An Ode to Notebooks

January 10, 2011

Writers are funny about a lot of things. I know, I know, ideally we should be able to write anytime, anywhere, on anything, and many of us do. Certainly, if I found myself trapped on a deserted island, I would still write on tree bark with charcoal… or just become a better oral storyteller.

However, there’s no denying that writers like their “stuff.” A book-lined home office (we should all be so lucky…). Nice pens. And of course: pretty notebooks.

So beautiful....

I can examine notebooks at stationary stores for hours. Naturally, I usually find one I adore with rabid intensity, and I can always think of a novel or short story the notebook could be used for, and surely I’ve used up the last one I bought….

Yeah, right. Besmirching that first virgin page is harder than you think (one reason a friend of mine adamantly refuses to write on the first page of her notebooks; she starts on the second).

Although the number of empty notebooks lining my shelves is a little embarassing, I notice I’m consistent in the type of notebook I buy. Hardcover, definitely, I can’t stand to have the covers flopping all over the place. I figure your notebook of all things should be stable. Dark lines, widely spaced to accomodate my large, childish scrawl. Honestly, I prefer margins, but I’m starting to become more flexible. I just leave space (creating my own margin) to jot things down later. I love when notebooks have a pocket inside one of the covers: perfect for storing the inevitable stray pages and napkins associated with your project.

A classic, yes, but too small for me.

Notebooks have come a long way. Now they’re practically works of art in their own right, with leather-bound covers, covers with reproductions of famous manuscripts, reproductions of Celtic crosses, archival-quality gilded, ornate bookmarks tucked into the spine… Your choice is no longer just spiral-bound or not, but which of the seemingly thousands of unique-yet-dazzling books do you want to carry around with you for the next few months (in theory, anyway)?

Personally, I use notebooks purely for planning and notes. For the actual writing, computers are without a doubt my tool of choice, for speed, ease of editing, and the fact that typed manuscripts are kind of expected nowadays… That being said, my attachment to notebooks is unshaken. Unlike the official-looking black and white of a computer screen, my atrocious handwriting reminds me that this is all rough. I don’t have to have anything too solid just yet, I mean, it’s not even typed! Having space to scribble over old notes, write inside jokes to myself, or add little sketches and maps is another added bonus.

I love the notebook I used for my novel. I received it as a gift, which is always dicey, because what if the person doesn’t know you like your notebooks hardcover, non-spiral bound, widely spaced, inside cover pocket, attractive yet subtle cover, about 15x22cm, bookmark optional? (It’s worse than an order at Starbucks!)

Fortunately, the notebook I recieved met my preferences exactly. Even if that had not been the case, I would’ve still used it… but come on. Notebooks are important.

Anyone else have specific notebooks they love? Needs that must be met?





  1. I prefer my spiral-bound, but it should have a solid cover. Preferably a blank one, so that I can scribble all over the cover. Once, I found a bunch that were 70 cents! Needless to say, I bought a whole pile of them, and am now trying to fill all of them up. Pockets are really nice too.

  2. I thought that I was the only person out there with this problem. I’m not very picky, and have been buying spiral bound recycled notebooks to reduce my paper footprint. Of course I love beautiful notebooks, but I’m trying to be a better earthling.

  3. Loved this, Arvik. There is something so lovely about a brand new notebook. 🙂

    For journalling, I like spiral bound, lined, top margin, and an inside pocket is a plus.

    For writing projects, I prefer a three ring binder so I can move pages around.

    I’m sending Maggie over here to see this . . . she did a related post recently:

    Writers rock!

  4. This post was amazing. You pretty much took the thoughts right out of my head! 😀

    • Glad you liked it! And glad to hear I’m not the only one… (a sentiment lots of us seem to be echoing! :P)

  5. Oh it is so nice to find other like-minded people. I am always beyond excited to buy new notebooks and pens. Pen aisles I could spend days in and every new notebook has endless possiblities…what will this notebook become…and the first page, oh the first page…it is so daunting and exciting at the same time. I write all my first drafts in notebooks…every story/every project has its own notebook. I don’t think well on the keyboard, but with a pen in my hand and a new shiny notebook…oh I drool just thinking about it.
    It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

    • I do that too! Draft it in a notebook! I love the look of the clean pages before you use a brand new notebook!
      Ooh, gotta go!
      Going shopping for some stationary! 😛 😀

  6. I’m still searching for the perfect one for me. I need one that will survive my back pocket. It must tolerate sweat and water splashes. It needs to be relatively small, but large enough for my writing. I’d like a leather cover. In fact, being able to replace the paper inside a hard leather shell would be a good idea.

    I’ve carried around some kind of notebook for as long as I can remember. (Yup, I was that kind of child. . .) I do understand exactly what you’re talking about.

  7. I finally managed to give up on notebooks a few years ago. I’ve still got dozens of them floating around, mostly half-filled or less, with notes about fantasy worlds or stories. I finally got tired of buying them, or of not being able to find the notebook I wanted quickly enough. I use my computer for everything now, which is much more organized for some reason.


  8. I hate purses. I have a basket that I toss stuff into in the car, and it always has a small notebook. But when at the store I’m often convinced the notebook has disappeared and I buy another. The husband and son look at each other and laugh when one of them asks if there’s anything to write a message down on. I’m not picky about the look but I am picky about how many pages there are. I hate thin ones because I can’t write short stories. Look at my emails! I’ve also discovered book bracelets and love those on my notebooks. Being without blank paper and a pen is like those old nightmares about going to school naked. Horrible to contemplate.

  9. I particularly like to have a tiny notebook in my purse or back pack as I go through my day. My sister gave me one that small and pink with a elastic band that keeps it closed. I absolutely adore it. I need to get a bigger nicer one, and maybe separate notebooks for each story. XD I keep jumbling them all up in one. :$

    • I use separate notebooks for each story… part of the reason why I have so many! 😉

  10. It is great to see that I am not the only one who finds notebooks important ; ) I am really picky about them too – I do prefer mine blank(so I can draw in them too)and with a hard cover. The cover design depends on my mood and the project – I have a tendency to make up “books” on the spot just so I can have the notebook I fell in love with…

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