Some of my notebooks

There are very few people in my acquaintanceship who do not like good stationery talk, especially notebook talk – how to use them, how not to use them, where they were bought and how that blank page gives you the fear.

So whilst chatting to Andrew Reed (fellow Team Mushens author) via Twitter the other night I thought I should really do a bit of a write-up on notebooks, their uses and why we love them so.  I spoke to a few other people on twitter and Facebook and hey presto, a mini-notebook-convention is taking place right here, today.

*warning: this is a long blogpost with a lot of images*

Let’s hear from a few enthusiasts (click photos to embiggen)

From Louie Stowell:

I love notebooks. Like books, I tend to buy more than I need, because of the pretty. But the ones I actually use to write notes for stories and comics? Always the cheapest, school-style A5 books, preferably not ringbound. I’ll send you a pic if you need?In the end, I like to write in something that feels more casual, less arty. I also like writing in bland places best too. Cafe at a big Tesco  or a Costa Coffee = ultimate inspiration. Ditto a grubby corner cafe. Anywhere cool with other people on imacs? Writing death. So there’s something about bland, banal places and things that I find inspiring. Perhaps because it doesn’t get in the way and allows me to stay firmly in my head rather than in the world?

Here’s a pic of a segment of my collection, labelled – realized another thing I don’t like much is hardbackedness, as it’s stiff to open… which is a shame because I love moleskine, aesthetically speaking. Form and function clash there.

Louie Stowell

From Kate Ormand

I like hardback notebooks with lined paper. Usually A5 size suits me best. I use my notebooks for story notes, or rip a page out to make a list.

I don’t like writing in new ones because even though it starts off neat, it ends up all scribbly and crazy after a couple of pages. Despite being a really organised person, my notebooks aren’t easy to read – and sometimes I can’t bear to open them they’re that much of a mess inside. And in terms of covers, the quirky and cute ones stand out to me the most. Bright, colourful, funny and pretty. Here’s a photo of my favourite two (which I refuse to write in just yet!).


Kate Ormand Pics

From Jo Franklin 

I love beautiful stationery but if it’s too nice I don’t use it. Take this Slytherin notebook I bought at the Harry Potter experience a year ago. Completely empty. I get through about 20 cheap A5 spiral bound notebooks a year as I write long hand. When I get to the end I turn the book over and write on the back of the pages. When it’s all typed up, I start ripping out the pages with writing on both sides and end up with a spiral with a front and back cardboard cover.

Jo Franklin's Slytherin

From Lisa Snellings 

I made pages for my own journal. They have feathers, insects and bits of sculpture. Eventually, I used some of them in my video for “Night Birds” and some will be included in my book. But yes, they began as pages for my own journal.

Lisa Sellings 2

Lisa Snellings 1

Lisa Snellings 3

From Louise Ann Knight 

My life is punctuated with memories curled up in chairs or sprawled out on the floor, writing. Over the years, they’ve been the canvas for stories, thoughts, ideas, poetry, shopping lists and reminders. Even in this digital age, a phone app does not compare. Tapping a touch screen is nothing to that wonderful bloom of ink soaking into fresh paper. Magnetic clasps that make a satisfying ‘thunk’ when they shut, colourful ribbon I can twist around my finger (because 20 years later I still want to twiddle hair as I write and a pixie cut is no good for that). I use large ring bound styles made from recycled paper for research and notes on projects. It allows for slotting in extra pages without resulting in illegible pieces of paper that resemble mangled, origami swans. Medium sized notebooks of fabric or leather make great personal journals and a small notebook goes with me on my travels.



From Andrew Reed

The red hand bound book is from djurabok & papperverkstad ( Lisa bought me it years ago and it sat for a long time before I got the courage up to use it. I use it for story ideas, and try to stick to one per page.



The marbled book is from Il Papiro ( which I got on holiday in Florence. I used it to scribble down plans and longer prose sections until I filled it. I use moleskines for the same purpose now.



