Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Notebook Dilemma

The Dilemma
I'm coming to the end of yet another notebook, and right now, I've got no clue of where to go next. My current choice is the one you see to the left--softcover Miquelrius, squared pages. It's taken a beating over the past 9 months and still looks good. But choosing a new notebook is always tough. Here's what I've got in my current stock. I'd love any opinions.

The Classic
This is the notebook I started out with, or nearly so--my first was smaller. But the Moleskine. As we all know, it's...
The legendary notebook of Chatwin and Hemingway.
Course, that may mean something, or it may not. My first notebook when I decided to be a "writer" was a little Moleskine that took me a  year to fill up. Now, I've gotten faster, but also, more abusive. My last Moleskine was falling apart by the time i got done with it, and that's a major disadvantage. I'm tough on my books, and how long they last is a major determination. That said, the Moleskine is a classic, full of history for me, full of a lot of good times.

The Royal
I found these notebooks a long while ago in my university bookstore, and fell in love with the pretty colors and softness of the leather. They're a limited edition put out by the Victoria and Albert Museum, and are luxurious. Soft calfskin, thick, smooth paper with tiny lines, they're nearly perfect. Not to mention they smell absolutely lovely.

But I feel bad for disrespecting them this way, by dragging the book around everywhere and it getting beat up and nasty. Last time I had one of these was one of the toughest times in my life, but at the same time, one of the good times.

The New Kid
 The Miquelrius was the surprise to me. The mini version I bought 4 years ago finally died when it got washed, but until then, it looked amazing and was holding up great. Because of that, I decided to try out the big version, squared, and I liked it. The lines were small, the gridding was nice a lot of the time, and it has more pages in a smaller package than the typical Moleskine.

But, there's the smell. A polysomething smell that doesn't go away--it doesn't smell like good paper or any of the things we love. It can handle the beating that being in my bag entails, but lately, I haven't felt super inspired to write lately--and make that's just me. These past 9 months, they've been very up and down. Now, I know that notebooks don't determine how things go, but...

The Slight Disappointment 
This is the Paperblank. Taller than a pocket Moleskine, narrower than the Miquelrius, it's a nice size. The paper isn't bad, but the cover has a way of doing strange things as it gets used.
The last one of these corresponds with what I guess I could call my hell year, when things weren't so good, so do I take that into account? Or do I give this book another chance? 

The Unexpected?
I have two beautiful handmade leather journals that I got from M in a trade--she got dishes I made. They're beautiful and smell of the most divine oiled leather. Do I use them?

Final Thoughts...
Writing this, I came to a realization, one that kind of makes me wonder... how does a notebook play into our lives? Does using one or the other have any effect on how things go, or are they just along for the ride; a correlation, not causation?


  1. Thing is, I think I might be going back to the Moleskine. Just feel drawn there, to the shiny black one sitting in my bookcase. Maybe it's just the tradition calling me, or the memories of really great times that comes with them. Whatever it is, it's interesting.

  2. I just bought "Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks" which illuminates the evolution of her stories from daily occurances to bestselling novels... It makes me think about the seven journals I've filled in the last three years.

    How does a notebook play into our lives? If you're using it right, it IS your life, edited down for future reference, trimmed of useless details, and often mentally processed into something that makes sense.

    Choose wisely your next notebook.

  3. Unless you write with fountain pens (or pen&ink), try a Rite-in-the-Rain journal.
    The paper is water-resistant, so you'd do best with pencil or ballpoint. The price of the hardcovered ("Fabrikoid") journals is worth it. These are about as indestructible as a notebook gets (and they're made in USA).

    For wet-ink media, try a Clairefontaine journal.

  4. @MT: It's true, how it chronicles everything. Mine contain not only musings, but my precís, a few sentence summary of nearly every day in the past year. Granted, lately, I've been filling them in a week at a time, but it is an amazing thing to look back... at how the small, mundane of events have the greatest impact, and the things you were so worried about at the time turn out to be insignificant.

    @Speculator: I do love my fountain pens for daily use, so, unfortunately, Rite-in-the-Rain is out for that. That said, I am a huge fan of them. I keep one close for those times when inspiration strikes at what some consider a most inopportune time due to the amount of water all around. They're perfect--and you're right--indestructable.
    I would love to find a Clairefontaine, but I've actually never seen them around here... this might be an excuse to go looking. :)

  5. If you're already got a Moleskine waiting in the wings, and you're drawn to it...I'd say go for it! There are a lot of things I like about them, especially the sleek feel and the way they open *totally* flat.

    My main quibbles with them are the price and the way a lot of their paper handles (or doesn't handle) fountain pen. So for the moment, I'm really liking the Leuchtturm1917s. Shop Writer's Bloc carries them, but I imagine there are others. They are much more ink friendly. That said, the covers aren't quite so hard or so sleek feeling, and they don't quite open as flat.

    What I really want to try someday is a Rhodia webnotebook. Moleskine style with a grippy rubbery cover and really awesome paper? Whoa. But they're spendy.

  6. @LFP: I've seen the Leuchtturms at my college bookstore, but I've always just thought they were some sort of moleskine knockoff... no?

    And yes, I love the Rhodia paper. I have one of the little block notebooks and wow.

  7. Here's a good source for Clairefontaine:


    Clairefontaine also produces the Rhodia paper, and their paper is a higher grade than Moleskine's.
    (Moleskine's best, in my experience, is their "sketch" grade paper. It feels like a thin Bristol-board stock, and is ideal for fountain pens.)