How I use my notebooks: Tournament of Books tracking

Most stationery blog posts focus on reviewing products and less on how people actually use all the paper, pens and inks that they buy. I thought I’d try to write a bit more about how I use my stuff, and not just on how cool is all the stuff I have.

This is my latest Field Notes, the Campfire Night. I use a binder clip to keep it closed as it bashes around in my backpack. Without the clip the pages get crumpled and torn after a few days of use. The clip used to be nice and copper coloured but now is just nice and worn silver.

Apart from my day to day to do lists, this notebook currently hosts my Tournament of Books trackers. There’s a list of books that are participating in the contest, divided per round. Those that I’ve read are marked off with blue pencil. This is for my personal use, so you’ll not see any Instagram level calligraphy here. I wasn’t planning to photograph this and blog about it when I created these.

This is where I’m logging who I think should win each round. When the tournament starts I’m going to log who actually won each round on the opposite page.

Since doing this challenge means reading 18 books in a very short period, I’m tracking my reading progress in this notebook as well as in my reading journal, just to make sure that I’m on track (I won’t finish reading these in time, as I’ve started too late, but my goal is to finish reading them all by mid April).

That’s it.

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How I use my notebooks: Tournament of Books tracking

A few journaling tips

Notebooks are meant to be used, and I use many of mine for journaling. Here are a few journaling tips that I’ve found useful over the years:

  • Don’t constrain yourself to pre-dated or restrictive formats, just pick a not too fancy lined or blank notebook (or dot grid or squared). The notebook just needs to be nice enough and special enough for you to want to crack it open and write in it, but not too nice to be intimidating.
  • Start with a title and a date. The title is a neat way to get yourself writing, and to help you search through previous entries later on.
  • Even lined notebooks can be doodled in.

  • Stick bits and pieces of things into your notebook to make it come to life. Business cards are great for this (restaurants usually make their cards extra interesting and colourful), as are ticket stubs, clothing tags, labels, etc. Write a little something about what you put in, or just let the graphics speak for themselves.
  • If you just feel like writing a line or a paragraph, then do it and don’t beat yourself up about it.
  • If you’re having an extra busy day that you want to remember but don’t have time to fully log, bullet points are your friend. You can always go back and flesh them out later if you feel like it.
  • Write 2-3 things as topics for each day to avoid describing your breakfast and what you did at work. Just document a few things that made the day memorable, special, interesting, fun, unique, or even just a thing or two that are on your mind right now and you want to hash out.
  • Did you see a TV show or movie you liked? Read a good book or went to a good restaurant? Write about it as a way to relive and capture your good experience.
  • Be kind to yourself and others. Put cringeworthy things elsewhere, or you won’t want to open that notebook again. I work through pain and loss in my journaling sometimes, but never anger. Obviously your milage may vary on this one, just be careful not to make yourself be afraid to open a pandora box that you created with your own writing.
A few journaling tips

Moleskine Spring 2019 Catalog

Chronicle Books has uploaded Moleskine’s Spring 2019 catalog and it is interesting.

Here’s a break down of what’s new and changed this season, as well as my take on some of their decisions. Some of these notebooks are already available, others will become available over the next few months. Pour yourself a cup of coffee, open the catalog, and dive in:

Classic Notebooks

  • Of the seasonal colours, I’m pretty sure Reef Blue and Daisy Pink will do well. It’s nice to see Scarlet Red, Sapphire Blue and Myrtle Green join their regular lineups. In the past black was pretty much their only offering, with an occasional red thrown in, but it looks like regular colour options are here to stay.
  • I’m curious about their new “medium” size, between the pocket and the large. There’s no sizing info in the catalog for this option and it appears to be available only in the hardcover notebooks. My guess is that it will be in the “Two-Go” size, which I think is a pretty useful size (11.5×18 cm or 4 1/2×7”).
  • Sad to see that they still haven’t brought back the reporter notebooks in squared paper, and how little love in general squared paper gets from Moleskine.
  • Great to see the new dotted (dot grid) options. These ought to be popular, and Moleskine didn’t dip their toe in with just pocket and large black hardcover notebooks, but is offering them in all their core colours and in what will likely be their best selling seasonal colour, Reef Blue. As is stands, dotted paper is getting more love than squared paper, which is not surprising. Squared paper is niche outside the stationery blogger/podcaster world.
  • Classic notebooks expanded” is a new offering from Moleskine — a large hardcover or softcover notebook that has almost twice as many pages as a regular large Moleskine, with two ribbons instead of one. This may seem a bit unwieldy, but I use a large Moleskine daily planner as a meeting notebook and because of its size it’s still pretty convenient to use. If you plan on using your notebook a lot (as a daily journal for a year perhaps?) this may be a good option to check out.

