Revisiting the Past: More on Finishing Notebooks (2014)

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of this site, I thought I’d revisit some popular posts from the past. This one is from 2014. In it, I talk about an important shift in my notebook usage habits– from being fickle and switching notebooks before finishing them, to filling every page.

You can see the comments on the original post here: More on Finishing Notebooks

One of the first posts I ever wrote on this blog was about Finishing a Notebook. The notebook in question was this softcover Moleskine, one of the first notebooks I’d ever used completely from front to back.

At the time, this was a notable accomplishment. That was what I loved about those early Moleskines– I wanted to use every page. I didn’t get itchy about switching to a new notebook. Until that point, I’d been quite fickle, always buying new notebooks and often switching to a new one after only using a few pages. Sometimes it was just because I wanted to try a new notebook, and sometimes it was because I had somehow become disillusioned with the one I was using. Sometimes I just had a grand idea of a single-purpose notebook but never really carried it through.

But for the last decade or more, I’ve pretty much finished every notebook I’ve started. My usage habits have fallen into a consistent pattern of having one daily notebook plus a sketchbook or two going at any given time. The daily notebooks are always used until they are finished. The sketchbooks take longer to fill, but they are also used til the end, except for some that have been used while traveling.

The travel notebooks are a tricky one– I started a HandBook sketchbook on a trip to Paris, but I hardly did any drawings in it. I felt like it should stay a travel notebook, but ended up changing my mind and using it for other sketches and collages at home.

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Another HandBook travel notebook started on a trip to Turkey, but was only filled about 1/3 of the way. I then took it to Portugal, but only filled a few pages. Several more pages were filled in Corsica. It’s still only a little more than half full, but now I feel like I have to reserve it for more travel.

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But in the meantime I went to the Galapagos with a brand new sketchbook, which I mostly filled on that one trip. (It’s a brand I had just discovered and will do a full review on soon: Hahnemuhle.) I also dedicated a sketchbook to a safari trip in Botswana and filled it almost to the end. (I’m better at drawing wildlife than European architecture!) The empty pages in the Galapagos sketchbook are almost 1/4 of the book, but they will stay empty, I think, unless I try to re-work some of those sketches from memory or from photos– I can’t just use it for something else.

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So I’m generally pretty committed to seeing a notebook through nowadays. But I’m a little tempted to ditch the one I’m using right now! It’s an old Piccadilly with squared pages, from a stash of them bought several years ago at Borders. The corners of the spine are tearing quite a bit and the paper doesn’t seem quite as smooth as usual. It has some symmetry issues and the corners stick out a bit, particularly on one side. It’s just getting on my nerves a bit. At this point, I think I only have about 1/6 of the notebook left to use. (it looks like more than that below but I also fill in some pages from the back.)  But I can’t bring myself to bail out. Instead, I find myself writing with wider margins, scribbling inconsequentially to fill space, doodling more, and just generally spacing things out a bit more to use it up faster. I think I’ll manage to hold out til it’s done.

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How about you? Do you use every page of a notebook, or stop and start with lots of different ones? Do you go back to old notebooks and finish them later? Do you reserve notebooks for a specific purpose even if they’ll take forever to fill?

4 thoughts on “Revisiting the Past: More on Finishing Notebooks (2014)”

  1. If I don’t like a notebook/sketchbook I’ve started (the paper, the binding, the cover, whatever), I abandon it immediately and don’t feel bad about it. Life is too short (and too filled with more notebooks!) to keep using a notebook I don’t like. If I don’t completely fill a notebook that I’ve designated for a trip, I don’t use the empty pages for info unrelated to the trip. Although sometimes after I get back home, I glue in ephemera from the travel. Most other notebooks I do tend to fill completely. It’s a nice feeling.

  2. I have filled up some notebooks to the point where I have pulled apart the pleated pocket at the back to use as additional writing space as well as the insides of the front and back covers.

    I have pocket sketch books partially filled with travel drawings, (one from Amsterdam and Delft and the other from Vienna), and will most likely not add any more sketches to these books as they are my record of those trips.

  3. Same with me—I always fill my pocket notebooks—and typically quite quickly—but bigger notebooks and sketch books definitely are subject to focus drift!

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