There’s a certain group on Facebook for a certain kind of people who love a certain kind of pocket notebook. That’s “Love” with a capital “LURRRRVE”. Fans of Field Notes notebooks — and I don’t mean the casual perusers of art store shelves and online retailers. I’m talking about the people who hunt for lost editions like the last albino girafficorn in Africa — can spend hundreds of dollars on mulitple copies of a specific edition, or, in extreme circumstances, for one hard-to-find set. This is their thing and they let their flag fly high and I say good for them! We should all be passionate about something.
I like Field Notes. And Word notebooks. And Story Supply Co. notebooks. And Baron Fig notebooks. And almost any other kind of notebook I can get my hands on. I’m not here to denigrate someone’s collection or hobby, nor their choice in notebook. If this is your version of stamp collecting or obtaining plaster casts of rock stars’ penises, then keep on keepin’ on. I’m not here to judge, though I do wonder how you explain the latter to your in-laws.
My issue is not with collecting because everyone collects something at some point, right? My issue is with hoarding. We all know the signs. Stacks of blank notebooks we bought with the intention of filling with our wildest dreams and our most creative fictional feats and the occasional grocery list. These perfect-bound and saddle-stitched ghost traps of potential were meant to inspire us, but instead they just keep looking at us. Staring us down. Asking us why we haven’t picked up that pencil or fountain pen and started scribbling down our life’s work. I know I have a boxed set of the Field Notes Workshop edition notebooks sitting on my desk waiting for my delicate flourishes to tickle their pages.
Maybe our handwriting isn’t as florid as a Founding Father’s. Perhaps our ideas aren’t good enough to grace the smooth pages of a notebook named after a painful, temporary loss of vision due to overexposure to the sun’s UV rays. Or maybe we like the idea of an endless supply of notebooks in case we get up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night with the next Great American Beach Read rattling around in our heads and we don’t want to be stuck wondering why we didn’t order 47 packs of the ruled editions instead of the dot grid. Sorry, I can’t get behind paper that looks like a template for hair plugs.
Whatever the reason, no amount of shrinkwrapped three-packs are going to make you more creative. The words don’t come easier because you have more places to put them. That’s on you and you can do it in a Mead composition notebook or a Moleskine. It does not matter. Think of it this way — would that $1,000 pack of butcher blues linked at the top be worth more if Stephen King had written the first draft of Carrie in them? Probably. Now, what if you had been the person to use them and went on to such great success? Would they have remained better kept in your desk drawer or on some shelf?
I’ve stopped purchasing notebooks until I’ve filled the ones I already own. Call it pragmatism. Call it a lack of storage space in my house. Call it wanting to pay my mortgage on time. There’s only so much joy you can get out of looking at an unopened pack of notebooks before that joy is replaced with longing. Longing for stories untold and lists un-checked, for ideas and phone numbers and ephemera that whips across your face like a blizzard as you go about your day.
A notebook should be valued by the words with which we fill it, not by its edition or availability. Paper is a commodity. Good ideas are not. A notebook isn’t worth more because it’s rare. Its value should be dependent upon the life it’s led.
I have a little joke I like to tell: What do you call an unsharpened pencil?
What do you call an empty notebook?