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The Internet Made Me Hate My Notebook (But I Fixed It. We’re Good Now.)

2 months ago

1752 words

Longtime Readers know that I have had a love affair with my Moleskine notebook for a really long time. I first encountered Moleskine when I was in graduate school. I was already enchanted by the very fancy and beautiful Coop to begin with, and just happened to stroll past the “journal” section and saw the sleek little notebooks on display. Like the Model T, when Moleskine first came out, they came in one color: Black. Only Black. At least from what I could find. That was fine by me, because Black is beautiful and simplicity is a good thing. I balked at the price. $15?? But… it felt so good in my hand… maybe I was just under the spell of my surroundings… I just had to have it.

The first Moleskine was a journal for my thoughts during my first year in Boston. A straight-up diary, because I knew that my time in graduate school was going to be fleeting and I didn’t want to forget the experience. Entries were mostly catalogs of the differences between Maryland and Massachusetts, with a few musings on concepts learned in classes, or how The Husband (then just The Boyfriend) took up all the closet space because he insisted on hanging up his free t-shirts from undergrad in the closet….

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that my relationship with the Moleskine notebook started very simply. Girl meets simple black notebook and falls in love.

Over the years, as this New England life extended far longer than anticipated and became increasingly complex, my Moleskines became a different sort of diary: the keeper of lists, the reminder of tasks, the holder of ideas both good and bad. Short stories, poems and chapters for ongoing projects were written in my Moleskines. Drafts for blog posts here, thoughts later emailed to friends… they are a long-running record of who I am and how my brain works.

They are messy, they are hilarious, they are sad, they are comforting. They are beautiful little things.

As is the wont of the internet, The Notebook became a thing in 2016 and 2017. The emergence of The Bullet Journal and fun little copycats came out and took over my newsfeeds. Google was like, “Kyra, you like notebooks. Have you thought about these many notebooks?”

And I shrugged and said, “sure, Google. Show me all the notebooks.” And that was, as it always is, a huge mistake.

Top 5 things the internet made me feel about my notebook:

  1. My notebook isn’t pretty enough.
  2. My notebook is too chaotic. It’s slowing my workflow.
  3. My notebook doesn’t contain the right kind of content.
  4. If I put in more important information, my notebook would be more helpful to me.
  5. I should create a digital solution for my analog thinking.

So I tried. I tried to fix all of these problems. I tried to impose an outside order to my chaotic notebook.

By September last year, I hated my notebook and stopped using it.

It sat in my purse, where it loves to be, going stale. I couldn’t even look at it. I’d literally shoulder its burden every time I picked up my purse, carrying it with my out of hopeful habit, but I couldn’t crack it open. It just sucked.

Here are the tings I had to remind myself in order to re-engage my dear, wonderful notebook.

Wabi Sabi is what really makes art. (In other words, I’m no longer here for “pretty”) 

YouTube is full to the brim with video after video of bullet journals with the most elaborate designs. My friends and I made fun of a most ridiculous bullet journal video that was going around on Facebook a little while ago. (I can’t get the video to upload for no reason. 🙁 Check it out if you want or believe me when I say, augh…it’s a lot. Too much.)

You guys… why? I find this to be incredibly inaccessible.

As visually appealing as this might be, and maybe the visuals are what motivate some people, I decided that I can’t even make this a factor in my notebook. I’m not an visual artist, I’m not even really a visual thinker. I’m a writer. Words make me happy.

And let’s talk about words, because it would seem that calligraphy is the new thing that supposedly separates the cream from the rest of us.

I have terrible handwriting. I always have. I probably always will. Here’s the thing, though: I can read it. No one else needs to.

I guess the big thing I had to ask myself was, Who is this notebook for? When I answered, definitively, that it’s for me, I liberated myself from all that other stuff in that video.

Chaos does indeed require order. But “chaos” and “order” are in the eye of the beholder. 

What I do respect about the Bullet Journal is that it can impose some much needed order into what can be a chaotic space. Task lists especially, as days go sideways and stuff meant to be done this week gets pushed into the next, can become big jumbled messes. The Bullet Journal method keeps the short view and the long view in order quite nicely. And while fans will tell you that the Bullet Journal is perfectly customizable to your individual needs, I will simply say that I tried to dress it up and strip it down, but the act of imposing order onto my chaos was frustrating.

And again, I had to ask myself why I had suddenly decided that what might look like chaos in comparison to some order was actually the sort of order that I could live with. And my notebook is for me. I’m the audience for my notebook.

Content changes. What’s wrong today may well be right tomorrow. 

In search for a “better” notebook system for myself, I encountered The Self Journal and fell hard for it. I never quite got over the price, so I didn’t invest. However, they’d made some of their pages available for view in a PDF form, so I looked it over and decided I really liked it and made a few tweaks that work better for me. What I liked best was the integration of goals, front and center on each page, and the addition of a “gratitude” space, and other ideas. For a whole three months, I diligently used their framework for my own notebook.

But looking back after those three months, I found a lot of wasted pages. There were days that called for longer prose, or more tasks, or less gratitude, or more gratitude… and for the two bits of useful content I was putting into the notebook, I was finding that I was thinking a lot about unuseful content just to fill in the space. The thing about this life of thinking and writing is that what goes into a notebook changes from day to day. Sometimes hour to hour.

What’s important is that your notebook works for you. 

What I get out of my notebook, above all, is the comfort of knowing that it’s there. When I need it, it’s at the ready. For the number I need to write down, the quote that I heard that I cannot let slip away. For the few paragraphs of this novel that came to me on the drive and I need to write them down right now.

Its functionality is not dependent on any other factor than it being present when I need it and it holding the information that I put in it when I need to recall it again. All of the rest of this: the habit stuff, the pretty pictures, the lists of stuff I think I might want to maybe do possibly because an internet person said I should… it’s bullshit. No more of that.

I love the analog and that’s ok. 

I thought I needed an Evernote or some other service in my life to “replace” the paper of my notebook. I actually purchased a Moleskine with “Evernote integration” which was a supremely expensive and pointless pain my ass. It did absolutely nothing for me and I strongly discourage anyone from considering it. Those are the only Moleskines I’ll never buy again.