The Papier Plus ( book is 300 pages of beauty. Hardback, hand bound Ingres paper, it kicks the shit out of pretty much every book I own. I haven’t got bloody clue what deserves getting written in it.


From Melanie over at We Sat Down

Black tabbed spiral – Little M bought one for me and herself. She thought I’d find it useful. This one also holds the notes from when we first sat down and started thinking about a blog. Little M’s one has chapters from a books she started writing, prompted by a writing excercise in school.
 Tabbed spiral - We Sat Down
Horses Paperblanks: This one is special because my mum bought it for me as a birthday present. I was mad about horses when I was a little girl and she knows I love Paperblanks: the textures, the colours, the magentic closure, and the ribbon.
Horses paperblanks notebook - We Sat Down
Stars – This is Little M’s. She thinks it’s pretty.
Stars - Little M We Sat Down
Utilitarian: My favourite notebooks are the ones that I can work with no matter what they look like on the outside. The big black one is A4, flattens to A3 and has blan pages. sketches, brainstorms, notes – everything’s in there. The reporter’s notebook: harks back to student and journalism days – they’re the best for easing notetaking. and the little pink one: this is lightweight and fits into my teeny-weeny bags – or a big pocket!
Utilitarian - We Sat Down

From Jenni Nock

I have seven notebooks in regular use at the moment, I mainly use notebooks with plain pages but I also have a love of the order that squared pages provide.


Top row left – my ideas notebook, plain Moleskine

Top row right – my WIP notebook, squared cahier Moleskine, one way up for characters and one way up for plot

Middle row left – my dissertation notebook, plain pages, a freebie from the Cheltenham Literature festival a couple of years back, right way up is my note taking side and the other way up is a journal of what I’m doing each day I do work on it.

Middle row middle – my Scouting notebook, squared Moleskine, where I take write my notes at every meeting and training session I attend. If I need to check anything relating to Beavers this is where it will be.

Middle row right – my working notebook, plain pocket sized Moleskine, this is the notebook that goes everywhere with me, it contains lists of books to collect from the library, packing lists for holidays and moving homes, to do lists, shopping lists, and plot ideas I have on the move that need to be transferred to my ideas notebook.

Bottom row left – my Things I Have Seen notebook, brown craft paper, contains the tickets for everything I have seen at the cinema, theatre or sporting arena.

Bottom row right – my gifts book, William Morris print cover with plain pages, contains a list of gifts I have given – my memory is pretty wobbly and I often can’t remember what I bought someone for their birthday or Christmas, the lists in here stop me buying the same thing two years running!

From Anne Perry 

I’ve kept a journal since Easter Sunday, 1987. I was seven, and the Easter Bunny had left me a diary – puffy white plastic, with a rainbow across the front and a little lock – in my basket. My first entry, on lined pink paper, was something along the lines of ‘Happy Easter!’ and included a drawing of a rabbit and a basket of eggs.

Although I started calling it a journal when I was twelve, during an especially self-conscious period, I’ve kept up my diary-writing regularly in the twenty-seven years between that Easter Sunday and now.  I shudder to think back on the entries produced during my teens, when I’d spend hours filling page after page with the agonized wails of a fifteen-year-old girl trying to sort out how she felt about things, or the slavish recounting of run-ins with various crushes at a time when I was so shy I couldn’t meet the gaze of a guy I was attracted to without turning beet red.

My journaling took on a different tone after I went to college; for one thing, I began to take more time to decorate journals that I had, previously, seen only as vessels to capture my anguished emotional vomit. For another, I began to carry my journals around with me, and write about much, much more than just myself – I began recording quotes, poems, random thoughts and observations, little sketches, and lists. So many lists: grocery lists and wish-lists, but also lists of words, of phrases, of places, of people. And, finally, I started gluing things in – ticket stubs, confetti, things torn from magazines. Anything that caught my eye and reminded me of a particular moment, place, thought or person went in. My journals evolved from embarrassing monuments to my own self-absorption into something a little more interesting, arguably a little more historically meaningful, and undeniably much more beautiful.

