Monday, October 4, 2010

A lifetime of journalling

Warning:  The following post is an extremely long and technical post about the specifics of journals and notebooks.  If you're the kind of person who will be put into an irreversible stupor by nerdy rambling, it is wise that you desist from reading.  If you are Rebecca Norfor or someone of the same ilk, read on and share your views!




Since I was twelve, I've kept a personal diary, one that you literally write in by hand.  Many people have told me that they find it difficult to keep up the practise of a maintaining a diary and so abandon all efforts eventually.

I don't know about that, while I certainly don't write in mine every day, when things happen or I want to sit down and take stock of my life, I feel like I have to sit down and go back to the medium most comfortable to me.  I think the secret to maintaining a diary is not to force it or to feel like you have to write every day or about every little thing, but simply write when it moves you and accept that there will be big gaps in between.

I have gaps of up to three months in mine, but as long as I come back to it eventually, the habit continues.  I've used up about twelve books or so over my lifetime, and I tend to change books every time something drastic happens in my life or I move somewhere new.

This brings me to the second part of diary keeping that I enjoy, and the reason why I've never taken my diary online - notebooks.

This quote from Notebookism sums it up perfectly: "We all share a pleasant affliction - the urge to create on paper.  The smell of smooth creamy paper sends our hearts aflutter. The delicate tinkling of nib against inkwell accelerates our pulse rate. We stare endlessly at the first blank page."



In some weird, nerdy, fetishist way, I have a massive obsession for notebooks.  I love them to bits and I love them thick, with thin space between the lines on good, heavy paper and I love them most just before I crack them open and start writing on them.

My whole life has been one long search for the perfect notebook.  I've gone through thick ones, thin ones, spiral bound, thread bound, hard cover, soft cover, huge, desk sized books that don't travel well, tiny books that are hard to hold open but which I can put in my handbag.  For a time, I even started writing on loose sheets of paper in the hope that binding them into a file myself would be the best solution.

Nothing really worked until my mother brought me home my first Moleskine.  The Moleskine is one of those books that has a heap of PR fluff about Ernest Hemingway and Chatwin and whoever using the books but I didn't know any of that.

I just ripped off the soft plastic wrapping and found a beautiful black book underneath with cream paper, tight lines in an unobtrusive, light colour and a binding that lay perfectly flat meaning that there was no danger of breaking the spine, and I fell in love.  I still use Moleskines to this day. 

For a long time, I didn't realise that there were people out there who were as obsessed with notebooks as I am, until one day, looking around online I stumbled upon a whole host of websites specialising in reviewing notebooks and rating them for their usage, such as Black Cover and Spiritual Evolution of the Bean (my current favourite).

(For some reason, on the Net, there seems to be an overwhelming love-hate relationship with Moleskines because they are so bloody expensive (one in Singapore will cost you about $30) and because people feel that they are of inferior quality compared to journals like the Ciak and the Cartesio and the Stifflexible.  Yet, everyone who has favourably reviewed any of these other brands has still, at one point or another, coveted and owned many Moleskines, hence my use of the term love-hate.

Personally, while I have never used any of the other brands, I had the chance to hold the Ciak in my hands just a few days ago and while I was impressed with the overall quality and design of the book, I'm still not sure it is any better than any of my Moleskines.  I probably won't be able to comment on the Ciak until I have actually used one.  Also, I have never actually paid full price for any of the Moleskines I own, which is probably why I don't yet feel cheated.)

Although I have used Moleskines most often, I have tried many other books over the course of my journal keeping lifetime.  Of particular note, the massive A4 sized Agatha Ruiz de la Prade notebook which was so big I couldn't bring it anywhere, and more recently, a BEAUTIFUL blank notebook with the Sacre Coeur on it, a birthday present last year from Sook and Hanshen and which I have made some of my favourite doodles in.


This was my first ever journal, a cheap $2 book from the school bookshop.  I personalised it and loved it, but because it didn't lie flat, the binding broke down in no time.


This is my current journal, a 365-page journal that has a page a day format so that you can document every day in a special year in your life.  I'm using for the preparation for and my upcoming school year so that I can document the entire process.