Studies have shown time and time again that our brains do their best thinking when we are writing down notes and ideas with a physical pen and paper. While I blog straight into my editor, I write in a notebook. I cannot write fiction (well) unless it goes onto paper first and then I transcribe it. This makes for a painfully slow process, for sure, and has been a point of frustration for some people who support me who’d rather I produced faster.

The one drawback to notebooks is that they can be left behind. I’ve lost a notebook before and was totally heartbroken. I worry less about someone reading the contents inside (see what I wrote earlier about my handwriting) than I do about all the precious thoughts never to be revisited. That makes me sad.

But that’s part of the risk. The physical presence of this little book and the act of opening it up and writing down thoughts is what makes my brain sing.

So I got back to it. I started fresh on page one this year. 

The notebook pictured is a new, fun Moleskine Textile, which is basically their classic notebook but with a beautiful fabric cover. They come in all sorts of different types. I love the way it feels to the touch, and I like how it looks when I slip it into my purse pocket (these things matter. Don’t judge!)

Already, shopping lists mingle with funny quotes from the boys during the blizzard. A little list of who we have called to deal with the boiler is in there, along with quoted numbers. Travel dates and task lists share pages with Biblical quotes. It’s a notebook. My notebook. Tried and true.

Have you thought about The Notebook Life but backed away after seeing too many videos? Take a deep breath, remember that your notebook is just for you, and give it a try. I promise, you’ll learn to love it.

Looking for a new notebook to start fresh? Click on the picture or right here to buy a new notebook today!

This is an affiliate link, which means that your purchase helps support my blog at no extra cost to you. Thank you for reading and for your support! 

125 Replies to “The Internet Made Me Hate My Notebook (But I Fixed It. We’re Good Now.)”

    1. I don’t think I’ve ever seen your journal! Now I’ve got questions! I just know it’s probably adorable! You and I should go into business making journal cozies.

    1. Designers keep telling us that the simplest things are the best. Simple design. Simple lines. Simple, quite presence. And that’s Moleskine is to me. It is exactly what it is and it does not seek to be anything more.

    1. Totally down with that. I really firmly believe that everyone should have the thing they love most. As long as it’s there, and its presence is a comfort and a helpful tool… that’s what matters! Thank you for reading and commenting!

  1. This blog post is 100% accurate. I got so worried about my notebook being boring. But then I realisd I put my whole life is put down in my notebook, I forgot how much I loved scrolling through it when I feel down in the dumps, because I could look back and reminisce in all of the good memories. It reminds me that I can get through the hard to get to the good. It keeps me going.

    1. The internet needs to make everything a competition, doesn’t it? It’s designed to make your favorite thing feel woefully inaccurate in record time! It’s nice to come back to the moment of zen: This is a thing that is mine. It doesn’t need to be anything more than what I need it to be.

      So glad you stopped by to read and comment! Thank you!

  2. Analog is great and there’s science behind it saying it helps you be more creative etc. My problem with analog is this, I have a thing where when I write my thoughts down I don’t want to read them again. Sort of like I want to write everything in a blog and come back 5 years from now and read it as if I’m not the same person who wrote it 🙂 If I write my thoughts etc in a notebook I’m then forced to read my thoughts again to transfer them over to a blog. Or worse, I lose my notebook and everything is gone.

    Also I can’t tell you how many times I was on the verge of buying a moleskine just because of it’s simplicity and how good it looks and feels.. and then the price just pulls me back and I feel i won’t use it enough to justify the price. Or even I will be afraid to write every day stuff in it because I will feel it’s too precious :S

    1. I admit that it’s a pretty luxurious price for such a small, simple thing. Yet, I have to say, I get so much use out of it, and I maybe purchase one or, at maximum, two a year… the price sort of falls away. It’s more than a spiral notebook at Office Depot, yes. But it’s still less than other notebooks. It’s also less than an Ipad. 🙂

      Speaking of Ipads, I would love to bridge into digital a little bit when it comes to composing fiction. I salivate over the Ipad Pro with its pen and handwriting recognition software. I think having one would significantly speed up my workflow (I could have the benefit of writing with a real pen on a surface, then the computer could do the transcribing for me instead of me having to go back and type!). Buuuuuuttttt, that’s $700 that I don’t have. Sooooooo my Moleskines are a delightfully (relatively) inexpensive alternative!

      They are precious. But they are wonderful. I highly recommend them. But really, honestly, any notebook for your thinking will do!

      And yes to growing. It’s so embarrassing to look back on old thoughts in the old notebooks! But then again, it’s nice to chart growth and lessons learned. And sometimes it’s nice to see the moments of clarity. Like, “oh man, I’m glad I was smart enough to know that back when I was 22.” or “Jeez, why didn’t I keep that bit of knowledge? Had to learn THAT lesson twice!”

      Anyway, now I’m rambling. Thanks for commenting!

    1. Handwriting… it is the one thing I can’t fix. And yeah, everyone on youtube with the calligraphy and junk… blarg. Makes me so bitter!

  3. I’ve use a new 8.5 x 11 black leather bound Strathmere sketchbook each year and have for 30+ years. It holds my weekly to-do, shopping and menu lists, many sketches and project plans (since I am equally divided between the written and the visual) along with mementos of my year (ticket stubs, pictures, art from my kids, travel memories and the like – basically the ephemera of life). I say don’t conform to anyone’s standards – just keep on with what works for you. I really enjoyed your writing …Moleskin On!

    1. Ooooo, leatherbound. That sounds marvelous. I bet they are beautiful witnesses to your years. What a wonderful resource and gift. I love that so much! I’m really surprised that this post went viral, and now I’m so very pleased to be a member of such a thoughtful community of fellow journal enthusiasts (journalists? I suppose this is the classical definition, yes?). Thank you for reading my little post and leaving me a comment! I appreciate it!

  4. I began with computers when they first came in existence. My first was a Commodore Vic 20, and the first program I wrote was a Journal Program. I used it every once again until I realized that keeping these written thoughts was costing me a whole lot of cassette tapes. Years later, when they invented the floppy disc, I began the project again in earnest. Well… here we are today with no more discs and the cloud hovering over us. Do I have a journal anymore? Nope, and odd thing is it would even make sense to have one.

    Thank You!


