In celebration of old, battered, used notebooks

The beginning of a new notebook is a fabulous thing. I think of it as the start of a new adventure. Even if I end up using it just for shopping lists. There’s only one thing better than the first page of a fresh notebook. And that’s the final page of a well-used one.

I’m not going to publicly admit to the number of unused notebooks I have. Or the ones I’ve started and not finished – there are even more of those. So on those rare occasions when I do get to the final page, I feel a massive sense of achievement. Sometimes it’s tinged with sadness, especially if it’s a really pretty notebook. But on the whole satisfaction wins out. And the notebook becomes precious to me however battered and dog-eared it’s become.

Used > new

It took me quite a while to come to the realisation that old and well-used was better than new and untouched. Don’t get me wrong: the brand new notebook is more aesthetically pleasing, but in terms of those that give me a warm fuzzy feeling it’s the ones that show the journey they’ve been on. I suppose it’s sort of like when artists say they prefer to paint portraits of older models because their faces contain more of a narrative. 

Anyhoo. To celebrate #nationalnotebookday I’m giving props to some of my used notebooks. They don’t usually make it on to Insta, but they are very much treasured. 

The one that’s got chunks of my novel in it

This is a fairly recent acquisition from Paperchase in Covent Garden. They’re actually all from Paperchase I’ve realised, but this one you can still get and it comes in a few different designs. If I remember correctly, the cover is hand-made in India. The paper is quite fragile and is disintegrating around the sewn spine and edges. But it’s got a wonderful feel to it and is fairly resilient to scrunching.

I’ve worked out that I’ve written roughly 5,000 words in this notebook. Admittedly a couple of hundred words of this is me copying out the opening lines of Romeo and Juliet. Wish I could remember why! I always write longhand to start and then switch to my computer once I feel I’ve nailed the tone of the scene. I’ve been working on this particular idea for a while now and it’s finally taking shape. To say that this is thanks to the notebook would be a bit of a stretch. But my enthusiasm to start using it and to use it for something where I was writing lots has definitely played a part. I hope I can keep up this sense of momentum for the next set of chapters.

The one from autumn/winter 2014

This one was in my bag for a few months a couple of years back. It was a handy size – big enough to work up a flow, but not too heavy. The school-style aesthetic still appeals to me and the elastic-band to keep it closed. The edges are in a bad way now, dented and torn, and at some point it’s come into contact with a blue biro with no lid.

The pages are filled with lists. Lists of locations of stuff in Ikea, lists of crafty things to buy from Hobbycraft, lists of ideas for Christmas presents for my family. There are recipes, too, some doodles and a sketch of the layout of my front room.

It takes me back to when I moved into my flat and spent hours in search of things to fill it and make it feel like mine. It’s already a touch nostalgic even though it’s not that old. Note to self: why do all the recipes I’ve written seem to involve peppers. Specifically yellow ones.

The one that’s got a bit of everything

I bought a couple of these, the other one is themed around Paris and is still untouched. The inside pages are lovely. Illustrations of black cabs run along the foot of each and in the top right-hand corner of each spread is a stamp with those lines you get from a franking machine.

I dipped in and out of this notebook over a year or so. At one point I was designing a blanket based on liquorice allsorts I remember, which explains the grouped bands of colours. The blanket never got made, but I might revisit it in the future. It’s got the germ of my current novel in it, but also a previous idea I played around with for a while and can’t quite let go as well as some ideas for a dissertation proposal. Again this didn’t go anywhere. 

My reflection is  that this is a notebook that contains lots of half-formed ideas that are yet to be realised. I think I’ll take it out periodically and look back to check in on them. The world definitely needs a novel with a hero called Cuthbert. And a lurid crochet blanket.

Happy #nationalnotebookday

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