Finding the Perfect Notebook

FullSizeRender.jpg-1I kept a journal as a teenager. It was one of those tiny ones with the lock that wouldn’t actually keep anyone out. I wrote about the really important stuff that went on with me. And I wrote in it less and less as time went on, stopping sometime in my late teens/ early 20s.

A few years ago, I started keeping a journal again. I had just moved to a new state, was feeling lonely, and was going through a period in my life where I was feeling dissatisfied and couldn’t figure out why. So I grabbed an 8.5 x 11 Mead notebook and started writing things down. I don’t remember if I happened to have it laying around, or if I went out and bought it, but it was a 5 subject notebook with pockets, and it took me seven years to fill it.

When I was done with that one, I tried finding the perfect journal again, but couldn’t find anything that met my specifications. So I ended up getting another Mead notebook, and this time it only took me two years to fill.

Over time, I started using Washi tape, gluing little mementos inside, doodling in the margins. I’ve taken some inspiration from smash books in that sense. The Mead notebook works… but I feel like there’s got to be something better out there. I crave better paper and a nicer cover.

I want something spiral bound (so it folds in half), 8.5 x 11 (or thereabouts) with good paper (doesn’t matter if it’s lined or unlined). I prefer pockets, but it’s not a deal-breaker. I often write with gel pens or fountain pens, so I can’t use a thin paper that bleeds through. I bought a Yoobi notebook for another purpose, and I can only use one side of the page because of bleed-through.

Does anyone out there have notebook/ journal recommendations? If you journal, what do you use?


N is for Notebooks

“I can’t predict how reading habits will change. But I will say that the greatest loss is the paper archive – no more a great stack of manuscripts, letters, and notebooks from a writer’s life, but only a tiny pile of disks, little plastic cookies where once were calligraphic marvels.”
-Paul Theroux

A few of my favorite upcycled journals from Etsy.

A few of my favorite upcycled journals from Etsy.

I confess: I have a bit of a notebook addiction.  I love notebooks, with all those clean pages waiting for me.  An empty notebook has endless possibilities; it seems to symbolize everything I love about writing.

I used to use cheap notebooks and try to keep different notebooks for different things, but I found that I’d forget what was what and I’d jot things down while I was out and about, then forget to put it in the notebook used for that purpose.  Now I try to use just one at a time.  Well, a notebook and a journal, though the notebook turns into a journal at times.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve stopped viewing nicer notebooks as an indulgence.  I may not be making tons of money writing, but that doesn’t make me less of a writer.   And for a writer, a notebook is a tool.  Tools should fit the job being done.  A carpenter wouldn’t use a shabby hammer, bought for cheapness.  He’d probably use a hammer that was well-constructed, that fit his hand, and was made from sturdy materials.  Once I started looking at it that way, I started buying notebooks I actually enjoy.

I love new notebooks, but I also love all things vintage.  Etsy is my personal candy store, and I love searching for upcycled notebooks, make from all kinds of “trash.”  I try not to go on and look at notebooks because I can buy them the way other women buy shoes.  I gave a friend a upcycled notebook once, and she didn’t “get it.”  I later learned that she does not like used things and it would never occur to her to buy from a thrift store.  My husband says he finds them “distracting.”  Personally, I think they have character and help my creativity.

I tried using the “notes” section on my iPhone for this, but it just wasn’t the same.  I don’t feel as creative typing notes into a smartphone as I do using a good pen and writing down my thoughts.  I can doodle.  I can draw lines and arrows, things that don’t work on an iPhone or iPad.  When I sit down to formally write, I definitely prefer a computer.  But for notes, I’ll stick with a notebook.

“Insights don’t usually arrive at my desk, but go into notebooks when I’m on the move. Or half-asleep.”
-Hilary Mantel


U is for Upcycle

This is a very badly done, homemade, upcycled notebook.  At least I tried, right?

This is a very badly done, homemade, upcycled notebook. At least I tried, right?

This is actually one of my favorite words, and less well known than recycle, though they’re related.

When I was in high school art, we were told to take something that would normally be “trash” and make some art out of it.  I didn’t get it, and I made this horrible wind chime out of cut up steel cans.  It was sharp on the edges, and I had to avoid slicing myself open on it.

Basically, upcycling is making useful things out of things that would otherwise be trash.  Pinterest and Etsy are places where I find wonderful upcycled items.  I’ve taken T-shirts with holes, sewed another T-shirt piece behind, cut out a cool pattern like a peace sign or a star, and voila!  I have a perfectly usable T-shirt again.  Or, one of my favorites is upcycled journals out of old hardback books or board games with cut up paper bags and repurposed scrap paper.

While I can’t bring myself to actually destroy old books for craft purposes, I do love things made out of old book pages and covers.  Just a search of “upcycled” on Etsy or Pinterest brings up some of the coolest things.  I love being able to repurpose things.  I get a little thrill when I can make something that would otherwise be trash into something cool and useful.  Of course, that sometimes means that I keep broken things around longer than I should… but I never know when I’ll be able to use that!