The Problem with Fancy Notebooks

Merlin Mann:

There’s something about a piece of paper that can be both really intimidating and very inspiring. Because there’s nothing you can’t do with a piece of paper. The biggest hurdle to using a notebook… is to get over the reluctance to put a mark on a page.

When I buy one of these Fancy Italian Notebooks, it’s so pretty. And I haven’t screwed it up yet! I haven’t said anything dumb. I haven’t made something I didn’t mean to say. Part of the problem with the Costly Italian Notebook is you don’t want to screw it up: each one of those pages cost money. It’s expensive. You don’t want to tear pages out of there because you don’t like what you wrote.

You start out thinking, “You know the nice thing about paper is I can do whatever with it,” but the irony becomes, “Yeah, but I don’t want to screw up this pretty notebook that I kind of don’t deserve.”

I have never understood the fear of screwing up a notebook. I just get them, write in them, sometimes I smear the ink and other times I spill coffee on it. That’s life, it is messy.

Cultural Offering: Lists

Cultural Offering:

As a kid, I remember my father at the dining room table in the morning jotting down his to-do list for the day on his mini legal pad as he sipped coffee and took in the busy goings on in our household.  I remember his orange or brown or red Paper Mate felt tip pens scratching out instructions to himself in perfect architect block script.  My father could make a grocery list look like a precise set of life specifications.  But he made lists or, as he told me more than once, it was gone.  During the day, he would scratch a line through his listed items as he ticked them off, making progress and relieving his memory.

I know other successful people and they all refer to lists.  Some write them on their daily calendars, others on a note card, or bits of paper, or backs of envelopes; others maintain large lists on notepads.  But lists they maintain and lists they work.

My life is driven by a bunch of to-do lists and a paper calendar; the calendar is a Hobonichi Planner, and the to-do lists live in a Field Notes notebook.

Unclutterer: Struggling with keeping a journal

David Caolo:

I believe in the benefits, yet there’s a disconnect. Each time I try to maintain a journal in earnest, I fizzle out.

Keeping a journal is hard, it is one of the most important things in my life, but it also one of the things I struggle the most with. And I have ended up with a three rules that makes it much easier to do

  1. It is okay to skip a day or five. Like for example when you are on vacation.
  2. Just write something every day.
  3. Pick the tools that make it easy for yourself. I use a huge hardcover lined notebook, and something like a Hobonichi Planner or Field Notes is two very good alternatives if you want something more portable.

The Well-Appointed Desk: Review: Moleskine Soft Cover XL Plain

The Well-Appointed Desk:

Before you start asking if the headaches are giving me brain damage, I have to say I asked myself the same question when I picked up this Moleskine Extra Large Plain Soft Cover Notebooks. In general, I find Moleskine notebooks leave me wanting but there was something about the size of this book that appealed to me.

I don’t know why, but I think huge notebooks either in terms of number of pages or large pages are fantastic.

Paper will last.

If you wanted to ensure it lasted for 150 years – you’d choose paper:

As amazing as our current electronic technologies are – despite their strengths – are terribly, terribly ephemeral. The code that worked yesterday isn’t support today. The processors of – five years ago, ten years ago – are brought to their knees by the computational complexity and presumed processor capabilities of today’s software. The runtime environments required by the digital creations I manifested as a University student not only do not exist – computers of today don’t even recognize the file types.

This is why my journal is on paper, my todo lists is on paper and that my planner is on paper. I know they will be readable in the future(if you understand my hand writing).

On Moleskine

This was originally posted on my personal blog: on the 29th of June 2015.

I have been thinking about doing this post for a very long time. But episode #159( of The Pen Addict( got me to start writing it.

Moleskine is a brand that does many different things, and they have a huge collection of different notebooks. Some of them are better than others. But there are three things they are good at in general:

  1. Marketing. Most people that either care or don’t care about notebooks have heard about Moleskine.
  2. Available. You can find a basic collection of their products in most stationary and book stores.
  3. Consistent. You know what you get.

Many pen and paper geeks are critical, and aren’t that fund of Moleskine, including myself, even though many, if not most of us started out or notebook addiction with a Moleskine of some sort.

I get why people get annoyed, when someone could get the same product, without the Moleskine brand for less money. Or get something way better for the same amount. People pay for the brand.

Moleskine is more or less the same as other global brands, like: Heineken, Burger King, Starbucks or PizzaHut. You know that the product is the same mediocre thing no matter where in world you buy it. It is true for Burger King, Heineken and Moleskine.

I order close to all of my pocked sized notebooks from Field Notes, and I usually spend some time in local stores to find a pile of new A4/Letter sized notebooks when I’m about to run out.

But there are times when I buy Moleskine, even though I know that I could get something cheaper, or something better. The situations when I go for a Moleskine notebook of some sort, either pocked sized or a large notebook is quite simple. It is either when I’m in a hurry, and need it for something, or when I’m somewhere I don’t know where to look for a store that stocks good notebooks. And sometimes it is a combination of the two.

The reason I go for Moleskine in those situations are just as simple:

  • I know what I get. I have pens that I know works good enough with the paper quality.
  • I know I can get it. There are not many books stores I have been to in a long time where I could not find Moleskine products.

