Stationery p*rn ~ or the lure of perpetual possibilities.
(Do note the careful expurgating of a certain word in the title. If I have a post go viral I’d rather it did it for the right reasons.)
In the last few days I have seen a good deal about my fellow creatives love of stationery. Pens, paper, art materials, pencils and notebooks. Mmmm notebooks…
Time to come out of the (stationery)closet and admit my adoration for notebooks, pens and the like. I buy notebooks compulsively. I own many. Most of them are empty. I buy more when I still have shelves full of them. From the simply ring bound hard back notebooks to novelty ones made with banana paper or even rhino poo, I just love ’em. I specially love those which have beautiful mysterious meaningful covers. A year or two back my husband gave me one at Christmas that has a delightful Renoir painting on the cover. I have them in every colour, and size. And yes, most of them remain empty. I use Moleskine notebooks as my travelling notebook of choice and for good reason. The sheer quality of the paper, the design, the functionality (ink does not bleed through so you can use both sides of each sheet) and the pocket at the back for extra documents, plus the fact that the pages open out properly so you can write rapidly with ease, and not have to hold the notebook down forcibly. I carry one in my handbag at all times, with a smaller one that is not ruled so I can draw if I want to. Moleskine carry a much bigger range than you usually see in the few shops that stock them but I usually buy packs of three in the cahier range (plain cardboard covers, ruled paper) in whatever sizes are available. Yes, they are expensive if you are not a stationery afficionado, but they are a pleasure to use and they are worth it to me because I actually do USE them. That’s where my ideas get jotted down when out and about; where short stories can get roughed out when I’m travelling, or poems or musings.
But the ones that don’t get used, they are a powerful symbol for something that cuts to the soul.
Does anyone here remember Syd Barrett, one of the original members of Pink Floyd (when they were THE Pink Floyd)? Syd had a breakdown and left the band but continued to write music up until his untimely death a few years ago. I heard a story about him that resonated. It wasn’t unusual for Syd not to get up at all, for days on end; apparently he had a belief that each day contained endless, shining possibilities and that once you left bed to start the day, those possibilities became whittled down to very few or just one. He worried that he’d be making the wrong choices if he got up, that the day would go on but it would become fixed and all those myriad other days would cease to be possible.
That’s why many of my notebooks don’t get used. While they are blank empty vessels waiting to be filled with literally ANYTHING, they are portals to other dimensions, other lives. The moment I set pen to them, they become fixed for one purpose only. I have the most lovely red leather covered notebook with an embossed pattern of Mayan hands. I bought it deciding I would only write in it the good things in life than happened to me. I do write in it but not often because being a novelist I feel the need to provide narrative cohesion even for my own scribblings so I need to recap, explain and contextualise events I chose to write in it. I have a suede notebook that is just my complainings, day to day mundane, get-it-out-of-my-head journalling that I hope no one ever reads. I can’t now take that suede book and write anything different in it. I can’t use my red leather one to write down stories in.
Remember that one with the Renoir on it? I have plans for that. One day, I will learn calligraphy and I will write up all my own poems in that as a gift for my husband. He reads this blog but perhaps he’ll not read this post…
I was given a delightful Gratitude notebook that remains blank because it’s simply too nice for me to use (self esteem issues here) in case I spoil it. There’s another that has a picture of powders that may be spices or paint or dyes, that seems to be waiting to become perhaps a recipe book… There’s one with hand-made paper that looks like it needs to be filled with magical recipes for incenses and potions…There’s one covered with Indian rough silk I think may make a dream journal…
I could go on. Every blank notebook carries with it the possible books that might be written within it. Once you start writing, that book is fixed, and there’s no going back. So I will buy notebooks and some will be used, some will remain empty, and some will be only half filled.
Because one of the nicest things about being a grown-up is being able to start a new exercise book without having to show teacher you have finished the last one. We can be lavish, expansive and creative and we can hold a world of possible books in a row of empty notebooks, and have the choice of where to go.
And don’t get me started about pens…
I love my notebooks and am also a Moleskine fiend 🙂 I make sure to keep my favourite sizes in various wishlists and shopping baskets so that when the price comes down (I’ve seen the large ruled ones below £4) I can buy as many as I can afford.
I use the small ones for field notes, the large for special book projects and an extra large as my commonplace book where I note down ideas for plots, lines of dialogue and fiction related musings. I also have a couple of small volants that I keep story titles in.
Then there’s teh pile of non Moleskine notebooks, including my new Rhodia with dotted paper which acts as a kind of hybrid between squared and ruled. I may use it as a dream journal to make notes and draw thumbnail sketches before creating full size works in my sketchbook.
And the pen pile is growing and growing and I do love a pencil Oooohhh, and pencil sharpeners. I love the lines of the KUM stenographer’s sharpener, but the automatic long point is sublime to use….
