My Love Affair with Notebooks

Notebooks

As I sit down to write this, I am looking at the Moleskine Wine Journal I bought earlier today. I am currently taking an “Introduction to Wine Appreciation” class and thought this was a good excuse to buy another notebook (as if I really needed an excuse). I have had a long love affair with notebooks that goes back to the days when I would pick out the perfect spiral notebook for school.

I remember the day when I fell in love with my first Moleskine notebook. It was in the now defunct Borders in Santa Cruz, CA. I was living up there at the time and stopped in the bookstore just to browse. There it was. On one of the display shelves near the bank of cash registers in the middle of the store. I picked up the traditional ruled notebook. It was love at first sight. This was long before Moleskine introduced its limited edition, passion and other specialty journals. I took it home and started filling the pages with snippets of stories, ideas and whatever musings filtered down from my brain to the page.

Since that day I have made friends with a number of other Moleskine notebooks, including the book and travel journals. But my love of notebooks is not limited to Moleskines. I also have a number of other notebooks I have collected over the years. Some are filled with writing, and others are waiting for the day they can fulfill their notebook destiny.

Although I generally do my fiction writing on a computer, my planning is always in a notebook. There is something different about scribbling out ideas by hand rather than on a screen. It’s more tangible in a way, and pen and paper give me the freedom to draw arrows, diagrams and doodles in a way a keyboard can’t. It gives me more room to plan without being confined to what a computer program will allow me to do. And science seems to back up the theory that note-taking by hand is more effective than by computer when it comes to retention of information, so clearly writing by hand has its benefits.

It is always bittersweet when there are only a few pages left in a notebook. By the time I reach that point, I feel like that notebook and I have had a long relationship. Pages have been torn and dog-eared, words have been scratched out, notes are squeezed into tiny spaces between diagrams and story ideas, there are coffee ring stains on pages that served as temporary coasters, and the pages make a delightful crinkly sound when thumbed through. I love the life that those pages take on, but I am also sad that my time of making practical use of that notebook has come to an end. But it’s not all bad: it means I have a good excuse to buy a new notebook.

I want to take a quick moment to acknowledge those who love pens because I think a good pen can compliment the perfect notebook quite nicely. Check out Wendy Van Camp’s blog for a good article on fountain pens.

Reading & Writing Resolutions for 2015

I am not usually one for New Year’s resolutions. New Year’s Eve never quite seems to live up to the anticipation. We countdown to midnight only to find out that January 1 is just another day. Perhaps I’m being a bit too cynical about the new year, but I have never really been the kind of person to use the change to a new year as an opportunity to reset–except when it comes to reading and writing goals.

Every year I have a plan to read more books. I think every book nerd has that goal, and there never seems to be enough time to read all the books we want to. I got Stephen King’s Revival for Christmas, so that’s on my reading list for 2015. I also really want to read Diving for Pearls by Kathleen B. Jones. Of course I always have a long list of favorites I want to reread, which includes Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions among other things.

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I just moved to a new place. I’m not a big fan of packing and moving (who is?), but I do enjoy unpacking my books at a new location and spending time figuring out where they will go. Getting my books set up by the new year is a big goal for me. There is an art to a good book shelf that requires a little more than just throwing books up on a shelf. I prefer alphabetical order, but I like to get creative with stacking and placing pictures and curios on the shelves along with my books.

As for my creative writing, I am starting a new project. It’s in the realm of creative nonfiction. I am not sure yet if it will be something I see through to the end. I have many unfinished writing projects that started off as good ideas. Somewhere in the depths of my computer and on the pages of notebooks lurk zombies, time travelers and other fictional children waiting for me to finish their stories. This new idea is more personal, and I feel strongly about seeing this through to the end. For now I have a new notebook specifically for this writing project because I believe every new writing project begins with the perfect notebook. Just as the wand chooses the wizard, so too does the notebook choose the writer.

Happy New Year! May 2015 be filled with creativity and lots of books.

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Why I Don’t Own an eReader

I recently wrote a post called “Maintaining a Personal Touch in a Wired World” over at Blogging4Jobs. As I mentioned in that post, I like a lot of what technology has done to make our work lives more efficient, but I have worked hard to keep technology from completely taking over my work life. I still see value in face-to-face communication and handwritten notes even though I enjoy spending time on social media sites, blogging, texting and emailing. When it comes to books though, you will never see a an eReader in my hands. I prefer a good, old paper book.

I see value in a single device that can hold a whole library of books. It puts a world of writing at your fingertips and alleviates the problem of weighing down a suitcase with several books while on vacation. I have also heard people rave about how such devices can make books interactive. Books can now contain links to websites with more information, video and more.

I’m not sure that I would agree that such things make books more interactive. For me, books have always been very interactive. When I am reading a good book, I am immersed in the world created by the author. There are no links for more information or videos to guide me on my way. My imagination is interacting with the words. In a way, books are a rather simple form of technology. We can see whole stories play out in our minds. No special viewing device is needed.

All the extras an eReader can add to a book may enhance the learning experience, but it can take me out of the need to simply connect with a  good book. I spend a lot of time on my iPhone and computer throughout the day. It’s the way I get a lot of my work done, not to mention that it’s how I write fiction, get most of my news, stay in touch with friends and stay up-to-date on what my favorite authors and bookstores are up to. This is perhaps the main reason I eschew eReaders. My books are a way to unplug from all the distractions of technology and the sense of urgency in completing tasks that come via technology. In a paper book, there are no ads popping up, no links to follow and no cute animal videos.

I attended an HR technology conference last week. It was fun to learn about all the developments in this area. I was live tweeting during presentations and exchanging contact information with my iPhone out, but when it came to note taking, I had a paper notebook. When writing a story, I usually opt for my computer, but when it comes to note taking, there is something gratifying about putting pen to paper.

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I took Christine by Stephen King with me. I had started the book long ago and had set it aside because it hadn’t really grabbed my interest. It took a long time to get into the story. Now that I have about 150 pages left, the story has picked up, and I am looking forward to seeing how the story plays out. I took a break during the conference to enjoy a few pages, some coffee and dessert. You can probably tell from the picture that my copy of Christine is beat up a bit. It was an old copy I got for $1 at a used bookstore. I like the character and feel of an old book in my hands–something I can’t get from an eReader.

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I don’t judge those who love their eReaders. Such technology is just another way to get books into people’s hands–something which makes me happy. Whether it be paper or electronic, reading is reading. What’s your preferred format? Let me know in the comments.