing classes I teach to 4th-8th graders on Saturdays and Sundays. Well, only Sundays this semester, as I’ve got this teenager thing going. (I’ll talk more about that in the coming weeks, it’s gonna be brutal and amazing all at the same time). I may keep a section of notes for the little mini-articles I’m going to write for the online college magazine. I don’t know yet. I think it would be perfect to keep track of research. I’ve got a book in the beginning phases concerning a hotel down in Florida that I love (or loved, it was torn down years ago), and have a lot of research to do for it. I guess I’ll just have to get another Levenger notebook for all that! Or, just use this one and use something else for all my teaching notes. I don’t know. It’s a quandary. One thing I like about the Levenger notebook is that it’s like a paper version of Microsoft OneNote, a program I have come to depend on, especially when doing research on the internet. Occasionally, my hand cramps from writing so much, and I feel like typing instead, so I journal in OneNote.
Ever on the hunt for perfection, I’ve decided to order some of these Miquelruis notebooks:
I’m not sure how it will go. I hesitate to order a notebook off the internet if I haven’t seen it with my own eyes and felt it with my hands. These have a leather-look plastic cover. I like the color options. I got bored with Moleskine’s black, and was always on the hunt for a colored Moleskine.
I may also order some of these, also Miquelrius:
They have a Moleskine look, but are called Flexible Notebooks. I can’t tell from the description if Flexible refers to the cover (which it does, I assume) or the fact that the notebook can be flexible in use. It also comes in red.
Now that I’ve ordered them, I realize it was a mistake. A mistake because I still have several pages left in my current journal, and two blank notebooks remaining, waiting to be filled.
And, I’m beginning to be concerned that this change in notebook choice is going to wreak havoc on my bookshelf. Whereas, at the moment, or at least until I pulled them all off the shelf to read through them, all of my filled Moleskine notebooks lined up neatly on the shelf and looked very, well, neat. Now I’m going to have all kinds of weird white wire bindings sticking out, and some strange red pleatherette stuff. I don’t know what I’m going to do.
Alright, I admit it. I need help.
At least I’ve posted! Finally!
I ordered two of the Ciak notebooks recommended by Thomas in the comments of this post. They’re very pretty. I have a small, pocket-sized one that can, literally, fit in my pocket, that I’ve decided to use for quick thoughts and story/essay ideas. I also got a larger one I’m using for a journal. Thomas claims that they are cheaper than Moleskines, but he’s in Athens. These notebooks come from Italy, so of course they’re cheaper for him. They cost around $6-8 more than a comparably sized Moleskine here in the states. Which is fucking ridiculous, particularly considering how fast I usually race through a notebook. The cover is most definitely leather, and comes in many different colors. I was forced by virtue of having no other choice to order the versions that come with colored-paper sections. At first, I was annoyed by this, but, particularly in the case of the small one I’m using for quick thoughts and story/essay ideas, it will help me to organize. One colored section for quick thoughts or observations, one for essay ideas, one for fiction story ideas, one for phone numbers of the unbelievable number of random, almost pathetically attractive men who come up to me on the street begging me to allow them to be my love slaves (kidding, really!), one for, say, things I see that I want to investigate further later when I get home and can get to the internet, one section for drunken, illegible thoughts, whatever. There’s 8 sections in the pocket-sized. I’ll figure out something to use them for. The big one also has different colored paper sections, 9 of them, which is weird, because there’s the same number of pages per book-200. I think.
Anyway, I love the look and feel of the books. I love the elastic band that holds them closed horizontally rather than vertically, like the Moleskine. I don’t have a particular love for the paper, which is a bit stiff. Every color has a different feel to it, which may be due to processing and coloring. If I can get the cream-colored paper version in a realistic time-frame, I’ll probably order some. They do NOT open flat, however, which is my favorite thing about the Moleskine.
Okay, so, a challenge to notebook manufacturers out there: Create for me a leather-bound notebook available in a variety of colors, for around $14-16, with cream-colored paper lined with black lines, the paper being soft and pliable, yet durable and thick, through which NO PEN will leak. The notebook must open flat like a Moleskine, and have stiff covers so that I can write anywhere, i.e., sitting on a park bench or the floor, or a comfortable chair, or an uncomfortable chair in class, in which I’m not allowed to use the fold-away desktop but rather only my lap, bench in the lock-up of the local county jail, etc. Said notebook must also have, in the back and maybe also in the front, a pocket, in which I can keep scraps of paper and lists of ideas that can travel from notebook to next empty notebook, etc. What else do I want? I don’t know.
All this constant perusing and searching for notebooks has also led me on a new pen chase. I’m wondering if perhaps I need to give a fountain pen a try. I’m wondering if they have medication for this. I’m gratified to learn that I’m not the only wacko on the planet to devote such an inordinate amount of time to notebooks and pens. So much time, that if you measured the time I spend thinking and writing about notebooks and pens and compared it to the amount of time I spend writing about other things, working on my thesis/novel, writing essays, assignments for class, etc., you’d wonder just exactly how crazy I am.
Okay, enough already.
And thanks, Thomas, for coming back to update me on the fountain-pen-in-the-Ciak issue.