I may need a lie down….
*fans Mr Uku*
Yes, I have notebooks that are too good for me to write in.
That’s something I understand very well!
I have several pretty ones though I don’t buy them anymore. But some really lovely gift notebooks sit emoty on my shelves too. I mostly don’t write in them because my handwriting is sloppy and illegible and I don’t want to descecrate them with it.
..hence my intent to learn calligraphy. My handwriting used to be quirky but interestingly readable. Not any more!
Notebooks…. pens… I too have an addiction to stationary… I also have an addiction to tools but that’s another story…
I can spend ages in WHS perusing the notebooks and wondering if I need a new one and if I can get away with buying one… or two… this time.
Damn… you’ve started me off now – I’m going to have to write a blog post on this and buy a new notebook…
Fellow addict here – although I keep telling myself I will get around to filling those empty notebooks some day…
Oh, I shall too!
My eccentric notebooks, filled with treasures, are all over the place. It would make sense to create a special bookshelf. In the meantime I’m drowning in sticky notes. The idiosyncratic way we order our thoughts spells hope for humanity. Cause it can’t be regulated. Giggles.
It does indeed give me hope. Einstein said if a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, what then is an empty desk a sign of? Chaos gives birth to new things.
Bless the clever stone. I’m glad he said that.
Very interesting what you mention about Syd Barrett. The flip side of possibility. Thanks for the post Viv.
the flip side indeed! My brother used to see Syd around Cambridge from time to time. Very sad what he became.
LOL! We’re very much alike indeed! Some notebooks I use, others I don’t and when I travel I always buy a notebook in the country I’m in. I like French notebooks for my journal (I learned writing with those… ;)), I use squares or rules or whatever – my moleskine has squares at the moment, but I’m still using the second that I was given in 2002 (that Christmas 2 friends presented me with a pocket moleskine…)! 🙂
About pens… yeah, I’d love to buy them all, but end up buying batches of Bic pens and use them all (I handwrite my first drafts)… Glad I have a DayJob to feed my stationery addiction! 😀
I bought a lovely one at the D’Orsay in March, with a Monet pic on the cover. *sigh*
I too have loads of notebooks. And many of them are empty. I worry that I don’t have anything importandt enough to put in them. I have a box full of pens as well.
mmmmm pens. I’m determined to find the perfect pen one fay.
Don’t worry that it doesn’t seem important enough; using it may make it more important.
must not join in – it could go on for ages. There are the two boxes full of started even filled up notebooks [drawing and writing – is there a difference?] a lot of the small moleskine cahiers [mainly plain some squared]
best pen – an ink pen I’ve had for probably 2 decades, a parker, nib broadened with use, not expensive like the one I bought for 6th form.
staedtler pigment liner in 5 widths [drawing & writing].
uni-ball eye various colours/widths.
staedtler ee pencil.
pilot g-tec 0.4 in brown.
Other pens/pencils come and go – currently staedtler permanent for plastic, cds etc.
Parker pens…mmmm, I used to have a lovely one but it got lost. I’ve put *good pen* on my Christmas list several years running and it’s never turned up.
Staedtler pens, the triplus ball pens are my standard. I buy several at a time, because they disappear. Black ink for preference. I’ve also got a number of Mitsubushi uniballs which flow nicely.
The trick to a pen is one that flows well, the barrel is comfortable to use when handwriting for more than a few minutes and which *feels* good.
I did a stocktake of the notebooks. Not quite as dire as I’d thought, as many I thought empty are in use. Even if the use means it’ll take the rest of my life to use every page.
This is the second time I have read this and I still get so excited that I have to lie down for while afterwards! What is it about stationery that affects some people like this? My first holiday job was working in a very old fashioned bookseller and stationer way back in the 60s, it was pure heaven!
Nice to see you here; glad you liked the post!
I’m not a stationery addict, but I can understand the attraction. And I do know just what you mean about blank paper. I used to think that the most beautiful thing in the world was a new pad of A4. All the possibilities! Kingdoms could rise and fall on that paper, quests undertaken, justice done, worlds created… empty paper is a portal to anywhere.
Due to my almost illegible handwriting, blank computer screens have taken the place of the A4 – not so tactile, but the principle is still the same.
I hadn’t thought to apply the same principle to getting up in the morning. But it’s a good point. Perhaps I’ll go back to bed now, before I spoil the day.
I often consider going back to bed and sometimes do, on my darker days.
I love this, it carried me along from one notebook to the next and resonates with me too. I cant keep my thoughts in separate notebooks, though, so its a crazy mash up of thoughts and faith and bible studies and all sorts of things i jot down. I can’t wait for the blog on pens