    1. I remember the cassette backup days. Father had servers in our house that he would back-up diligently. (Back in the days of Carbon Copy and Corel suites that used to come in boxes as big as encyclopedias! I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Remember when CDROMS used to have to live in those boxes before you put them in the computer? My sister and I were giggling about that recently). Anyway, yes, the cloud and everything makes it all easy and accessible… but not SATISFYING, you know? I think you would find a lot of joy in the physical journal. It’s a really comforting companion. You really don’t HAVE to get a Moleskine (I didn’t get paid to write this post. There is just a little Amazon affiliate link at the bottom… I had absolutely no idea that this post would go viral when I wrote it). Any notebook, even a little composition notebook, would do. 🙂 Good luck! Thank you for reading this little post and commenting!

  5. I love this. While I may get inspiration from the pretty-bullet-journal videos on YouTube, I have to remind myself that my journal is for ME. If making it artistic and visually pleasing brings ME joy, then great! But those pretty pages should never stop me from pouring my messy thoughts onto the pages in sloppy, fast handwriting. That’s what my journal has always been for, and the day it stops serving that purpose is the day that something has to change.

    1. Yes! Exactly! I think that the pretty pages are lovely. I just worry that it gets overwhelming. Those pretty examples start to look like they are the norm rather than the exception. I want people to feel like having a journal is an accessible thing. It doesn’t HAVE to be pretty. It just has to be YOURS. 🙂

      So glad you stopped by my post today. I’m really surprised by the response! I hope you’ll come back in the future!

  6. I’ve gone through this exact same predicament so many times! I get overwhelmed with the amount of choices for notebooks these days, and I have ended up buying a dozen expensive bulletjournals, guided agendas etc., instead of just sticking to the basics of what has always worked for me: a Moleskine!

    I always remember growing up my mother scribbling in non-descript dollar-store notebooks, with zero regard for aesthetics. What mattered was what was on the inside.

    And although I’ve evolved somewhat to purchase a higher-quality notebook for my analog word vomits, the decision fatigue and constraints of up-keeping a “beautiful” and “hip” notebook, feels like additional pressure on my already busy life.

    Great post – I’m glad I’m not the only one rebelling!

    1. Love love love. I am starting to think that the cycle is normal! One must wander, seeing all the alternatives, in order to return to home with fresh eyes, realizing they wanted what they had all along. 🙂

      “Decision fatigue” is such a wonderful phrase for this. Isn’t that the current internet in a nutshell? An embarrassment of riches. Too many choices! (But Lord, don’t take them away, please!) It’s nice to return to the basic simplicity of blank pages and personal thoughts. I’m glad this post resonated with you!

      I am overwhelmed by the response to this post! I’m so glad that you found my little blog. I hope you will visit again soon!

  7. Thanks for this wonderful post on your journal and how you went away from it and then back it. Isn’t it wonderful to discover what works best for us after all? I have a few thoughts from reading along with you. First, I love Moleskin, and can get excited for writing just by looking at them. Second, I love that your journal is chaotic… I associate chaos like that with a very creative and brilliant mind–I’m sure you have both, from what it sounds like. Also, I love that your journal sounds like a sweet and realistic snapshot of your life–time with your boys, shopping lists, snow, verses, boiler maintenance, and more. This is what life is about–this is how you can remember all the great memories of the day to day. Also, and finally, I have just started a notebook to track all my blogging ideas–I look forward to having a space where I can dream, doodle, sketch and write down words and ideas. Good luck to you and thanks for posting, I am now following along with you!

    1. Welcome, welcome, welcome! I can’t believe how far reaching this little rant about notebooks has become. It’s overwhelming! I’m so grateful that you are here, though! Thank you fro visiting!

      Yes to the snapshot. Yes to TANGIBLE memories. I love the idea of life held in hand, made real and ready for reference. It’s a precious, wonderful thing.

      Congratulations on your notebook. I loooooove the fresh notebook. May it serve you well!

      And welcome again! When the wave of new visitors subsides here, I’ll be sure to visit your blog as well!

  8. 100% This!!
    I am a visual artist, and a visual thinker, but I’m also a writer. Once the pressure to make my private notebooks AND sketchbooks “prettier” for someone else (adding to that, the idea of anyone else reading my raw thoughts and seeing my unrefined sketches nauseates me with fear. So why do I feel this brand new pressure to make them nice for someone else?) was too much pressure and really made me lose my nerve for keeping up my notebook/sketchbook. And that’s really disappointing because I can’t work without appropriately planning it out first. And more importantly, it was so gratifying to watch that work progress. “Pretty” journaling killed it dead.

    1. And “pretty” means different things to different people, too! Right? Your pretty isn’t someone else’s pretty. But guess what? It’s YOUR notebook! That’s the best part! There is no need for democratization of the notebook. The notebook is your personal kingdom of glorious, wonderful thought (and planning).

      I hope that you fall back in love with your sketchbook. I have such a respect and fondness for visual artists (my sister is one). I am so grateful that you all choose, through the raw power of your spirit and manifestation through your hands, hearts and eyes, to make the world a more beautiful place for us all.

  9. I came across the Bullet Journal method sometime in the last year or so and also watched lots of videos and read blogs about people making gorgeous layouts with artwork and calligraphy and oh my goodness beautiful but extremely time consuming. I tried some of them but found it really didn’t suit either my life or my basic daily processes. I am retired, I rarely have appointments to schedule or blogs to keep track of or long range projects to wrangle. I am a list maker by nature (Virgo moon) so the part I found the most useful was the legend of symbols. Funny thing is, I recently came across some old notebooks and found I was pretty much doing the Bullet Journal thing years ago anyway, before it ever became a “thing”. Just common sense to me I guess. I do like the Leuchtturm 1917 dot grid notebooks best, I prefer the Moleskin for sketching as the paper is heavier and I keep a pile of art journals going as well. Enjoyed your post.

    1. You aren’t the person who I’ve encountered who has said they were doing the Bullet Journal thing long before it was trendy! I guess good ideas emerge no matter what. 🙂

      I want so badly to like those dot grids, but I can’t resist the temptation to make my letters small enough to fit in the boxes, and then I get frustrated because my handwriting cannot be contained! It WON’T be contained! I’m so glad that you have notebooks that work for you!