To be honest, I sometimes forget to write everyday, but no matter, either I can put in quick notes and drawings about what happened that day OR I use two days' pages to document one day's happenings if they deserve the space.

I'm also extremely obsessive about the materials I use to write in my notebooks.  The main pens I use are either black or blue, extremely fine nibbed and must be waterproof (training from writing in the rain as a journalist).  Everything else has to be multiple colours, if you see what I mean.


Dhany recently bought me this adorable pencil case for school (I know right, I'm like five years old) and while I'm not a fan of Hello Kitty, I absolutely love how she was drawn here.  Also, she is wearing my specs!


Apart from my coloured pens and markers, I have three craft punches (snowflake, a leaf, a strawberry), a mechanical pencil and a special note from a long time ago.

I have two green, yellow and black markers because those are the colours I use the most.

When I'm schooling, I always have on me my diary, my organiser and my pencil case. 

So, sorry about that extremely long blather, but that's basically the history of my journaling over a lifetime.  I've finally settled on fine nibbed, waterproof pens because they make my writing the most coherent and settled on bound books because loose leaves were just too confusing and spiral bound ones are extremely inconvenient for left-handers.

I know there are many many notebook addicts floating around out there, so if you are one of them, I would LOVE to hear from you!

So tell me:

What notebooks do you currently use?  What do you use them for?  What do you look for in a notebook and have you found the perfect one?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

i like moleskines too!!
i like boring looking notebooks bcos of the promise of something more exciting inside.

-kate kokolicious

Samantha said...

I'm currently using a plain black moleskin and a dark brown, 0.38 uniball pen (like the ones you have in your photo) to write down my thoughts! I write mostly on planes (13-hour flight to warwick is no joke) and when travelling! (:

Ps. Which flat are you in!

Anonymous said...

Oooh I adore multi-colour pen/markers! All my notes have to be written in multi colours. Plus I like multi-colour highlighters too. (fellow colleagues think i'm weird. boohoo).

The one that I'm using now is not ideal a lil big to carry around (A4 sized) my fren bought it for me but I love the perfectly spaced lines in them (i only like notebooks with lines in them and they have to be well spaced, squishy lines drive me nutty) It's by design lab, artbox n is made in korea.

I use it for work - mainly during meetings, discussions with colleagues, workshops, talks etc.

i like those A5 notebooks with nice lines and a unique pretty cover on it so it's easy to carry around and no one takes my notebook by accident. i haven't found the perfect one so I keep changing my notebooks and usually can't remember what i've just used. moleskine is a tip i shall keep in mind thanks for tt!:)

-urbanjade-

Shoe said...

Ooh Kate that's an interesting way of looking at it, I love pretty covers and stuff, but you're right that when I see the black cover of a moleskine I get excited because it could be ANYTHING inside!

Sam - That uniball is the shit, isn't it?! Have you arrived?! Or are you flying today? And hello, do you think I'm going to tell you which flat on a public forum where people can stalk me?! Hahaha I will PM you!

Shoe said...

I don't think you're weird, Urbanjade!!! I LOVE artbox, I die over artbox organisers... What is the point of using something drab that's going to make you feel sad at work?!

Ahhh you don't like squishy lines... do you like paperchase, then? Cos their lines are pretty far apart, I used to use their thick fat notebooks once upon a time!

You can always try the moleskine, though the lines are kinda squishy if you don't like squishy and they are expensive!

Anonymous said...

awww thankew for not thinking i'm weird :) really? lol i actually didn't even know the notebook was artbox until you asked the qns on the blog and I went to search for it on the notebook. haha suaku i am. totally agree no point in drab to make ya sad at work. ooh paperchase n moleskine are on the list i shall check 'em out. thanks babe! :)
-urbanjade-

beckles said...

OMG. I have a million things to say. Most ironic of which is that my pen-case and marker-case consist of exactly those pens; the almighty Uniball and the wonderous ZIG Clean Colour (some of which are still the original ones I bought from the IJ bookshop, probably with you or Mel!).

So for the other 999, 999 things I want to say, I shall write an entire post for it. Will share the link once it's up.

*hugs* Such identical stationery kinship is hard to find.

Shoe said...

*hugs back* And didn't I know it!!!

Please do share the link and I will add it here!! Miss you much!!

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