2002 Journal
2002 Journal
The two photographs (above and below)  are from two separate journals, one from the summer of 2002, when I was studying in Prague, and the other from spring 2005. Holding them brings back memories – not all entirely positive, but good and strong and meaningful. It’s a pleasure to flip through those pages again, to see the drawings, the ticket-stub from Mr & Mrs Smith. To remember seeing that film with friends on a hot Chicago evening, of making a point to sate the ticket. Of carefully preserving it and then forgetting about it until this morning, when I pulled the journal out and found it again.
2005 Journal
2005 Journal
I was a lonely kid, and I moved around a lot in my twenties; my journals provided me with a sense of permanence and security I struggled to find elsewhere. These days a fulfilling job and a happy family life mean that I don’t have the compulsion to spend hours filling  journals the way I used to. But I still carry one with me everywhere, although it’s more of a commonplace book than anything else. I still glue in all that paper detritus that flutters through my day, and lists of words and places and things to be done (pick up dry cleaning, call Mom). And I still save them. Those first pages – pink-lined, filled with drawings of rabbits and cats – have long since vanished. But, otherwise, twenty-seven years of obsessive self-chronicling now sit in boxes scattered across the world, a romantic-sounding but mother-irritating side effect of being an ex-patriot.
I end with a third photograph, my journal today, open to the current page. I took the photograph this morning. Today’s specimen is not as beautiful as my journals of old, but it’ll join the others nevertheless, in a cedar box the cat sits on. I don’t suppose that I’ll look at it again more than a few times, once I’ve filled it.  But, if I need it, there it will be.
journal today
From me:

I have a lot of Moleskines and I use them a often, but then I also am lucky enough to receive a great many great notebooks as gifts from my friends and I tend to buy some myself when I spot something lovely and unusual.  The stack, right at the top of this blogpost, is a small collection of my Moleskines, so I decided to show some of my other notebooks.


The notebook on the left was purchased at Selfridges – I loved the shabby chic style of it.  I would like to use this one as a notebook for an adult novel – contemporary relationships – I’m planning to write some time in the future.

The sweet little notebook on the right was a gift to me for my birthday from the lovely Caroline Salmon.  It has my name on it.  How utterly cool is that? It gets to live in my bag on occasion as it is the perfect palm sized – I tend to write names and titles in here for books I’d like to read.


This was a present from Maureen Oakley – for my birthday last year, I think.  I love the rough way she did her craft on it and I remember how shocked her daughter, Charlotte was at how her mum was “breaking the book”.  I love it though! It’s been “hacked” just for me.


This bit of piratey goodness is all the way from the US.  A friend of mine, Psynde, and I decided to swap notebooks.  I sent her one I chose (a lovely Paperblank) and she in turn sent me this.  I love it especially as I grew up with The Goonies and well, my dog is named after Johnny Depp’s character in Pirates of the Caribbean.


Supremely colourful and cute set of notebooks I’ve bought from I can’t remember where.  They are slender offerings but I couldn’t resist how shiny they were and so, bamph! I bought them.


Beautiful Paperblanks.  This tends to go with us on our holidays and we make notes about places we’ve visiting on holiday, places we ate at and stuff we bought.


Both of these were bought at Selfridges.  The one on the left I had to have as the cover looks old and damaged and aged.  I’d love to use this one to draw up an archive of the books I have in the house.  The smaller notebook on the left is tiny and I have several of them with various illustrations.  They are for rough and ready thoughts and notes – because it’s so tiny it fits in the myriad of smaller bags I have.



Above: These notebook journals are about my obsession with Shakespeare and his various plays that are favourites.  I bought them online from Etsy – the shop is called Immortal Longings and they are utterly beautiful and I’ve yet to use them.  But they are wonderful to touch and the hard work that’s gone in to making them is astonishing.  I want a whole range of them though.  And put them on display.


