Rabbit Holes and Writing Notebooks

Cute White Rabbit leaving burrowMost of us can be defined in part by our obsessions, those things we’ve spent immense amounts of our lives practicing or researching or observing or collecting. The older we get, the more interests we’ve accumulated, or practiced and discarded. Some obsessions we continue to explore, others go by the way side, and some linger on the back burner to be occasionally re-ignited, as my own interest in The Beatles was when  I finally read The Beatles Anthology this winter.

I really threw myself down that particular rabbit hole. I already knew a LOT about The Beatles, but when I climbed back out and wiped the dirt off I knew so much I was a little dismayed. And yet there are people who know EVEN MORE.

Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, John LennonTake any given topic you love and the odds are that there’s someone out there who knows more about it, probably to a frightening degree. The Internet makes it very easy to search out and discover everything you want to know (probably beyond that) about any subject. And if you’re not careful, you might find you’ve fallen into someone else’s rabbit hole.

paperblanks microIt happened to me over the weekend, and I only recently climbed free. Spurred to find an alternative to my beloved Paperblanks writing notebook, I finally looked into Moleskine notebooks and found that some people dislike them for their paper quality, their expense, and their manufacturing practices (not to mention that some people declare them pretentious). From there I ran into other people’s “best notebook” lists and reviews, which got me thinking about all the features I’d never really considered about one of my favorite writing tools.

From the Notebook Stories site.

From the Notebook Stories site.

Before I knew it, I was in pretty deep. There are a huge variety of notebooks out there, and people have spent a lot of time  thinking about what features make them good. Given how important a notebook is to my writing process I probably should have considered some of those points already, so a lot of what I read was kind of thought provoking.  Sure, I’ve always appreciated a good notebook —  I can remember heading into the bookstore with my friends Sean and Jon in grade school and junior high and looking over the new notebooks and pens every year. All three of us were drawn (heh) to them, though we couldn’t quite articulate why. I think I understand now, though. Each of us was creative, and the different kinds of notebooks represented gateways to get to what was in our imaginations.

lego storeStumbling upon a new world of information about a product that interested me was a little like being a kid who’d been aware of two or three Lego sets suddenly tossed into a massive Lego store. I was surrounded by more sets and colors than I dreamed existed, and it was a little mind blowing. The next thing I knew I’d spent hours and hours looking around. Okay, maybe days. I really appreciated what I learned, even if I realized my own fondness/interest didn’t reach the same level. Thank God — I’ve had enough obsessions in my life already.



(I’m not knocking those who are into notebooks more than myself, or I’d have to knock myself for obsessively tracking down obscure Harold Lamb stories or hard-to-find Badfinger records, or Batman: The Animated Series comic books, etc. We’ve all got our interests. )

Anyway, I’ve climbed back out. I’ve figured out how to find the ideal variety of one of my most important writer tools, the pocket notebook. And over the next weeks from time-to-time I’ll share a condensed version of what I learned, in case any of you out there are interested yourselves. As I’ve said before, I think a writing notebook is vital to my creative process, and it may be useful to yours.

Here are links to three of the most interesting sites I visited. You’ll note that there is a lot of discussion about pen and ink quality, which is, praise be, a rabbit hole I’ve avoided so far.

01notebookThe Black Cover — an inactive site, unfortunately, because it provides in-depth review of exactly the right size of notebook I prefer. I don’t need mine to be black, but otherwise I’m in accord with the site owner about the most desirable features of a pocket notebook, and thank him for articulating them so well. The site owner reviews products intelligently and succinctly; owing to inactivity, though, the site doesn’t cover newer developments in the industry — and yes, there are new ones, all the time, as I’ve learned over the last few days.

Notebook Stories — This site’s alive and well and chock full of information. The site owner examines things carefully and thoroughly. You can also see a plethora of pictures from people who have far more notebooks than you do (the Addict of the Week feature). It’s fun to visit and all too easy to spend more time here than you intend…

rhodiaThe Well Appointed Desk — This site owner has a far broader interest than my own in all things related to pens, paper, and notebooks, but it’s well indexed so that you can find what you’re after, and the site is constantly updated. She doesn’t evaluate as much as the previous two sites, but she does an excellent job of presenting the information so that you can reach your own conclusions.





4 Comments on “Rabbit Holes and Writing Notebooks

  1. Thanks so much for the mention! If you are trying to search for all reviews, I do have them all tagged with the category “Review”– the listing of categories is in the far right sidebar. Scroll down past all the brands and you’ll find other categories such as Reviews, My Collection, Sketchbooks, etc.

  2. Man, that’s hilarious. I agree that sometimes it’s best to know less. Because, even though we may have a rose-colored view of something, learning much more gives us a different view which is sometimes just someone else’s view.

    Regarding notebooks: what I write on has never been important to me. The most I do is try to pick a nice different color for the 99 cent one that I buy. But I understand someone wanting something special to write it. If I thought it would help my writing I would too.

    • Robert, it never used to be important to me until I started wanting to have my writing be portable without having to carry around a notebook under my arm or in a satchel or something. A pocket notebook is the perfect solution, so it then comes down to picking one that’s the right size and that will hold up to wear and tear — and, in a widening market, there are various features you can choose from.

      I like being able to have a notebook in my back pocket (or beside me in the truck) so if I’m stuck at a slow train crossing or waiting for my daughter to run in a track meet or what have you I can just jot down some ideas there and then.

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