Finishing a notebook is… not exactly a very noteworthy (hah!) event. Or is it? I find it’s far more common to start a new notebook than to finish one. But when you spend four years with the same notebook, you start to think, “Hey…maybe this is it? The one, true notebook? Maybe when this one is done I should… Get another one exactly the same…?”
Shortly followed by “Shit, four years have passed – do they even still make this notebook?”
As I say, I’ve never really had to worry about this before. I’ve had jobs where I’ve been supplied with a succession of the same notebooks. At Network Rail, the stationery cupboard was filled with these lovely ring-bound blue hardback A5 notebooks that I loved. And other jobs have supplied me with big ol’ Black n’ Red notebooks that feel very luxe, but the A4 format is destined only for a desk.
But this thing… It’s A5, with rounded corners. It’s got a soft leather(ette?) wraparound cover with nice off-white pages, and a little inside back cover pouch for odd bits and pieces. It has a bookmark ribbon and an elastic band to hold it closed. And I’ve carted it around all over the place: to the park, to the office, to various libraries and archives. I’ve written in it on trains and in cafes and… even, at my desk.
It started out as a notebook, occasionally becoming a diary (for one or two honest-to-goodness dated diary entries when I suppose I must have felt in the mood to write one out longhand), and it’s filled with things on various topics and in a variety of formats from diagrams, lists, scribbles, and word clouds, to multi-page prose and website mock-ups.
It is, I suppose, the nearest thing I have to a commonplace book.
I’ve often wanted to start a commonplace book. In my head, I’d sit and lick the end of my pencil (okay, not really), then note down the things I’d just learned, carefully indexing the pages to ensure I could return to the subject at a later date.
I chuck most of that stuff into Google Keep as, nine times out of ten, the note-taking device I have on me is my phone. So most of my thought-vomit is aimed there, where it is (hopefully) searchable later.
So the notebook is a bit more intentional. I take it places. I have rudimentary sections: short wave radio logs; website mock-ups and admin work logs; diary entries, work timetables and to-do lists; opening pages of unfinished (unstarted!) book projects; sketches of imaginary photo book and magazine spreads. And so on. I can flip through it and see little snippets of ideas that never came to be, or concepts that still bubble around in my head from time to time, slowly gathering momentum. Or I can see, almost word-for-word, the introduction to the first edition of my book on Charles Paget Wade that I scribbled down one coffee-fuelled morning.
And here I am, some four or five years on and I am coming to the end of this one. I didn’t date the opening pages, but not far in there’s a diary entry from January 2016. It has held together beautifully, has travelled well, and has even permitted me to tear pages out occasionally to act as quick notelets. I suppose it’s odd that it’s taken me that long to use 150 pages. But it’s been there when I needed it. And I am very glad WHSmith still sells the same model. Especially so as I was able to see old and new side by side, and see how the years have taken their toll on the first one, as well as how neat and tidy and fresh the new one looks.
What adventures we may have. I can’t wait to see what the new one ends up containing.