These are brand new purchases from around 2 weeks ago. Spotted them in Smiths on Marylebone High Street and I just had to have them.  If I had not bought them I may have imploded in the shop – yes, it gets that bad.  Please don’t stage an intervention.


I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this impulsive and fun blogpost and looking at some great notebooks everyone’s sent on to to me.  I feel truly honoured that people offered to show their notebooks and I’ve resolved to use more of mine too, for various things.  I’m half tempted to do do this as a regular blog, and throw this open for more people to share their writing / journaling notebooks with us.  It’s similar to the idea Terri Windling hosted over at her blog – – which really became one of my all time favourite “editorials”  as I’m super snoopy and want to know what people have on their desks! If there’s enough interest to do this, it would be a great thing to do maybe once a month or so.  Please tweet / leave a comment on here to signify if this is of interest!

18 thoughts on “Notebook P0rn

  1. Utterly fabulous post, Liz! My current notebook is a beautiful one I bought in Florence last year, covered in a gorgeous painting of the Ponte vecchio. I wish I had handwriting to match its elegance. Love seeing all the different types out there that catch our eye and inspire us. Kate x

  2. @Kate – you MUST sign up for the next one! We must see photos and hear about the trip to Florence!

  3. Ooh, what a fab post! I LOVE notebooks and collect them obsessively. Paperblanks are my favourite, but I have some lovely Indian hand-made ones too. Each story I write gets a new notebook!

  4. @KateO – it is so good, isn’t it? I love looking at other people’s notebooks and hearing their stories.

    @Emma – well then, next time I’m getting in touch and you’re going to show off your collection!

  5. Thanks for this great post! It was fun to take part and fascinating to read people’s memories and personal experiences 🙂

  6. You are a star – seeing all these books, the way they’ve been used and how long people have been using them, is so inspiring!

  7. I love this post so much! It was so much fun to look at how I’m using notebooks and I’ve got loads of new ideas to use some of my blank ones now 😀

  8. Absolutely fabulous post. Loved reading about the different uses and attachments people have to their notebooks.

    Of course, I now want an A4 plain notebook for mind mapping, etc. gaming ideas.

    – Neil.

  9. Ha! And why not? I love digital stuff but there’s something very connected, sitting down with your notebook and pen and thinking thoughts on page.

  10. Well, well, well. Much to drool over here, as usual! My problem is, though, anything that’s not a standard spiral-bound college-ruled notebook rarely gets used by me as a) I have this complete phobia of ‘spoiling’ them by having to scratch out any errors if I write in ink, b) my handwriting spoils them anyway since, as many a friend has pointed out, I write either like a nun or a spider on acid, and c) I suffer from yet another phobia that says anything really, really pretty should be reserved only for Deep Thoughts. And these days my brain is so slammed by editing and proofreading work that tiny little shallow thoughts are all I can muster. Still, I really, truly, thoroughly enjoyed looking at all of these. And dreaming… Thanks eternal, dear Liz. You do keep reminding me that there is Life After Work.

  11. I understand 100% what you mean about wondering if what you’re going to put in there will be good enough…in the end, remember that it’s your WORDS and the fact that you’re using the journals/notebooks, that makes them even more precious. I used to be pedantic about my notebooks. They had to be pristine. Now: not so much anymore. The next time I visit I’ll show you my ongoing Blackhart notebook, stuffed full of pictures, notes, stickies and stuff.

  12. This is s beautiful I almost cried—I literally wanted them ALL.

    I did a video about my journal collection a while ago—lovelovelove, so much love.

  13. Liz – can you help?
    Yesterday I sat next to someone and coveted their notebook from afar. I should have spoken to them, asked where they had bought it from but I didn’t.
    I have spent the all day searching the internet trying to find a replica. I have even attempted a little cyber-stalking to track down the person sat next to me but to no avail.
    The notebook is simple in design, black cover, a5, lined pages, perforated. And this is the twist, wire framed for flatness but bound so you couldn’t tell from the outside….
    Any ideas?

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