There was a time I got by on one notebook, more or less, if we leave any study aside. I had a diary for my journal and that is it. Journal keeping is popular these days and there are sites which advise you on all sorts of journals you can have.
I started writing a journal more than 20 years ago, long before it was a popular tag on Pinterest and I have them all going back to then. Not currently organised the way I’d like, but there you have it. I’d like to say most of them are in Clairefontaine threadwound notebooks, but this is probably not quite true at the moment. I have not always been able to get Clairefontaine paper, so I estimate – wildly – that about half of them are in Clairefontaine threadwound notebooks, a few are in Paperblanks, and a few are in other random nice notebooks I’ve picked up over the last few years. Picking up nice notebooks was something I did, because I could only get the Clairefontaine threadwounds when I was in a civilised country that sells them, ie, France or Belgium. In fact, I don’t think I saw them the last time I was in Belgium but I wasn’t looking too hard.
You can get Clairefontaine notebooks, lined mainly, in Easons on O’Connell Street. You used to be able to get it in Swords as well. You can get some Clairefontaine notebooks in the Pen Corner. They also have Rhodia notebooks which are owned by the same outfit. I wouldn’t be telling you this if there wasn’t a reason I liked Clairefontaine, and, to some lesser extent, Rhodia. It’s really nice paper to write on – satin, pretty much, and unlike most other papers on the market, it will take a fountain pen without moaning. I have a pen habit which means I have a lot of good pens and about 2 thirds of the good pens are fountain pens of some description. The notebook I am currently using for my diary is not, however, a Clairefontaine threadwound grid notebook. It is a PaPaYa Art notebook, very much designed to be used as a journal by arty people. Every second page is lined. Every second page is blank. I draw (we’ll come to that in a second too) although my journal has generally been 99.99% text. Hand written. Using various pens, be they fountain pens, expensive ballpoint pens, or various other gel and fibre pens I’ve accumulated over the years.
The PaPaYa Art notebook is a hardback notebook, and it is gorgeous. It is called Day Dreaming. It’s the second one of their notebooks that I’ve bought and it will be the last for two reasons, one practical, one personal. I haven’t seen them anywhere lately – I bought the two I have in the Pen Corner – and secondly, the paper in this notebook bleeds through fountain pen ink. It’s basically unusable with a fountain pen. While I have a lot of beautiful ball point pens and am happy to use them for this one notebook, the fact remains that I expect my notebooks to be able to take slightly wet pens, ie, gel pens and especially medium nib Lamy fountain pens. This doesn’t cut it. I’m not going to moan, because to some extent, it’s just a notebook. I will take it out and re-read it in ten years time and think, Oh My God, was I really like that?
But the notebooks in my life are not limited to this any more. On my desk, there is a lovely copybook which I got in TK Maxx – it was one of a set of three and frankly it occurs to me i haven’t seen the other two around lately (hmmmm) – and it has near perfect paper in it and it takes fountain pen paper. I keep it so that I can keep a rough eye on what I’ve been achieving administratively. Every other effort I made to keep track of stuff like that, electronically, other diaries, has not been working. So I rolled that out to a separate notebook, which should basically be disposable. There are two workbooks on my desk, I have no idea why there are two because presumably only 1 is useful at any given time. They are born of a habit I built at my last job and they are technically a mix of a to do list, a calculation/working stuff out book, and an achievements list. Basically, if I am working on a technical project at any given time, I write out what it is I need to do, work how how I plan to do it, and sign it off as done. I used that system the whole way through my recent college course as well and it worked a treat.
I have what is called a common place book which is currently turning mostly into Treasa’s book of quotable quotes. It’s nowhere near full and the main reason for that is that actually other stuff I’d still in there like the odd interesting newspaper column and stuff requires glue which I don’t keep on my desk at the moment.
As I use notebooks for any one of the apparently thousand reasons that I use notebooks for, I find that different notebooks work appropriately for different tasks. This is not, I suppose unusual; they are different tools. I know some people rely heavily on small notebooks. I have a bunch of them. I find I don’t like using them. They rarely get finished. For my desk workbooks, I like what Clairefontaine call A4+ notebooks with perforated sheets. They are often difficult to get. For my journals, we know I like the A5ish thread wound 144 sheet notebooks. For both cases I favour gridded paper, something which has historically been very difficult to get in Ireland. The net result is I’m prone to buy lots of both when I see them, and then, because traditionally in Ireland, nice notebooks weren’t that easy to come across, nice notebooks when I see them. There’s a box in my storage room marked notebooks. I went up to it to day because I needed an A4 notebook for some interpreting related stuff. I tend to prefer spiral overbound notebooks for interpreting note taking – that’s a lay out preference which we will skip the details of for the moment. The box is full of notebooks in different sizes. Looking at some of them now, I can see I bought them, not because they were useful to me, but because they were pretty. This is problematic for me now.
One of them can go to a new life as a sketch book when I’ve finished the frankly horrible practice sketch books I got for pencil sketching lately (they weren’t expensive, they aren’t inspiring and blah). Two of them, no idea what I will do with them because they no longer fit any need in my life at all. There’s an array of Paperblanks and Clairefontaines which can go to diary support when I’ve finished the current one. When I say I am good for diaries for at least 4 years I am not joking. Unless I can find an alternative use for the Paperblanks, I’m not going to be using much Clairefontaine for the next few years on that front.
The Paperblanks notebooks are lovely notebooks, but deep down, I’d prefer to be writing the journal in Clairefontaine notebooks. The fact that they are beautiful makes it difficult to use them for some non-permanent purpose though, some throw out purpose. So I’m conflicted about them at the moment. I may work through the Clairefontaines first and decide later. I may wind up buying another 3 or 4 Clairefontaines to have. I don’t know. I can’t at the moment.
I also liked some of the Pantone smaller notebooks, so because I liked those, I picked up a few of them when I could, because supply is unreliable. And when I saw an A4 sized Pantone notebook suitable for designers I picked it up and never realised that it was really lousily lined. It’s not quite nice enough for me to say I would want it for some durable function. It will go to work at some stage, probably next one to be used before I hit the Clairefontaine A4+s and the couple of Rhodia A4+. I have a handful of A5 sized of both Rhodia and Clairefontaine which are more suited to planners or meeting notes so I will set them aside for that purpose.
And then, there are a couple of notebooks designed to be journals which I have no idea what to do with them because they don’t fit my needs as journals.
When I look at the contents of the box, and the contents of my desk, I realise that I really cannot afford to buy any more notebooks until I’ve worked through some of the ones I have hoarded. I hoard these things because in Ireland, decent notebooks can be hard enough to find.
I used to live in Brussels, and while I lived there, everyone in Ireland used to talk about how hard they’d find it to live close to so many chocolate shops. The street I lived on had three handmade chocolate shops alone. I set foot in them the day before I flew home for Christmas only. And this is the point, I think. When you have a steady supply of something essential, you don’t hoard it.
Ireland has improved on the notebook front lately and PaperBlanks are reasonably easily obtainable in any branch of Easons, and most branches of the Art and Hobby Store, for example. They aren’t cheap. Clairefontaine and Rhodia options are limited but exist. My needs aren’t really filled locally but I have enough of a supply at the moment to mean I don’t need notebooks in any sort of an urgent manner. And not only that, when I am buying notebooks in the future, I need to keep an eye on what I plan to use them for and not just the pretty.