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The notebook maven

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The notebook maven photo

I did a dangerous thing this week. I had an hour to kill before meeting up with a friend, so I wandered into the Blick art supply store on State. Trust me, guys: it’s a miracle that I made it out at all.

Sometimes we find ourselves drawn to collecting things we will not use. It’s why office supply stores and hardware stores and college bookstores are so irresistibly fascinating: there are all these things that Might Be Useful Someday. If we have Item X at home, we will always be prepared for that shining moment when we will accomplish art/home improvement/baking elaborate desserts/pet grooming/something not related to surfing the internet or watching TV. It’s potential in bite-sized incentives.

I’ve got a few vices in this regard. Art supplies are certainly one of them: I have a giant pile of unopened paints and unused measuring tools in a corner in my dining room. This week, however, I fed another habit. I bought blank notebooks.

These are not just any blank notebooks. They’re made of bamboo paper. They’re narrow ruled. The manufacturer donates 2% of sales to literacy and creative writing programs for kids. In their own words, writing is “good for your mind in the same way that riding a bike is good for your legs” – so it’s almost like I’m exercising too! I have truly great plans for these notebooks. One of them is going to house extensive notes and revisions for a novel I completed as part of NaNoWriMo one year. The other is going to help me draft a totally separate project that may be a novel or it may be a short story collection. This is in addition to other notebooks I have devoted to a WWII-inspired novella, an online venture that I’ve just started, a sketchbook for a drawing challenge I’m doing with two other friends and… you know what, trust me, you don’t want to know how many notebooks I have at home and in storage. I am a notebook maven, as my mom might say.

It’s a childhood thing. I always wanted notebooks when I was little. Diaries and sketchbooks and places to write stories in and school planners and address books and even pads of paper whose sole purpose was for me to cut them up and make things with. (Thank you, Rhodia: you remain perfect even now.) Notebooks became the default gift for me when people didn’t know what else I might want. You could do anything with notebooks. And once I realized you could have a notebook for each project you had devised, oh well. There went my allowance money.

One of the great things about the internet is bringing together communities of people who wouldn’t have necessarily found each other in other ways. For instance, I am a little addicted to Notebook Stories, a blog devoted not just to personalized pages and incredible art within notebooks, but to collections of notebooks themselves. People show off their notebooks in forums and journaling sites all over. Just do a search on Etsy for “moleskine” or “notebook” and you’ll see how fiercely people are devoted to personalizing where they put their pens (and other art supplies).

Why, you ask, would I want more notebooks? Isn’t there a danger of too much of a good thing? In this week’s case, not at all. Blick very kindly also provided me with a brand new Sharpie, some self-adhesive photo-corners and a stack of postcards, and I have plans for the covers.

Of course, it’s all very well and good to have plans for the covers. It’s great to have a notebook for each project. They’re a great impetus to sit down and fill them up. And having things is all about the potential to use them, right? All the attention I lavish on my notebooks further incentivizes me to use them.

Full notebooks are beautiful things. They’re messy and brimming with ideas and mistakes and awesome surprises. The pages are rumpled, they don’t lie flat, and there are probably tea stains on at least five pages. But… they have sketchbooks at Blick. Big, beautiful, hardbound, unlined sketchbooks. Sketchbooks without anything in them yet. And — hear me out — I just got this idea.

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