“The Importance of Having a Crap Notebook”

Here’s an interesting take on notebooks that I have to quote at length:

I don’t like fancy journals. Hardbound is great for books, but when it comes to things I write in, spiral bound please. No fancy covers – though hard covers can be nice when you write on the road a lot. No fifty-dollar, hard cover, hard bound, engraved with my name on the cover notebooks or journals.

I won’t write in them.

There are no exceptions – at least, there hasn’t been so far in my life. I have given good attempts at writing in the fancy books I receive, but I never keep going.

Just give me a crap notebook and I’ll be happy.

No, you don’t need to run over a perfectly nice notebook just for me, but give me a lined, spiral bound notebook that you or your child would use for school and I’ll be happy. A notebook that will take more damage than an idiot driver in a little red sports car is just fine.

Why the crappy notebooks? Why can’t I write beautiful things in a beautiful notebook?

Well, I can. Or rather, I can try. But the thing is, I don’t write beautiful things from the first go. That’s why there are things called drafts. In my first draft? Well, that’s where I need to give myself permission to write the real crap. Let the hero save the princess just so I can get it out of my system and then go ahead and kill him when he finds out she’s been having an affair with his father in the next draft.

Crappy, cheap, plain notebooks give writers space and permission to get things – no matter how stupid, silly, whatever they are – out of their system. They can explore angles without having to worry about cleaning ripping out pages so they don’t show or scribble marks.

Save your fancy journals. Give me a crappy notebook any day.

What’s your preference, a “crap” notebook, or a “nice” notebook? I personally don’t like overly fancy, decorated journals– that’s why I’ve always liked bound journals with plain covers such as Moleskines, Piccadillies, HandBook Journals, Cachet or Watson Guptill Sketchbooks and the like. But this writer would consider those “fancy” notebooks. I’ve had lots of composition books and cheap spiral notebooks over the years too, and there is something about their disposability that makes them more conducive to longer writings that will be drafted by hand and later typed into a computer– but for me, that tends to be because of size just as much as quality– I always carry an unlined or squared pocket size notebook, but when I need something for longer creative writing, I’ll use a lined notebook in an 8.5 x 11 inch format, and I’m happy for it to be crappy.

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12 Responses to ““The Importance of Having a Crap Notebook””

  1. I myself hate spiral notebooks, the pages always wind up falling out on me and I get those little scraps all over everything. I like the hard back/perma-bound stuff like Moleskines, but for my own opinion, $14 is just a ridiculous price to pay for a notebook. Enter the Piccadilly; best of both worlds! Cheap & hardbound! Once I found those, I never looked back. Sure, some have complained on the paper quality, but that stuff doesn’t bother me all that much. Works fine for me!

  2. All throughout my school and collegiate career, I’ve run the gamut of cheap and moderately priced notebooks – marble composition, 60 cent spiral, Mead 5-subject, 3 ring binders, trapper keeper, etc. If I found out about the Levenger Circa notebook, which is by far the most expensive notebook I’ve ever purchased, I would have invested long ago. A few nice notebooks are worth an entire stack of cheap spirals. I always hated when the pages would fall out or the paper quality was too thin, leading to a lot of bleed-through on the other side of the page.

  3. What I need in a notebook:
    1. paper I like (who cares what anyone else thinks)
    2. stitched – sorry Field Notes, staples don’t cut it. And spirals are annoying for so many reasons.
    What I want in a notebook:
    1. a plain cover – no engraving, flowers or bunnies
    2. pocket size – like the smaller Moleskine. I wonder at the size of some peoples pockets when I see what has been labeled as pocket size.
    3. a hard cover.
    Currently I’m using a Moleskine, mostly because, aside from meeting my above requirements, they are ubiquitous. Even the bookshop in my tiny town has them.
    But the reason there are so many notebooks out there is there are so many notebook users. Something for everyone.

  4. I think I would use a crap notebook, but none of the crap notebooks have paper that I can use (I’m a fountain pen user), so I’ve had to train myself that it’s okay to write bad stuff in nice noteboooks.

  5. I am all about the trash pages. I use something marginally nicer for my diary (hardback, usually spiral so it lies flat), but for everyday use it’s the cheap spiral notebook. I’ve never had trouble with the pages falling out. Because it’s cheap (or free, if I grab one from the supply closet at work – shh, don’t tell anybody!), I have no problem writing/drawing/doodling to my heart’s content. Sometimes I wish I had an unlined notebook for such purposes but I’ve had trouble finding good ones for that. I’m still getting used to being free with my doodles in Piccadilly or Moleskine notebooks. I have difficulty getting over their price, especially since the last several volumes of my diary were bought for 50 cents each at Goodwill.

  6. For journaling, I like something nice. A Moleskine (or Piccadilly) or Clairefontaine. I especially like Clairefontaine for fountain pen use.

    For writing poetry and prose, I use a plain ol’ 50 cent composition notebook. I like to write a lot of rough drafts (especially of poems), so I don’t want to waste a bunch of paper on what amounts to crappy rough drafts I’d like to forget. When I get a poem, or short story, the way I like it, I might copy it over to my journal.

  7. I like both, but I find that a bound notebook keeps me a bit more honest than a spiral notebook. In the back of my mind, I always know I can rip out a page of the spiral notebook. (And yes, I know I can rip pages out of a bound book but I don’t.) I use all kinds of notebooks for different things, but for journaling it pretty much has to be a bound book.

  8. I have the same problem -.- I have a few moleskine like notebooks laying on my desk but I don’t dare to write into them because of my crappy handwriting… But it isn’t much fun to write into extremely crappy notebooks.
    That’s why I have found a compromise: I use this hardbound clairfontaine notebook (which is also quite nice but not too fancy) and try to improve my handwriting (which might never happen).

  9. I love crap notenooks AND fancy notebooks. Why do I have to choose? I just love notbooks. Sometimes I love crap notebooks BECAUSE they’re supposedly crap, or at least thrillingly cheap. And sometimes old discontinued cheap notebooks thrill me more than fancy new notebooks, because they are not available anymore. I find the paper just as good for fountain pens in many crap notebooks as fancy notebooks like moleskines, which are notorious for bleeding.

  10. I love crappy notebooks — I feel like I can bring it with me wherever I go and write anything I want in them. Whenever I have a nice notebook, I always feel like I need to “save” it for something really important.

  11. I finally got over the “nice things into nice notebooks” mindset – I always have one journailng notebook and one idea notebook …and they are both nice and fancy ! I doodle and write drafts, and I love it!

  12. [...] An interesting post about the use of “crap” notebooks [...]

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