Inside (and Outside) My All Purpose Notebook

Art is about honesty. It’s about an individual’s expression of her own, unique vision. You don’t tell another adult what she sees. She stands at a different vantage point from you.

–Judith Ivory

First hot tea of the season at my favorite coffee house, all purpose notebook in my computer tote is going to need reinforcing with packing tape (which will then need distressing, because packing tape, while sheer, is also crazy shiny, and I  may give myself eyestrain merely looking at the taped cover. Using this notebook has taught me two important things: One) I love the smooth, unlined paper in PaPaYa! (the exclamation point is part of the name) notebooks, and, Two) cahier style notebooks are not made for sticking in computer totes if one does not want serious wear on the covers of said notebooks.

For those who are new to Typing With Wet Nails, notebooks, for me, are Serious Business. When I find one I like, I hold onto it, get others of its kind, and, as soon as humanly possible (unless there is a natural waiting period, as there sometimes is) figure out exactly what I want to use that particular book for, what sorts of inks, in what colors, go with it, and if it’s going to be in my purse, tote, next to my chair, bedside table, etc.  It’s both an art and a science. I have gone so far as to seal a notebook in a Ziplock baggie full of baking soda for a week in order to save the book from permanent damage from what we shall call pet odor. So, really, there are not a lot of things I won’t do to preserve a notebook. As with this one.

cover scuffage

cover scuffage

Keeping an all purpose notebook, for me, is essential. While I have several notebooks, each dedicated to a particular project, the all purpose book is the workhorse of the bunch, travelling with me every day from house to Laundromat to coffee house, on the road, etc. I like the cahier style for portability -slim, light, I can bend the cover backward an flex it in my hand when I need to fidget. The gorgeous PaPaYa! art makes me drool, so this was a natural choice. I wasn’t sure, at first, that I was going to like the unlined pages, but they do elicit a different way of writing than lined or gridded pages, and I have come to accept that they have their place in my repertory company of notebooks.

The binder clip is a must. Notebooks coming open in purse or tote drive me bonkers. They have to be closed-closed, and stay that way until I open them. Binder clips work for either cahier style or spiral bound notebooks. The hardcover books I favor tend to have a built in elastic band and stay closed that way. As does the softcover Moleskine I have in reserve, a lovely teally turquoise number with very faintly dot-gridded pages. I haven’t tried that one yet, as it’s not yet that book’s time, but it will come when it comes.

Notes from CRRWA meeting with guest speaker Karen Rock

Notes from CRRWA meeting with guest speaker Karen Rock

Binder clips are also excellent for holding said cahiers open when I need to refer to a two page spread at once. Pages above are from Saturday’s CRRWA meeting, with guest speaker, Karen Rock, whose fabulous presentation on maintaining quality under deadlines is definitely pertinent to my interests. I picked up the tip about drawing a frame around an unlined page to make it less intimidating, which dramatically changed the way I use unlined pages. This also works on gridded pages. I haven’t tried it on dot gridded pages yet, but that will happen soon. The frequent changes of ink colors is a newer practice, but keeps my magpie brain happy. I used to change colors with only each session of writing in a particular notebook (unless it is a one pen only notebook – we will look at those later) but, recently, I’ve started changing colors with each topic which my brain has apparently taken as a signal to go faster.


Sticky notes are a must, in any notebook, and yes, they do need to be color coordinated. Artist’s kid here. Color palettes are important. If the colors don’t agree, I feel restless. For a long time, I thought this was being picky, but it’s part of the way I work. If the colors work together, my brain is at peace and I can concentrate. The all purpose pen I have with this notebook is a promo pen, picked up at a conference. It’s clicky, which is good, but it’s also white. White goes with my laptop keys, and the cord from my headphones for the laptop, but I recently rescued a pink promotional pen from an already filled spiral bound notebook, and that needs to be moved over, because pink pen goes with pink laptop, which goes with pinky purply cahier with pinky purply sticky notes inside it. Putting sticky notes directly in the notebook, permanently on a page so that I can get them directly there and not have to fish around in my purse or tote for same, is another game changer. Choosing what stickies go with what notebook helps me bond with the book, as well as makes it easier to employ said notes. I employ a lot of them.

One of the things I like best about having an all purpose notebook is the freedom to jump in and muck around, do whatever feels natural at the time, whether it’s drawing frames on the page, or switching inks, figuring out where the sticky notes go, how the paper feels, how it performs under heavy or light use, etc. I’m at a place where, rather than trying to chase down a method that works for me, I’m going to do what I do, and, when I’m done, figure out how I did it. The fact that it means I get to play around with pretty paper onto which I throw my brain droppings is a plus.

4 thoughts on “Inside (and Outside) My All Purpose Notebook

    • Thanks for the comment. 🙂 I love showing off my notebooks, so expect more to come.

      Great question on the color coding for sticky notes. Answers will be in the plural, since I use them differently in all purpose and dedicated notebooks. For the all purpose notebook, the only criteria is that the color palette agree.

      When I’m working on a specific project in a certain notebook, or doing a plot board, my color coding is different. Since I write romance, and character centered romance at that, the characters dictate how I use the notes. I usually will use blue sticky notes for the hero, pink for the heroine, green for supporting characters and yellow for the villain, where there is one (because yellow is my least favorite color.) I’ve seen some writer get fancier with shaped stickies, but I’m a purist with my squares and rectangles. Hm. I could get a whole post out of sticky note use, so thanks for the idea. This may happen soon.

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