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:
- My notebook isn’t pretty enough.
- My notebook is too chaotic. It’s slowing my workflow.
- My notebook doesn’t contain the right kind of content.
- If I put in more important information, my notebook would be more helpful to me.
- 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!
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