Scribbler’s Saga #56 – Notebooks and Journals

Posted: January 22, 2018 in Uncategorized

© 2018 G.N. Jacobs

If bread and wine are the Flesh and Blood in our relationship with at least one name for God, then Paper and Ink do the same things for civilization. So say smarter people than I.

I covered ink, sort of, in that post where I named my pens like swords. I might have let fly a little scorn and slight regard replying to writers that love to assert the superiority of pen and paper (don’t confuse habit with better) saying my mind gets to the same places no matter how the words appear. I guess that just leaves the disguised product review and commentary about paper in general.

People comment about the notebook in my hand or nearby all the time. Similar to B.D. and his helmet (Doonsbury) or the average gun nut the notebook might need to be pried from my cold dead hands. Unless I actually use one up cover to cover (come close and I’ve spilled coffee), at which point I find a new one. It’s pretty much the same each time.

I write in 6”x 9” spirals with College Ruled paper. I usually get the generic ones from Office Depot with 150 sheets. Except for getting more than I need some days, I save money because these things are still $3.99. The similarly sized Moleskines and knockoffs may look good and have the hard cover, but then you see the price on the UPC for the “I’m an important writer” notebooks. Four times as much for about the same amount of paper.

Office Depot got my notebook business when Mead who used to sell this exact notebook stopped. The brand name stationary either wanted more sheets for more money at the cost of more weight in my bag or they wanted an up-sell brand for even more money over office supply store generic brands. Staples didn’t even stock these when Mead wanted to sell stuff as Cambridge. Leaving Office Depot.

Every now and again, I pick up a handful. Like any other consumer, I’m highly distracted by the cover color. Not sure why in addition to navy blue, red, green, purple, yellow and black, I have a decent amount of teal (when offered). All I can say is I’ve slowed down the habit purchases…sort of, until I use more up. I don’t have to justify the first, but the stack on my table? Maybe.

Other generic brands exist since Mead/Cambridge wants less of my money. They’re available at the supermarket or drug store. They don’t hit that sweet spot with 150 sheets. Mead might think I need 180 sheets in my spirals, but these other generics barely hit a 108 sheets good for when you really have to write. I like the paper thickness in the Office Depot books as well, until I spill coffee.

I know I sound like a crank, no different than Charles Schultz buying out the whole supply of his pens when the company folded to keep on keeping on with Peanuts. But, we do what we do to keep doing our jobs.

How did the habit of these notebooks develop? I want to say that I landed on College Ruled as a reaction to the Wide Ruled filler paper so common in school. I might talk about a certain Twelfth Grade English teacher that insisted on yellow paper from full size tear off pads, but the yellow paper drew more whines than the Wide Ruled lines. But, for lack of a better explanation why I like the narrower writing channels Agree, Give Thumbs Up and Go Get Lunch.

Why spirals? Tear off pads suffer greatly in my backpack or shoulder bag when I want to look good. Corners fray. The sun bakes the yellow ones. And, you got it, I spill coffee. Spirals survive these indignities with greater style (coffee being the Nuclear Option).

College Ruled paper has waited under my named pens practically since forever and it does things to how you write. Between the reporter’s notebooks (some of them need use as well) of my gloriously briefly journalist past, the spirals and those pesky Moleskines that have an even narrower ruling, my printing has shrunk to fit.

After giving me crap about the notebook in hand in the first place, then people comment that I write very small letters in a hand than is more printing than cursive (post for another day). This happens naturally when you’re trying to leave the top half of the line open for corrections and cross outs.

Similarly, the absence of lines on, say, a birthday card give me all kinds of fits just trying to wish Happy Birthday and sign without tailing the words down to the right. Supposedly, the purveyors of graphology assert I’m a Debbie Downer type with these handwriting quirks. Bite me! For me this is the same minor level of OCD that I have when saving the butt ends of the bread loaf for last…nothing more.

However, having lots of notebooks on my table waiting for recycling or use does mean I can scratch another itch: journals. Yes, my normal journals are the nice ones that you get at Barnes & Noble, but that may change in an effort to clear up the shit on my table left there in an effort to rub my nose in not cleaning up the space. But, I did start two special journals that use these spiral notebooks, a screenwriting journal and a composing journal.

As you’ll note from the continued dormancy of The Composer’s Counterpoint, I have a lot of internalized “you can’t do this” to overcome before I start composing and posting in that column. So ever one to burn beached ships behind me, I started recording in black ink my daily interactions with music. For example, I put in a line or two about screwing around with a jaw harp and not getting anything like what Pete Townsend or Snoopy got out of the deceptively simple instrument.

In a similar vein, the screenwriting journal also exists to focus my attention forward towards Troy. I don’t have a “you can’t do this” problem so much as an “I want to write a novel, the characters for which are also screaming in my ear” problem. This guarantees that no matter my future accomplishments I’ll have all kinds of incomplete projects doing almost much as my body to stink up the joint.

Both journals have to date recorded quite a bit of out and out procrastination or things that look like slacking off to, say, an agent. The common dodge in the screenwriting journal is “day spent doing other things.” Screenwriting as a hungry animal doesn’t care that I blog and do novels.

The refrain of “listened to music” is perhaps not necessarily a dodge. I try to use headphones sparingly preserving my ears and in writing groups the earbuds can be still too loud for other people, but when I can I listen to music as I work. If listening to music is a prerequisite for composing, then I can sell this to all kinds of internalized hungry animals that don’t give a damn what my excuses are. The difference in this journal comes when I can write a few sentences about the music. I was paying attention.

Using these notebooks as journals is a fairly recent change in my writing. The original purpose of these spirals were and remain notebooks in the sense of needing a quick place to bash out a first draft, or other variations of thinking in ink and hand gestures. Nothing that resembles order exists in my notebooks and/or the stacks of paper ripped from old notebooks that got blasted with coffee (sometimes it was ketchup or salsa, in case you care). It’s a notebook and I don’t have to justify Wonder Woman all cheek by jowl with Henry Picard (Jean-Luc’s apocryphal second cousin), especially to any poor souls doing the archeology on my papers.

For the foreseeable future the notebook stays helping me be ready to steal words during slow moments in the conversation and to occasionally commit random acts of journalism. Words appear with the slashing flourishes that come from Strauss waltzes airing at least twice a day. Like a fighter pilot, I record monthly progress with silver and gold stars plastered all over the cover. The notebook stays in the picture and I’m immune to your laughter.

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