      I really didn’t mean for this little post to go viral. I guess I struck a nerve. I’m grateful that you’ve found my post. Thank you for visiting and commenting!

  10. I’m the same way! I tried bullet journaling and hated it, and started hating the notebook. Now i have a notebook just for my writing, which is complete chaos and a hot mess, and I’m starting one for blogging (hopefully) with ideas. I’ve maybe even thinking about a THIRD notebook where I actually WRITE the posts or whatever I’m writing then to transfer at some point, but I’m not sure about that 🙂

    1. But I also have an issue with that books can’t be too pretty…they have to be plain and bland so I don’t feel bad about scribbling all in it. So all my “idea” books have to be plan and the third notebook i might use will probably be a composition notebook

      1. I hope you’ll write about your notebook system on your blog. I’d love to visit your space and see how it all works out for you! When this post calms down a little bit, I’ll follow you and check it out!

    2. You know, I have a notebook for work (I am a copywriter) and then I have a notebook for everything else. I tried to have a color-coated notebook system and what ended up happening was my “main” notebook, which is always with me, ended up just getting everything anyway. That being said, I hope your system works for you. The point is that the system just works!

      I really can’t believe how much this post has resonated with people. Of all the posts, I really can’t believe THIS one went viral. I’m so glad that you’ve found my little blog and I hope you visit again in the future!

    1. Grazie per aver visitato il mio blog. Non sono italiano e sto utilizzando Google Translate, quindi spero che questo si traduca correttamente. Hai ragione, internet DOVREBBE essere un buon momento. 🙂 A volte prendiamo le cose troppo lontano. Hai una cultura giornalistica in Italia? Mi piacerebbe saperne di più! Sono così grato che tu abbia trovato il mio blog e che tu abbia avuto il tempo di leggerlo e commentare. Sono solo contento che tu mi abbia scritto e che io possa scrivere di nuovo nella tua lingua. Internet è fantastico sotto alcuni aspetti. 🙂 Proverò a visitare il tuo gruppo Facebook e vedere la tua community. Nel frattempo, sono così felice che ti sei fermato e spero che visiterai nuovamente il mio blog in futuro!

  11. I was given a Moleskine as a present but it’s so expensive I’m too scared to use it for my stupid work scribblings… so it’s sat there gathering dust while I carry on filling £2 notebooks with stuff I’m thinking about at work. Amazing the way we fetishise things like stationery.

    1. It’s true. 🙂 I guess there is something about the blank page that holds a mystique. Then again, an empty notebook is a sad one! I hope you’ll choose to open it up and get started! Your words are worthy of it, I promise.

      Moleskines are expensive. They really are. But they are also well made. I’ve never had one fall apart on me and I take mine everywhere and shove them into everything. The paper, also, is just… delicious. So you are getting what you’re paying for. It’s a luxury, but they aren’t gouging.

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by! I hope you’ll visit my blog again in the future!

  12. If you’re up for something intellectual, consider Barney Glaser’s book “Memoing: A Vital Grounded Theory Procedure”. I stumbled upon it through a physics professor’s personal musing on physics — basically it is this… write it down, lose the attachment to the form and just get your pre-conscious thoughts down. Avoid the habitual wanting to describe, it’s the concept that is more important than preconceptions about how the words should fit on the page, how they should be organized, how they should be classified.

    Write it. All of it, no matter when, no matter where. Your life will, no joke, reveal the biases and serendipitous experience of it all. Here’s a PhD telling other PhD’s that all of your experience will reveal insights around what you are studying or considering. If a well respected PhD that teaches other PhD students can do this, so can we.

    Liberate your writing from form and function… go beyond dualistic preconceptions and discover the quantum world. Interference patterns and more.

    I saw this and want to share these thoughts… I have since stopped to write on any surface closest to where I am (within reason). I then take these memos and sort them into piles based on classification, but here’s the kicker — you can resort them depending on what you want to study. The same memos, the same thoughts… new classifications. New poetry, new ideas.

    We are the next big thing, and we hold the photography plate of Schrodinger’s Box in our very hands. It’s not Twitter, it’s not Facebook — it’s not LinkedIn, not Text Messaging — it’s words. These little stereotyping devices that we, our nervous systems brought about for metabolic efficiency to navigate a world in all its splendor.

    Stop and write it, as I stopped at the most efficient place to write this. Not for me, not for you — but out of respect for billions of years of the work of all of this to result in me meeting you…

    In this vastness of space.

    Thank you.

    1. I love these thoughts. What an interesting concept. I like the idea of writing thoughts as they come, doing away with form and function. I only object to writing on anything within reach. Little bits of paper get lost. I know this from experience!

      I some ways, when notebook is not easily accessible, I do this very thing. I will just find a small piece of paper and a writing apparatus and write it down. The thing is keeping the precious thought on that precious paper long enough to then GET IT INTO THE NOTEBOOK. Lord, that can be hard sometimes!

      I think it’s interesting that a chain of notes/thoughts written as they come can then reveal a pattern of biases in thought and mind. I’ve never thought about studying myself in such a lens through my notes. I think I’ll try to do that on a yearly basis. What, exactly, is my mind attracted to.

      Space is vast indeed. And yet, so very intimate.
      Especially when we, ourselves, hold the vastness of the universe within the confines of our own hearts, minds and bodies.
      And we write it, the vastness of space, with the particles lent from the Big Bang itself, into every single baby born into this world.
      So we are vast.
      And we are, indeed, intimate. And small.
      And whole.

      I’m grateful that you came to read this little post, and that you chose to share these thoughts with me. I hope you’ll come back to visit again soon.

  13. “The one drawback to notebooks is that they can be left behind. I’ve lost a notebook before and was totally heartbroken. I worry less about someone reading the contents inside (see what I wrote earlier about my handwriting) than I do about all the precious thoughts never to be revisited. That makes me sad.

    But that’s part of the risk. The physical presence of this little book and the act of opening it up and writing down thoughts is what makes my brain sing.”

    This gave me the impression that a notebook is close to a very intimate friend of yours. Forgive me if I’m being too invasive, but I thought that this seemed important to say. I also say that I’m most convinced by this part of your post. That and:

    “Liberate your writing from form and function… go beyond dualistic preconceptions and discover the quantum world. Interference patterns and more.”