I don’t recommend Moleskine products, except for the Sketchbooks, but it is the kind of thing I buy when I forget my notebook, didn’t expect to need one or run out. You can find them more or less anywhere, no matter if it is in your home town, or more or less everywhere else in the world. And that is worth a lot in certain situations.

There are a place for brands like Field Notes, Rhodia or Leuchtturm1917, because they really care about the quality aspect, like that really good burger place in your town. But there is also a place for the “good enough” brands like Moleskine, which is more like Burger King or McDonalds. It works.

The Pen Addict: Retro 51: 25th Anniversary Limited Edition Review

Retro 51 Tornado – 25th Anniversary Limited Edition Review:

Retro 51 — the darling of rollerballs — recently celebrated an important milestone of making great pens for 25 years. I had no idea that my favorite rollerball pen maker was having such a significant anniversary this year, but it’s certainly exciting.

That is one good looking pen. I love my Retro 51, and there are so many fantastic designs. I think it is too bad that I don’t need a rollerball more often, because I don’t need more than one pen I barley use. This is the Retro 51 I would have bought if I was ordering one today.

Review: Field Notes

I used to be a huge fan of the hardcover pocket sized Moleskine’s, before I got hooked on Field Notes. And there are things I prefer about the former, and there are things that I prefer about the latter.

There are so many different designs and variants of Field Notes, and they release a new limited variant every four months or something. I have ordered two of the special editions: Night Sky and Arts and Sciences. They are cool, but I just go for the regular kind, blank.

The first thing I love about Field Notes is how fantastic their sense of design is. A regular Field Notes notebook look good straight out of the pack, and I think that the standard edition is the best looking, but they look even more fantastic the more worn out they are.

The second thing I love about Field Notes is the paper quality. You can use a regular ball point or a fountain pen, and they work great. The ink dries fast, and the bleed through isn’t a problem. It isn’t perfect, but I think they have the perfect balance between instant dry time and minimal bleed through.

The third thing I love about Field Notes is their sense of humor, like I wrote about here. Take a look at the inside of the back side of the cover in the Practical Applications section.

I have been running my life out of a combination of paper planners and Field Notes during the last couple of years. There is always at least one Field Notes notebook in my back pocket, and I use them to take short notes(I use a larger notebook if I’m going to take serious notes, like for example during a lecture, meeting or while studying / researching) and to manage tasks.

There are also some things that Field Notes aren’t that great at.

One of the things I loved about my hardcover Moleskine I used before Field Notes was how easy it was to write in it, when I wasn’t sitting by a table or other flat surface. But the great thing about not having it is that it is way easier to have in your back pocket. And I often use my iPhone as a writing surface to solve this problem.

Availability is my second problem with Field Notes, that Moleskine is much better at. One of the great things about Moleskine is that they are available everywhere, I think they are overrated and overpriced, but I love the fact that I have something reliable I get anywhere if I need it. The most annoying thing about Field Notes is the fact that I need to remember to always order a new batch of them when I have around 4 unused notebooks left. It takes a while to ship them from the US to Norway; around two to three weeks to be exact.

My last issue is the lack of options. There are times when I want something like a Field Notes, just larger than both the regular and the steno. For example a spiral bound A5 or A4 version. I love my huge book bind notebooks like for example from Leuchtturm1917. But there are times when you want something a little bit less fancy, and then you end up with either a crappy notebook or a overpriced Moleskine.

I wish Field Notes just would start to extend their standard product line.

They make one hell of a pocket sized notebook, and they are well worth the $9.99 per three pack.

Where I shop

There are many great places to buy pen, paper and stationary online. I have four places I go to. All of them are great, and they have fantastic customer service, I have never had a bad experience. Things have gone wrong with some of them, something I expect when I buy stuff from them time after time after time, but they have always done the right thing to fix the issue, without any hasitation.

  • GouletPens is my favourite place to shop everything related to pens. They have excellent customer support, their prices are competitive, and the experience from selecting the product until you unpack them are fantastic. Their blog is also fantastic; video reviews of pens, notebooks and inks.
  • JetPens is the place I go, if Goulet don’t have what I’m looking for. They are excellent, and they have more or less everything you are looking for.
  • Field Notes is my go to place for pocket sized notebooks. They are awesome, not too expensive and works great with more or less any pen.
  • This is the company Brad Dowdy of The Pen Addict started with Jeffrey Bruckwicki after a very successful Kickstarter. They make good looking, durable and functional pen & notebook holsters. My personal favourite is the Hightower.

Four fantastic pen blogs

There are many other great pen blogs out there, this is just a short list with some of my favourites.

  • The Pen Addict. I have been reading The Pen Addict for a long time; I found it when I started to listen to the podcast with the same name. It is a fantastic resource, and I always check up what Brad(or any of the the other contributors) have written about it before buying a new notebook or pen.
  • The Cramped is another fantastic pen & paper blog by Patrick Rhone. Mr. Rhone is one of, if not my favourite web personality. The thing I love about The Cramped is that it isn’t about reviews and the new hot notebook or pen, it is about how stuff are used.
  • The Well Appointed Desk is the blog of Ana a.k.a “The third host of The Pen Addict Podcast”. It is a fantastic blog, and the thing I love about it is all the great links I find there.
  • The Finer Point is the newest pen blog I subscribe to. I think it is very good, interesting reviews, even though most of the stuff isn’t new, but I always value another point of view before buying something; especially if it is expensive.