Tuesday, 10 July 2012

What does your notebook say about you?

I've found it fascinating to read all the comments written in response to a recent article in 'The Guardian' newspaper 'The joy of Moleskine notebooks'.  Despite never having experienced the aforementioned joy first hand, it's nevertheless been interesting to get people's views on the subject, and on the subject of putting pen to paper in its most literal sense.  Firstly, it's great that in this digital age, so many people are still using paper, and more importantly, are passionate about it.  What came across overwhelmingly in the comments were the strict requirements, expected by so many, of the ideal notebook: nice to hold, the correct weight of paper, the right level of 'roughness' in the paper, etc. etc.  But aside from the practicality of these requirements, it was interesting to note the importance people attach to these notebooks as objects of desire, desperate to cultivate the right image.  The image that sticks in my mind was of the office meeting where every identically dressed person pulled out an identical Moleskine notebook.  I found this aspect a little depressing, although not entirely unexpected.  Although constructed in the same way, all the notebooks I make are completely individual, and it would be nice to think that people choose a notebook which reflected their individual personality, especially when what is often written in a notebook or journal tends to be incredibly personal and individual.  If not the content, then certainly the writing is as individual as we are.  I suppose that's why the idea of so many people slavishly using these - dare I say it, rather dull - mass produced notebooks is a little depressing to me.  My motivations as a bookbinder is the love of books as tactile objects, and the desire to produce well-crafted, handmade products.  And finally, the cover designs, each one completely individual.

I have used all manner of notebooks - from my own individually designed ones to cheap spiral bound recycled paper ones.  It tends to depend what I'm using them for at the time.  I have several from Paperblanks, chosen for their beautiful covers, but I have yet to sample the delights of the Moleskine.  Possibly because they seem to me just a little...well...dull?  (Sorry Moleskine lovers!).  I like quality paper as much as the next person, but I suppose I also like the idea of the notebook as more than just a functional workhorse.

Which brings me to another of the points raised in the original discussion: the fear of putting pen to paper in such a beautiful object.  Many people seemed to share this fear, as though 'nice' notebooks should be saved for special occasions.  I can relate to this, but I still believe that notebooks are there to be used, and it's a shame to leave them sitting in a drawer when they could be written in, handled and adored.

Ultimately, notebooks exist to be written in, and our choices as to what we use to write in are as individual as we are.  It's nice when the notebook we use matches a set of our chosen criteria, whether we want the notebook to help us look fashionable, intelligent or nerdy, or is just something that is pleasant to write in.  But it's always an added bonus when what we write in looks good too, don't you think?

Further info:
Moleskine  http://www.moleskine.com/
Notebook Stories: a Blog about Notebooks, Journals, Moleskines, Blank Books, Sketchbooks, Diaries  and More  http://www.notebookstories.com/
Paperblanks:  http://www.paperblanks.com/uk/en/