    Thank you. I felt as if my notebook was a piece of junk too once.

    1. It’s true. My notebook has become a friend of mine. There is an intimacy there.

      It’s the perfect storm of who I am: my Millennial proclivities, my introverted nature, my acute disconnection from home… to have an ever-present, never judging, place where I can set my thoughts down is a special sort of thing. Because of this, my notebook is a part of me. It is an object, yet it is an extension of myself.

      I know that this isn’t how everyone feels about their notebook. Indeed, it may not always be healthy. And yet, here I am. This is a thing that has set in for me.

      I’m so glad that you stopped to read this post and to write. Thank you for stopping by!

  14. It’s so wonderful that I have found others that are going through this same phenomenon. I started using Moleskines back in, I think as early as 2000 something.

    And it seems like every two years maybe three years I go through this journal crisis. Where I might be using a small pocket-size notebook, and then I’m like no this is too small I need something larger, then I switch to the extra large journal, and then it’s right back to medium-sized, and I’ve even tried the biggest Moleskine notebook / sketchbook you can buy.

    But just within the last few months I’ve discovered that of all the sizes, I prefer the extra large soft cover lined Moleskine notebook. Even though it’s lined (I mean, I prefer lines because I’m a writer), I have learned to sketch more to make things that I’ve written about slightly more visual so that I can pick it out if I need to go back for any reason.

    I’ve even gone as far as trying to begin the most daunting task I’ve ever tried doing – to collect every single journal entry I’ve done outside of a Moleskine notebook, and then put them all into a Moleskine notebook. Has anyone tried this before?

    Thanks K.C. for this post! I feel so much lighter.


    1. That sounds like quite the project! I’ve taken to cutting and pasting outside thoughts into my notebook from time to time, rather than write them in. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

      I love your blog. I visited it yesterday and I’m just so excited to read more of your musings. I’m so glad that you stopped by here so that I can go visit there from time to time. Thank you for visiting and sharing your thoughts. I hope you’ll choose to visit again soon.

      1. Well thank you so much Casey for looking at my blog and responding and loving it LOL. Let me ask you though, since we don’t know each other from Adam, I think it will hurt less… Do you find my writing boring? Because it’s a huge self-doubt issue and a steam issue that I have Dash I don’t want to be boring. And I’m working on a couple more blogs I really wanted to post last night and today but they were extremely long-winded and I have to figure out a way to edit them down.

        1. Nope. Not boring. But your hesitation is evident. I say let your voice ring full and true. Self-editing is important for sure, but strength of voice really matters. Especially in these early posts of your blog, I strongly suggest being authentically you and making sure that your voice is as clear as possible. You’ll thank yourself later, time and again.

          1. You are probably sensing what you call hesitation as me being less of myself? I definitely need to be me in my posts and that hesitation comes from, I don’t know, pretending to be more professional about it, which in turn is probably coming across as fake. Is that what you mean? In trying to keep it clean, I mean, if you were to read one of my journals I just spell it all over those pages, and so I sure don’t want to offend anyone. And I also may have a problem. I may not have found my voice yet.

  15. I enjoy writing into, the same way I enjoy reading from – A BOOK. No matter how many pretty illustrations, amazing graphics and what not goes into the electronic form, It still makes me uncomfortable. Nothing like the comfort of a book!

    1. I waffle about my love for ebooks vs. regular books. I do, indeed, love the tangle nature of flipping through the pages of a book. I also love to write in the books that I read. Then again, before we finally bought a house, we would move and it felt like half the moving truck would be our heavy, heavy books! After move 3 here in Massachusetts, we decided we’d get rid of the books that weren’t essential to us. It was quite liberating!

      Buuuuuuuuuuut, the boys don’t have ereaders. All books are for their little hands to explore, to hold, to cozy up to. I don’t know when I’d switch them over to digital reading. Certainly not now while they are just getting started.

      So I agree with you. The book is so comforting. But books take up space and they aren’t always easy to haul around. So much love, though. It’s hard to let go. Perhaps I never will.

  16. So, I “do” notebooks. But I mostly rely on them for the cleansing of the writing chakras – a place to stretch and jog in place before the “real” writing happens (‘really,’ i ask myself, ‘what’s that?’). I love writing in notebooks. The accessibility, my friend, *is* paramount. But the problem I have is indeed the chaos – I have no idea how to recall or find that one idea I had amidst the sea of scribbles that laps up against the cities of hoveled paragraphs.

    1. Hmmm… perhaps some simple page numbering and note dating would help you a lot. Not too much structure. Just enough that you can go back and recall.
      I’ve been known to index notebooks, reserving 4 pages in the back of the notebook with page numbers. When there is something that I KNOW is important, that I’m going to want to go back to, I go into the index and mark the page with a note. Not all pages are index-worthy, but there always seems to be a critical mass by the time the notebook is over. It takes mere moments to set it up and keep it going. OH! Little stickers or post-its or markers of some kind that stick out the side of the notebook to mark the page might also be helpful, too!

      Maybe? Sometimes, you’ve gotta fiddle to figure it out. 🙂 Good luck!

  17. I relate a lot to the sentiments shared here. In past years I have tried to keep a orderly journal but it never worked out until I let go of any rules. Now I don’t feel bad and I tend to journal more.

  18. Great post!!!!

    I have always wanted a Moleskin…but mine notebook is a write-in-rain. I do some much of my outdoor stuff and I need something that holds up in moisture situations. Also it is priced about the same as Moleskin but I love opening it up and writing things down.

    I had to laugh at your circle of events. Been there myself. I had recently seen a bullet journal in a craft store here in The Netherlands and thought to myself it is scrapbooking in a notebook…duh…why do I need that? I have the small notebook for my purse to capture ideas while I am on the train and my write-in-rain for kayaking. OLD School just like I have always been a book person and not an e-reader.

    Again -wonderful post!!!! You made me smile, laugh and just feel great.

    1. I’ve never heard of a write-in-rain and I want to know what your life’s calling is if you get to spend so much time kayaking. You must have the singular coolest job in the whole entire universe. Or you’ve just taken up a crazy cool hobby. Can I just say–I have such an admiration for The Netherlands. I hope and pray I get the opportunity to visit someday.

