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Stories from a life in progress.

In praise of cheap notebooks

Yesterday I mentioned offhand that I do my journaling these days in cheap notebooks. 70 sheet, 10.5"x8" college-ruled notebooks from Office Max, to be precise, of which I have a good big stack from last summer's back-to-school sales (and this year I will be watching for the school sales again to stock up more of them).

I lurk in one online forum about fountain pens, and there is talk about really good notebooks and paper stock, because many pen aficionados also seem to appreciate the look and feel of writing on quality paper. I can appreciate that, but I don't subscribe to it personally. Not because I dislike quality paper, but because I've identified what is most important to me: great whopping gobs of blank pages to write in.

When I write in an expensive notebook, it creates an unconscious restraint in my writing. I don't want to waste the good notebook, you see, so I can't write just any old thing in there. It has to be writing worth using up good paper for.

That's exactly the opposite of what I need. Journaling is most valuable for me when I feel like I can say any old thing, important or trivial, clear-headed or incoherent, rational or flamboyantly emotional. The more honest I can be in my personal writing, spilling out whatever is inside me on a given day, pouring it all over my notebooks in whatever form it comes, the more journaling becomes a transformative tool.

In order to have the freedom to write whatever, whenever, however, I need to shed any sense of waste. I've found my best friends in this work are a couple of basic, inexpensive but good quality fountain pens, a few bottles of good ink in colors I like, and a big stack of really cheap notebooks. Having good pens and nice inks makes the process of handwriting more comfortable and enjoyable. Having tons of paper available gives me the freedom to scribble as much nonsense as I want to and not even care. I feel best about having a huge pile of notebooks available when the pile does not represent a huge investment in money. This setup supports me in my real goal: write a lot.

It's so important to pay attention to ourselves in such personal endeavors as journaling. I know some people find it helps them to write in special books or on special paper; that's awesome, and I'm glad they have tools to support them. For me, though, give me a big stack of the cheap stuff. That's exactly the right thing to set my words free.