Friday 14 May 2021


 In common with all/most/many other writers, I love notebooks!  Any notebooks.  I use them for so many things, but again, like many others I suspect, I’m very fussy about the right sort of notebooks.

Some years ago a friend (not a fellow-writer) was on holiday in France with her family, and looked for a present to bring home for me.  She went into a stationery shop and bought me two of those beautiful notebooks you can only get in France. 

Her family said, "What a funny present!  Why did you buy her those?"  To which my friend replied, "Because I know she'll love them!"  (She was right - I did!)  She is definitely the right sort of friend!

My favourite variety of notebook has always been A5 size, spiral-bound, lines 8mm apart, ideally hard-backed (though I can be flexible on that, as can the notebook).  The big advantage of spiral-bound books is that they stay open when you want them to, and you can leave them open at the page you need, or fold them back and they stay there. I have found that sometimes books with narrow lines, 5mm apart, have their uses too.  So I have a pretty good collection, including some that are so beautiful that I’m still waiting for the perfect occasion to use them!

However, since the advent of Zoom webinars, of which I currently have at least two a week, I now find non-spiral-bound notebooks more useful for note-taking (the spiral binding tends to get in the way if you’re writing quickly on the left hand page)  But they must be hardback, so I don’t need to put something else behind it to provide a solid backing, they must lie flat when open, and essentially they need a built-in ribbon bookmark, so I can easily find where I got to after the previous webinar.  For this purpose I definitely need 8mm lines – when taking notes in a hurry my handwriting is too untidy to fit on narrower ones.  And because I follow two slightly different courses, I need a different notebook for each one – at the moment one book is blue and one is red, both fitting my exacting requirements.

But I am now reaching the end of both of these, and will very shortly need replacements.  Which was why, last week, I decided that time had come to go shopping for them!  This in itself felt amazing – going shopping, in real shops, for notebooks?  What’s not to like?

I started in my favourite shop for these things, a large store which sells everything, including, usually, a huge selection of perfect notebooks – only to find that at the moment their stock is greatly diminished, for obvious reasons, so they didn’t have their usual range.  And of those that were there, most seemed to have narrow lines, so no good for note-taking.  Some didn’t even have lines at all, but little dots in box formation, and I couldn’t work out what those would be for – maybe someone here can enlighten me?

Then I remembered my favourite card shop, an independent one which also happens to sell the most beautiful notebooks – maybe on this occasion I might treat myself?  Unfortunately I discovered it has closed down – again, for obvious reasons, but I couldn’t help a sinking of the heart at this discovery.

On down through the town, to discover that another shop I like, a small shop in a Danish chain which sells all sorts of unusual things, was, rather surprisingly, still open.  I went in and found one notebook that wasn’t quite what I needed at the moment, but not far off.  At least the lines were the right distance apart.  Then, as I walked round the shop, I found two more – one reduced to 50p so too good to leave behind – as well as a small notebook with a built-in electronic calculator on the front cover!  How useful is that?  So I came out with four notebooks, even if none of them was exactly right.

Next to the big, well-known nationwide stationery store, where I discovered that narrow lines seem to be the thing these days, so I had to dismiss most of their notebooks at once.  However, on a different shelf I found two which actually fulfilled all my requirements, one reddish which can replace the red one, and one blueish to replace the blue one.  Hooray!  So I bought them.

Now I had six new notebooks!

Of course, on my way home I passed another favourite stationery shop, and was sorely tempted to go in, just to see what they had to offer…  However, there was a big sign outside saying “Limited number of customers allowed in the shop at once - Please wait for a member of staff to let you in”.

So, since there was no member of staff in sight, I decided (with some reluctance) that maybe I should just go home.  Maybe I’ve got enough notebooks – at least for the time being.

Until I need another one, of course.

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Penny Dolan said...

Good wishes to your wide-lined notebooks. Quite a haul!
Hope a long walk home wasn't involved.

For me, the big advantage of spiral bound is that I can a) tear out pages that are too messsy or no longer relevant and b) remove any irrelevant notes or lists or phone numbers or book titles added simply because, at the time, it was the nearest page to write on!

The A5 size or similar are useful for carrying about easily - though there are a lot of very fat/weighty notebooks around that look great but are too heavy to cart around in a big pocket or bag.

I'm always excited by the sight of an A4 hardback with a nice or distinctively plain cover and a ribbon. Must be wide-lined or blank.

Narrow lines? What are they for, apart from skipping the line between?

Rowena House said...

Oh! Notebooks! Peter Pauper Press has BEAUTIFUL ones, available online. A tiny bit too beautiful sometimes. But that's no reason not to buy another one. Hope your words flow onto the lovely paper.

Becca McCallum said...

Ooh I love notebooks. I have many many beautiful notebooks (most of which I have been given). It sometimes takes me a while to find the right use for them, but I DO use them, eventually. I have a new notebook for each project, and scribble plot ideas, characters and so on in them. Also research and sometimes basic maps. I have one that a friend made me, with the outside decorated to look like something from the story I was working on, with drawings of the characters inside - it is one of my favourites, naturally!

Lynne Benton said...

Thank you for your comments, everyone. Penny, I do agree about narrow lines! Rowena, I must look up Peter Pauper Press - they sound wonderful! And Becca, I entirely agree with you about taking a while to find exactly the right use for each one.