New (old) notebook day

I have just reached the last page of my previous notebook so rather than crack open a brand spanking new one I’m returning to one that I started using about a year ago but for some reason abandoned in my locker at work. This is a Moleskine ‘cahier’ lined pocket notebook, they are readily available and this format is an ideal pocket size.

I waver between using lined, unlined and dot grid notebooks. Unlined obviously offers the most flexibility, but I typically write short notes rather than drawing stuff and my writing is small enough to comfortably fit within most lines and grid layouts. In the end my main reason for choosing a particular layout is often just wanting a change from whatever I was previously using.

Another factor which can be important to me is the type of paper in a notebook. If I’m in the mood to be using a fountain pen I opt for Clairefontaine notebooks which are also great value for money. Pencil works well on most paper (but not well on the Clairefontaine coated paper!), with the Story Supply Co. paper being particularly good. Moleskine has mediocre quality paper, it is awful for fountain pens, OK for pencil and OK for ballpoint and gel pens.

Because of the middling quality of the Moleskine paper, and mainly because I haven’t been using it much lately, I’m pairing up this notebook with my favourite ballpoint pen. This is a Lamy 2000 multi pen, actually the most expensive pen I own but excellent for carrying around in my pocket. I’ve replaced the Lamy D1 refills with Zebra JSB 0.5 refills in royal blue, black, carmine red and emerald green. The ink in these flows immediately and is nice and smooth to write with. They are not very economical refills because of their small size but for the way I use the pen it is an ideal set up – four colour options, no skipping or false starts and no problems with accidental leaks in my jeans pocket.

 

Another idiosyncrasy of my notebook is that I taped a ‘pencil board’ (shitajiki) inside the front cover to stiffen it a little. This particular one was designed for a larger notebook so has been trimmed a little to fit. It does make writing notes while on the move a bit easier, I forgot I had done this so am glad to have found this notebook again.

Disadvantages of always carrying a notebook

For at least the last five years I have carried a small notebook in my back pocket, a habit I highly recommend. I very seldom use my iPhone to capture short notes, anything I want to remember goes into my notebook.

However, I’ve discovered a few downsides to always having that notebook in my back pocket:

notebook pocket

I always keep my notebook in the same pocket, with the result that over time it has worn a hole in that pocket of my jeans. I would have thought my phone would have worn a hole, but I must carry the notebook around more than the phone.

This last weekend I was working in our back yard and got a bit wet at one point, with resulting damage to my previously pristine notebook:

sad-notebook

It dried out OK so I’m continuing to use it. And the advantage of having used pencil in this notebook is that there were no issues with ink running.

Perhaps I will find more downsides to pocket notebooks as the years go by, but compared to the headaches I’ve had with smartphones over the same time span, old fashioned paper and pencil is remarkably robust.

My current notebook

This is a bit of a geeky post. I thought I would start keeping tabs on the notebooks and writing sticks I use. I already have reasonably strong preferences in what I like to write on and with, but over time it could be interesting to see what I actually use most as opposed to what I think I like to use. My guess is that non-aesthetic factors such as price and availability could play a bigger role than I presently account for.

The notebook currently in my back pocket is from Story Supply Co. It is one from a pack of three that I ordered from the US in 2016 when I was placing an order for a few other items. I’ve already used one of them and found it a good notebook with nice paper for pencil (hence the pencil in the photo).

story-supply-notebook
Pocket Staple Notebook by Story Supply Co.

The pencil I’m using is a General’s Cedar Pointe HB (or #2 for Americans). It actually seems a bit soft for an HB but is an OK pencil. I like the natural wood finish and the eraser on the end is handy when carrying it around in my pocket. Because the point wears down reasonably quickly (and I prefer a sharp point), I often also have a small brass bullet sharpener in my pocket too. The plastic pencil cap is by Tombow and keeps the lead point from snapping off while doubling as a pencil extender by sticking it on the eraser end when I’m using the pencil. Another centimetre or so and I will retire this pencil to use in my bullet pencil.

ssc-pencil

Note: These notebook posts won’t be particularly frequent as I take a while to get through each notebook (from 3 months to almost a year in some cases).

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Current notebook

This is the notebook I have been carrying around for most of this year. It is by Clairefontaine, made in France. With high quality paper for fountain pen use it has been a really good notebook to use, the paper is smooth and takes ink well without smudging. Initially I was worried that it might take too long for ink to dry for quick notes, but I find that by the time I’ve written something and capped my pen the ink is dry so have had no issues. There are 48 sheets of paper in this book (i.e., 96 pages) so it lasts a long time – hence the beaten up appearance of this notebook. I bought this notebook from the University Bookshop in Dunedin for less than $5.

clairefontaine-preppy

The pen is a Platinum Preppy extra fine nib. For a cheap plastic fountain pen I think these are fantastic value and really nice to write with. You can buy these in NZ for just under $10 which makes them excellent for carrying around because even if it were to get dropped and broken or lost the loss is not catastrophic. I’ve had this particular pen for two years now and often carry it around in my pocket. There have been no leaks, it always starts well without skipping, and writes nicely. I’m cheap and refill the empty cartridges from a bottle of ink, so it’s economical writing.


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2 Essential blogging tools

In my blogging I routinely use two tools which the experts seldom mention.

There is much discussion about the need to have quality content on a blog for it to attract people to read it, so where does that content come from? Short of simply repeating what others say (a.k.a. plagiarism) or using a wizard (why have a blog if you can’t write??), blog content comes out of your head, and unless you happen to have Dumbledore’s penseive you need a reliable way to get that stuff from your head to your blog.

My best ideas usually occur someplace other than where you can immediately do something about them. Therefore they need to be ‘captured’ – i.e., written down! I find that simply carrying a pocket notebook and pen with me results in the luxury of being able to choose which of my ideas to write about rather than struggling to remember what those ideas were.

For this capture process you need a small notebook and pen. Allow yourself permission to cross-out, scrawl messily, doodle and tear pages out – this will be a scruffy notebook because you cart it everywhere and are just scribbling down rough ideas.

The next step towards a blog post that does not resemble keyboard vomit is to take one of those ideas and work it into sentences and paragraphs (OK then, and lists, if you must). For this I also prefer to use pen and paper because it is quicker to access (no startup time), helps me see the flow of thought best and it is easier to concentrate on writing without gadgetry to distract me. Only once I’m happy with what I’ve written on paper do I type it into WordPress and add formatting, hyperlinks, images, headings, tags and category metadata (often I indicate on my paper version what formatting or tags are required).

Then comes editing to fix all the typos and etc. I know some folks don’t edit posts after publishing them, and it shows! Others care about the quality of their writing and take time to fix errors.

In summary, two essential tools for good blog writing are; a notebook and a pen. Any sort of  notebook or pen will do but in case you are weirdly interested, here’s what I’m currently using:

  1. Pen; Uni Lacnok – I like these as they are cheap and don’t clog so write reliably.
  2. Capture notebook; Moleskine pocket cahier journal, small and inconspicuous but nice to write in.
  3. Writing notebook; my old Moleskine 2008/2009 weekly diary/notebook, still has unused pages so I’m filling it up.