      What is a write-in-rain made of? Do you use a special wax pencil to make it work?

      1. I spelled it wrong Rite in the Rain is the name. You can look them up on You can use a pencil or an all weather pen to write with. The paper is wood based and recyclable paper blend that won’t turn to mush when exposed to rain, sweat, oil, mud, or laundry mishap. I first used them when I was in the military. My cool job before my cool retirement. My love of kayaking came as I was working through a divorce. Story Happy 4th on my blog gives some of the background. Landing in The Netherlands was according to my hubby I came to visit him and never left. I hope you can visit someday. Until then feel free to visit and explore The Cedar Journal, I try to post every Monday (still pretty new to this blog community).

  19. This post is so accurate. Just recently, I started looking at the bullet journal videos and was overwhelmed by all the videos out there. The need to be more artistic, more creative and to have a good handwriting was frustrating. At last, I decided to do it in my own way. Just took the ideas about organizing the tasks and trackers from the videos which made my journal look neat than before and now I’m good to go 🙂

    1. That’s awesome! I’m glad you’ve found a system that works for you!
      Yes, the videos and stuff are overwhelming. I am glad that it works for some people. I just don’t want people to think they HAVE to go that route in order to enjoy the satisfaction of keeping a notebook!

      Best of luck with your notebook and system!

  20. I completely agree with everything you said. The Moleskine/Evernote atrocity almost made me hate Molskine though. But, it was because of Evernote’s really horrible integration. If anyone is looking for an awesome import-as-PDF notebook, Rocketbook’s notebooks work beautifully (and they are reusable).

    But, I still mainly use Moleskine. Every issue I had with them, because of the overly-structured way my brain works, was solved with the release of the Moleskine Pro collection. Page numbers and table of contents are everything. Long live Moleskine! 🙂

    1. Rocketbook has shown up in my newsfeed a few times and I am intrigued, but don’t get it. The microwave thing is intriguing, but also odd, to me. Also, I don’t really want my notes to disappear. I want them to stay with me for future reference in the future…

      So my think about the Moleskine/Evernote partnership is that Evernote is sorta horrible. And why would I want to take pictures of all my pages…? It takes so long to do and the pictures never turned out well. I think the IDEA was a good one, but the execution was poor. Because that went so poorly, I’ve never felt the need to purchase the expensive Moleskine+ system with the pen, though I feel like it could improve my workflow as a novelist. I need a better system to take my handwritten words and get them transcribed to the computer. (The Ipad Pro may eventually be my solution to this problem. It’s just… so ungodly expensive…)

      I like the Moleskine Pro collection. I’ve used it for my business side. It’s –too– pro for my “regular” musings, but for my freelancing, it’s what I use.

      1. I don’t use their microwave notebook. They have one that you write on using Frixion pens, and then wipe it off with a damp paper towel afterward. I like it because I can fill up one notebook tons of times. Eventually, hoarding a hundred full Moleskins gets cumbersome 🙂 And their scan to PDF is light years better than Evernote’s.

        I also bought a reMarkable tablet. It’s fantastic for hand writing, but way too out there on the price to be practical.

        1. Whooooaaa! You bought one of those?? Is it worth the price?? I see those in my news feed a lot too, but it’s like, for that money you can get the iPad that had so much more function. Does it really, really work?

          1. It’s really amazing. I have an iPad Pro that I write on sometimes, but it’s like writing on glass and feels weird. The reMarkable feels like paper… and when they cut the price in half, I’ll start singing it’s praises from the mountain tops. Not for the current price though.

          2. Wow. That really gives me pause. I am so intrigued by remarkable, but that price is outrageous. I have coveted the iPad pro, but the price is prohibitive for me. So I guess I’ve been wise to stick with the notebook. Maybe I’ll hold my breath for a cheaper remarkable rather than making the leap for the iPad. I’m not an Apple girl, but I thought maybe that pro would be the solution to my workflow problem (I write fiction longhand and then transcribe it into Word. I do a lot of editing during that transcribing time, but it’s slow regardless).

            I’m so glad you mentioned this!

          3. I write longhand and then type it into Scrivener, and the Pro is good for that, if you don’t mind the nonpaper feel. I write it, then split-screen my handwriting with Scrivener (it would be the same with Word). It’s nice having the writing on the same screen you’re typing on. That’s why I like saving my handwriting as a PDF. Also, in notebooks, I forget which notebook I wrote in. It saves me a lot of cursing when I realize, “Wait. I absolutely KNOW I’ve already written that chapter somewhere.” I’m flighty like that.

  21. I currently struggled with exclusively writing in a notebook instead of on smart phone notes app. I like the convenience of no one pen and phone is usually within reach. There’s still something sacred about writing things down on good old paper. Thoughts?

    1. So I have found that sometimes the phone is just more convenient than the notebook. Specifically when there is a quick grocery list or a McDonalds order or something, you know? I own a Google Pixel and it came with Google Keep, and Google Keep seems to be the perfect, easily little solution to the “quick list” problem I have sometimes. I can also talk into it, which is helpful if I’m driving and need to get a thought out –RIGHT NOW– but can’t stop. You know? (Not recommended in all situations! Don’t get in car accidents and blame it on my, ya’ll!)

      But the notebook is irreplaceable. The phone just isn’t great for long-form thoughts.

  22. This post speaks to me so much!! I have several notebooks I go between because I can’t decide on exactly what I want them for. I always feel pressure to make them prettier, for my handwriting and page layouts to be more appealing. I’m actually very proud of some of the accomplishments with these silly bullet journal layouts I’ve created. However, they end up being so pretty I don’t even want to use them. I’m a visual artist and I love writing, so the idea of a bullet journal really brings me in to think I can combine these two things. I’ve found though that Its much messier in my head than when I try put it on paper (how it’s “supposed” to look) and I internally hate it. I love looking at the imperfect, messy, busy art journals or the journals that you can tell they jumped from one idea to the next exactly as they had done internally. Your story helps me cope with my issues with the same problem, and I look forward to trying to kick the feeling that it has to be pretty and perfect when my brain process is a knotted mess (that actually makes sense to me) I have to remember that my journal is for ME and I’m the only one that needs to really understand the process there for it to help me focus anything. I’ve been trying to build up the courage to blog about my journal and some fitness stuff, and I keep worrying it won’t be pretty enough. Sorry for the ramble Just, thank you for sharing. I needed to read this 🙂

    1. I hope you choose to jump right into your blog and write about what makes you happy! I think that the internet is a better, friendlier place when it’s a little messy, a little knotted. Make the choice to take the leap!

