I love my notebooks, and while I do have a fondness for the simplicity of a Moleskine, the price doesn’t always justify the functionality. I have to admit every now and then, I buy nice leather bound notebooks that I ‘save’ for when I have an amazing idea for a new book, or when I wish to journal a particular event. However, as a writer, a functional notebook is more useful than one that has a stylish cover, and while people expect to see Moleskines all the time, they’re great for making notes when you’re traveling but at the desk, you need something more practical.
A good notebook to me has the following:
- Margins ~ Necessary for editing, and those last minute thoughts. A full margin to me is when a great idea just got better.
- Sturdy paper ~ I don’t like paper that is too thick (paper cuts), but it can’t be too thin that my ink goes through or creates indents from my writing.
- Lined ~ Not too narrow for obvious reasons.
- Spiral bound ~ I used to hate these but are in fact very useful when you need a notebook to lie flat doing research, or when you are sitting outside making notes. If you’re not not sure why that is, sit outside on a windy day and make notes and you’ll discover why.
- Inside and outside back covers that you can write on ~ Great for scribbling that idea, but you don’t know where to put it and need somewhere that will be easy to find.
- 150 sheets is ideal ~ Small notebooks get filled up too quickly, and ones that are too large are too heavy to carry around with you.
The best ones that fit the bill are actually from the dollar store, and I stocked up on them in case they run out. Having pockets can help, but generally I put a paperclip on the binding and use that to clip any stray notes, or I use sticky notes and keep them on the inside covers. It’s not a deal breaker for me.
Back to the importance of notebooks, and why you do need to keep them in some kind of order. Recently I decided to rewrite a few chapters to accommodate some additional characters and found a chapter where I had used some ancient text, but had written it in modern English first and then translated it. That was three years ago. At the time I kept those notes, and thought about writing out a translation for it, but thought I would remember it. Well, I remember fragments, but what was my intent? While some may argue making notes online is easier to find and to store, that’s only if you put the keywords in the header.
Anyhow, I found the notes and some additional material I had originally dismissed that I now am considering including. Making physical notes is much easier to read, because you can see your thought process and in my case with arrows all over the place, the crossing out of words, and circling of phrases with question marks. This is something you can’t replicate if you write directly on a computer. I’m grateful I’m such a hoarder and even on my laptop, if I delete something I have to triple check before it’s gone.
Always, always make notes and write down your thoughts too behind them especially if you are developing a character, because you’ll never know when you may need them. Never throw notes or notebooks away either, and I now keep them in plastic folders just for safety as well (floods). I learned this lesson after my childhood room, full of boxes of my old notes were destroyed as my parents had a slow leak in the washing machine next to my bedroom. You can never be too careful, and while my parents were very sorry (the leak had been there for nearly a year and had been spreading) it doesn’t make up for all the lost items that can never be replaced. I love my notebooks, and the thrill of opening a new one and writing in it for the first time. I really don’t think you can have too many, can you?