Notebook Blues

For about a dozen years I’ve been writing Morning Pages as recommended by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. Every significant piece of personal writing I’ve written in that time has benefited from this practice, and most of the published short stories and poems have originated there. Sometimes it helps when I’m stuck on a client project, too.

The basic idea is to write three pages in longhand first thing in the morning—or, in my case, as soon as I can handle a cup of hot caffeine without hurting myself. [Full disclosure: Sometimes life gets in the way and Morning Pages are actually Afternoon Pages or even Right-Before-Bed Pages. Whatever. It works.]

In the beginning, I used spiral-bound school notebooks that my kids brought home half-filled in June. When I used those up, I bought brand new ones (Shiny covers! No X-wing/TIE fighter space battles doodles!) Three or four years ago, I discovered a smaller 3-subject notebook from Carolina Pad called Notebound Colours, and I liked it so much I bought a dozen.

The cover was sturdy plastic on the front and sturdy cardboard in back, in cheery colors (rose, violet, aqua, tangerine), with rounded corners front and back. It was a convenient size (9 ½ x 6 ½ inches) to carry in a shoulder bag or write in while sitting at a tiny coffeehouse table. The binding was a classy double-wire coil that didn’t snag sweaters and was wide enough to clip a pen inside. And the paper! Bright white, college-ruled at 30 lines/page, smooth as good letterhead stock, thick enough that the ink didn’t bleed to the other side when you wrote on it. Plus, there were cool vinyl dividers with pockets for holding Starbucks cards, business cards, poems to memorize, etc. It was a joy to use and almost made 6 a.m. bearable.

Alas, I should have bought a case, because I am now on the very last one and yes, it’s been discontinued.

The new iteration has its good points. The moveable subject dividers are a good idea,  the front cover still has rounded corners (but the back doesn’t), the binding is still no-snag double-wire, the colors are different but fine. (See? I can accept change…)  There’s a cutout on the edge of the front cover for clipping a pen which some people might prefer over slipping the pen into the coil.

But the cover is less sturdy, and the paper is thinner,  less smooth, and has a slight yellow tinge (which admittedly only a paper wonk would notice). Worse, the paper’s shorter, with only 27 college- ruled lines/page vs. 30 lines/page in the former version. That works out to  2160 fewer lines of writing per notebook.

I understand about cutting costs and all, and I realize these notebooks are probably designed for elementary- and middle-school students and not adult novelist wannabes, so I’m making a valiant effort to Get Over It, Let It Go, Move on. I did fine with my kids’ old notebooks; I’ll get used to whatever I find next.  It’s the method, not the medium, that counts.

I’m now scouting the school/office supply aisles for potential replacements. I’ll let you know what I find. In the meantime, any suggestions?

© 2010 Anne Bingham and Making It Up as I Go

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11 Responses to Notebook Blues

  1. MaryWitzl says:

    Yay, Anne, FINALLY you’ve started a blog and it looks great!

    You’ll have fun making it up as you go along: trust me on this. If you’ve been doing morning pages all this time, arguably, you’re 90% of the way there already.

    I love good paper and well-stocked stationery stores. I like to look at all the goods there and surreptitiously handle them whenever possible.


  2. Congratulations for starting a blog! I nervously began mine last fall and I’m still trying to decide where I am going with it. I like what you’ve done and wish you the best!


    • Anne Bingham says:

      Catherine, I love the arbor at the top of your blog! It warmed me up just looking at it (it was 10ºF here in Wisconsin when I got up this morning, and the snow in our yard is 18″ deep in places. I used snowshoes to go out to refill the suet feeder!) Is it one of your photos? I’m looking forward to learning how to put up my own.


  3. Julia says:

    Blog looks great, Anne!

    I am a morning pages person, too. I use those black & white composition books. I’ve used probably every single kind of notebook known to modern man (since I’ve been doing MPs for the better part of 14 years now.) I’ve used lined, unlined, college ruled and so forth. I’m liking these comp books because even though they are a little shorter – I can get 3 pages done in the amount of time I have before I have to get ready for work.

    I hope you find a great replacement for the ones you loved. I can remember being very addicted to some I used to get from Borders. But, the expense got to be more than I wanted to spend. So – it’s now these little cheapies from the Dollar Store! lol!


  4. Yes, I took it last summer at a nursery out in the country called The Rose Emporium. I uploaded it to remind me that spring was just around the corner.
    We haven’t had the cold here the way you have, (10 degrees-yow!) but we’ve been getting some much needed rain (drought for the past two years). I’m itching to get to spring planting.
    Thanks for stopping by!


  5. Peter says:

    Some of my notebooks are STILL filled with X-Wing/TIE fighter doodles. It depends on the class.


  6. Susan says:

    VERY nice blog. I love the look of it — peaceful and professional. I too have done morning pages, though not as consistently as you. I happen to be reading one of Julia Cameron’s books right now — The Sound of Paper — and as usual am finding it inspiring.


  7. Deb says:

    Great to read your posts and to discover another paper/notebook aficionado — I nearly wasted away when I couldn’t find a local source for filler paper for my 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 binder in which I keep journal pages, prayer lists, and brief Bible studies. College ruled. Holes punched. Is that asking too much? Indecisive as I am, I can reorder the pages, update lists – complete control! Then I found some — at Office Depot (or Max? Oh no!). Opened the package, and each sheet has not 3 holes, but at least six! It’s holy! I dare one to find the binder that fits all those other, unnecessary holes. Sigh.

    Anyway, I hope you enjoy your new online outlet for creative thoughts! And photos!

    (Love the remark from Peter. He’s HOW old?)


    • Anne Bingham says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Deb. You’re looking for 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 filler paper? I just happen to have the front sheet from the last filler pack I bought. It’s Avery Dennison Filler Paper/100 sheets/ narrow ruled/ 8 1/2 x 5 1/2, product 13-551.

      However…. I just looked online and it looks as if it the same refill is now called Rediform National Standard Filler Paper. And the rounded corners are gone gone gone. As the WW of the W said to Dorothy, “Oh, what a world! What a world!”


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