      And best of luck, no matter what you do. But I’m here for the messes. I mean, the world is a crazy hot mess right now, but… I’m here for the innocent messes. Perhaps the bigger mess can’t be resolved until we all, in our own ways, get a little messy and then emerge with our individual answers… resolutions for all the world’s problems. 🙂

      That’s me rambling now.

      Your journal is probably wonderful. Please, please write about it!

  23. I journal in a Moleskin, and I also have a structured (but still ugly) bullet journal. Each bullet journal I have gets closer to being one of those cutesy ones, though. I wish the people that posted the excessive ones also posted about how long it took them to get to that state and still be functional.

    1. Does that system work for you? Do you ever get them confused? Kuddos to you, for sure!
      I tried the multiple-notebook strategy and ended up just getting frustrated. One Notebook To Rule Them All has been my best way to go!

  24. Rather interesting read, very useful for notebook tips and journal writing, I myself am terrible at remembering to write things down in one book such as a notebook! x

    1. I admit that I saw other people using journals and I snubbed my nose at it. But there came a point where life intersected with need quite perfectly, and that’s why I took the chance on it. Perhaps now isn’t the season for it, but there will be another time when it clicks. 🙂

  25. I have no time for bullet journaling! A notebook should be an extension of your mind – that can be messy at times and chaotic at others (mine always look insane, which might be saying something) and there is something so satisfying about pen and paper when laptops bring nothing more than finger cramp! Love your post – thanks for sharing!

    1. Totally agree with you!
      And I find that loving the mess purely for what it is takes discipline!

      Thank YOU for stopping by and reading! I hope you’ll visit again in the future.

  26. l Love this Post . I too am a lover of the Moleskin notebook, and use to carry the miniature ones in my purse. Yes ” Who is this notebook for, Me”. Thank you for Sharing, I am in need of a new Moleskin!

    1. Thank you for stopping by and reading! I am glad that I’m in good company! Who knew there was such a big fanbase for those simple little notebooks??

      Best of luck in your journaling adventures! I hope you will visit my little corner of the web again in the future!

  27. Excellent points! Kudos to you for sticking by something you love that works for you. I’ve kept journals since 2004. Like you, I felt like I was missing out a bit when I saw all of those fancy notebooks, but I realized that being true to my own style mattered more to me than any trend.

    1. I’m very happy to see that I’m not the only person who has gone through a doubt cycle and come through to the other side. It does make me wonder how many people get bogged down and then give up on it. Emerging is certainly a gratifying experience. And what’s funny is that I just know that Bullet Journal and others will fade away (as fads always do), but journaling will always be here. The Journal itself will always be here. I’m glad I remain committed to mine!

  28. This is so true! We’re now living in the world that made us expecting to much from ourselves. Like, we want to have a pretty looking notebook rather than focus on how to use it effectively.

    1. This is true. Comparison to others and the coveting of what others have is so easy to do now adays. Everything is out there. Everything is on display. The desire for instant gratification is extraordinarily intense –all the time–. It’s an incredible existence.

      Perhaps that is yet another allure of keeping a simple notebook. It’s a slow build, pure and simple, intensely intimate and made for the experience of the user. It seems almost too simple, yet that’s what makes it so perfect!

  29. Feeling so fresh & happy to know that there are so many people out there, in this big big world, with the same thought as mine… I thought I was the one and only one to think like this… Going through a steady threesome love-affair with the pen-paper-&-me till st.8th, from my school life… Till now, few days away from them upsets me from within.. I feel totally lost.. till now they keep me grounded.. they keep me thoughtful & kind towards the people around me.. the internet was creating a distance between us.. which was quite a lot… But with time I realised both the ways are to go together now… time changes.. so does our ways.. we have to accept all.. thus a change enters my life.. my new love, which is at hand whenever & wherever I go, for my instant reactions & feelings over the good & not-so-good issues happenning around me… & the other one, my old love, for my time-taking, thoughtful scribbles… my memoirs.. my memories…
    Anyways… Loved going through your post… Cent percent true for me too… all the best for all your good works… keep it up..!!! 👍😊

    1. I am also quite gratified to be in such good company! I wrote my little rant and thought no one would read it, and now I see I’m among very good company! 🙂 I’m so glad that you’ve stopped by! Hope you will visit again!

  30. I love this, completely agree with you where the design part is concerned. I’ve thought about trying a bullet journal/self journal but it all just seems unnecessarily complicated, I love just writing down what pops into my head, not having specific sections for specific things!

    1. I will say that I really like the self-journal’s concept. I like that goals are front and center. I like that gratitude is integrated. I just can’t get around how married you must be to the format. It can’t be helped–some notebooks are meant to be structured, others freeform. I think I could make that concept work if it were in a disk format–I could put in and take out structured pages as necessary for my life. But that’s expensive and maybe not practical. Who knows?

      Anyway, it would seem that we are both in very good company! I am so glad to see there is such a big group of chaotic thinkers like me out there in the world!

  31. Hey, you were on WordPress Discover! I was like, hang on, I know that blog.

    Also: I FEEL YOU. Bullet journals terrify me, to be honest. I can’t do calligraphy because my hands literally don’t work half the time. And I definitely feel what you mean about filling up space with content that wasn’t actually useful, just because you were ‘supposed’ to. I’m glad there’s someone else out there who isn’t a visual thinker and who finds those kinds of layouts as baffling as I do.

    I don’t tend to do much by hand (because, uh, my hands don’t work), but I often feel like I ought to, and then I get tangled up in all these thoughts again. Good to know I’m not alone. I do keep a nightly journal/diary, though, in a small black notebook that looks like a Moleskine but is actually a cheap imitation from WHSmith’s (because I don’t really need a leather cover, it’s not like it ever leaves my bedside table).

    1. yoooooooooooooooo, I’m just as surprised as you are, Miriam! I wrote this rant and hoped that maybe one or two people would maybe read it and maybe click through the affiliate link to help me out, and next thing I know, BOOM, WordPress! Whaaaaaat??

      That thing about “ought” thoughts… I totally understand. It feels like that’s all of life, isn’t it? Thinking about everything we “ought” to be doing. 40% of the time, the “ought” thoughts are productive. The rest of the time… Lord if they don’t lead to a loathing that’s hard to get out of…

      You’re such a wonderful writer, I totally honor your nightstand notebook. I’m sure it’s full of awesome. I’m sorry about your hands. Does that mean that when you’re composing, you’re doing so with talk-to-type software?

      1. For the first couple of years of my hands being rubbish, I dictated most things. I did my exams at the end of school using dictation software, I wrote a bunch of novels with it… Now, I tend to only use it when my hands are bad, and it’s much harder to use when you’re out of practice, so I tend to just try and avoid needing to write on bad pain days! I can type way more than I used to, as long as I have a good ergonomic setup, but handwriting is still a challenge.

        I encounter a lot of “studyspo” blogs which have pictures of people’s beautiful notes and planners and so on (and so many bullet journals). The inadequacy feeling is real. Even when I COULD handwrite notes they were rarely pretty or organised — when I’m working fast my handwriting looks like a drunk spider having a fit! And now I often can’t handwrite anyway, so it’s impossible to fit in with that studyspo vibe. I’ve tried to tell myself it doesn’t matter but… the thoughts creep in. I started using an #honeststudyspo tag on instagram for pictures of my messy desk, disorganised notes, and other, well, honest study pictures. But the inadequacy still creeps in. I think also because I wish I COULD do that. I wish my brain worked like that. I wish my hands were able to do that. I can’t ignore the inadequacy because it’s sort of jealousy too, you know?

        I… apparently have a lot of feelings about this. Maybe I should write a blog post about it instead of essays in your comment section! 😂

        (Also I very rarely check the WordPress home page, as in, once every few months, so it was pure chance I spotted you on there!)

  32. “Wabi Sabi is what really makes art.”

    This is my favorite quote of the day; I tweeted it and shared a link.

    I used to love/hate writing in journals: I loved buying them; I hated writing in them.

    It took me forever to find a book that worked. I joined the Moleskin craze, I tinkered with theme-books–nothing felt right. By the time I started my Masters, I’d become disillusioned by the journal fad. I picked up a $.50 steno from Wal-Mart for drafts and sketched. A couple quarters isn’t much of a commitment. No harm, no foul if I didn’t use it.

    Then I filled it.

    I found that when I stripped the “pretty” from my writing, I got more done. Since, I’ve filled a filing cabinet with full journals.

    Thanks for the post.

    1. I’m a perfectionist in so many ways. I have a very difficult time accepting the wabi sabi of my life, but it’s something I aspire to. Crafting has really helped with that. Mistakes somehow find a way to make something really beautiful. There is just in the mess-ups… if you work at thinking about them. Wabi sabi, I think, is a very thoughtful sort of acceptance for what makes this world messy and beautiful.

      Kudos to you and your return to the notebook. Congratulations for finding the pure core of what makes your writing worth doing. 🙂

      And thank you for stopping by my little blog! I’m glad you enjoyed my post!

  33. I have a notebook that’s a work of art. I’m too scared to muss it up with cross outs and insertions. I used exercise books till I fractured my writing arm. Now I happily use a dictation app. It’s horses for courses, isn’t it?

    1. I’m sorry about your arm. Is it healed now? Did you recover the ability to write with your dominant hand? Which dictation software do you use? I’m so tempted, but I feel like it would actually slow down my workflow rather than speed it up…

      1. Hi KC. It’s taken months to get there. Arm fractured and damaged nerve ending in my right hand. I can hand write, but I like to dictate too. It’s like thinking aloud. Sometimes talking aloud like that clears your mind. I use the iPad dictation app and have a Pages app to record my thoughts on.m🙃 I am dictating this response.

  34. I, too, have used my notebook as another thing about which to berate myself. Is it too organized? Is it not organized enough? Am I a terrible person if I don’t want to add colorful flourishes? If I am, in fact, a colorful flourish hater, what sort of girl am I really?

    Now I buy a notebook, number the pages, write everything, everything in it, and keep track of the pages where the important stuff is (outlines for novel, that thing I wrote that I might want to come back to, that thing someone said in writing group that I’d never considered before).

    It’s a mess, but it’s my mess. And p.s.! Why do we have to have lists for everything? Down with bullet points!

  35. I’ve never owned a Moleskine or any kind of standard notebook, but I use counter books which are basically exercise books for school, because they’re affordable, can contain up to 288 pages, and allow me to write long-form, because that’s how I roll. I also feel like I can’t type anything for my blog or my fiction writing without physically writing it down first.
    I like to use a lot of different mediums to take notes: my Memos app on my phone, Google Docs, the counter book, or even scrap paper from work. Any blank space will do.

    1. Haha, I don’t disagree! But what I’m writing about here is a physical journal, with paper inside. Not a small computer. 😁

  36. I’ve had so many false starts down this path, I’m so glad I read this and you saved me the trouble! How I love my notebooks too and “the act of imposing order onto my chaos was frustrating.” Now that I’m blogging regularly, I do sometimes having trouble going back and finding my ideas in there, but I’m thinking that might easily be solved by a few sticky notes.

  37. Even though this is about journaling, I think this can be applied to many things! We start to overthink things and compare our habits/hobbies to others and end up quitting. I’m glad you started over again!

  38. I know EXACTLY WHAT YOU MEAN. I can’t even tell you how much I’ve thought about this! In the past 5+ years, I have not been able to escape the MASSIVE amount of kitchy, craftsy, diy or art-supply store inspired visual aid to EVERY post online.

    As an artist at heart, I loove stuff like that. Naturally, I seek inspiration! Yet, I don’t know at which point we cross the line of inspiration and move on-to learning the right way. It’s so nice to see that I’m not the only one that needs to come back down from the pinterest enduced mindset: that everything I make needs mod-modge, a free printable and some annoyingly obvious typeface that every blog uses. Haha

    Anyway, this was my first read on your blog and I look forward to your future posts!

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