Non-Standard Cover Material Notebooks

  • Leather notebooks – these aren’t available everywhere (Barnes and Noble have them), and I haven’t tried them, but they’re still on offering, with or without a box. I’d recommend that you spend your money elsewhere, unless you’re really looking for a corporate executive gift to put the company logo on.
  • Two-Go notebooks are still on offer, with four colour options (added last year) and in an excellent size, with thicker than usual paper and a surprisingly useful albeit non-standard blank-and-ruled format. If you haven’t given these a try I highly recommend them. They can handle fountain pens pretty well.
  • Blend notebooks, with their tactile, super fun and durable fabric covers now come in four new colours that promise to blend better in office settings than their current (and still produced) camouflage Blend offering. Black, Green, Blue and Beige are offered in a woven, slightly distressed look with contrasting elastic closure, as usual only in large size and with ruled pages. Definitely worth trying out if you haven’t had a chance to give their fabric covers a spin.
  • Denim notebooks, which first came out as a super popular and a very well designed limited edition offering, are now part of the regular lineup, sort of. The limited edition notebooks are still more attractive in my opinion, with their white contrasting branding label on the back and their white print on the front, but these notebooks, in Antwerp Blue and Prussian Blue (pocket and large, ruled only) are a great way to get some of that denim feel in your life without trying to get a hold of overpriced LE notebooks on the secondary market. Of the fabric covered notebooks that Moleskine (and Baron Fig) offer these feel the best, and I recommend these over the Blend notebooks for that reason.

I’m not a planner person, so I’m not going to go over Moleskine’s extensive planner collection.

Limited Edition Notebooks

  • This is where Moleskine excels beyond all current competition, and in my opinion they’re starting this year stronger than they finished last year.
  • Fall-Winter 2018 limited edition notebooks, Looney Tunes, Super Mario, 007, Astro Boy and Harry Potter are still available, though the very attractive Harry Potter notebooks (especially The Marauders’ Map edition) are starting to be harder to find.
  • Spring-Summer 2019 limited edition notebooks are Lord of the Rings, Basquiat, Wonder Woman, Bob Dylan and Gundam. Each is designed to appeal to a different demographic, and I think that they really nailed it this time.
  • This is not the first time that Moleskine is tackling the Lord of the Rings in a limited edition, but this edition is much, much more attractive and well designed than their previous rather lackluster attempt years ago. The covers, endpapers and special insert all seem spectacular, and this is one edition that I’ve already preordered and plan to review. The “geek” edition, this notebook is designed to appeal to the same people that bought the Harry Potter and Alice editions
  • Basquiat limited edition notebooks are for the hipstery crowd that liked the Kieth Haring limited editions, Dr Seuss editions and probably also enjoyed the Monopoly limited edition, but in an ironic way. These are extra expensive but they’ll probably be popular, considering Basquiat’s success on Uniqlo t-shirts. They’re offered in plain and ruled paper, though I wish Moleskine would have stepped up and offered a sketchbook Basquiat edition. In terms of the boxed set, this one comes with a pen (the regular editions come with stickers), so it’s probably a better deal than the slightly lackluster LotR boxed edition (comes with nothing, will sell like hotcakes, because LotR).
  • Wonder Woman is the comic book edition, and as usual it is the most colourful one, and where Molskine allowed themselves more creative freedom. Bold red and blue action packed covers that really celebrate the character in drawings and text, what more could you want? Ruled only, comes with stickers.
  • Bob Dylan limited edition notebooks are aimed at music lovers, as the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Blue Note editions were before them. These are really reminiscent of the Blue Note limited editions, and like other music themed limited editions, are pretty tame, design-wise. If you’re a Dylan lover, you’ll likely love this edition, and it will make for a great gift, especially around father’s day. Is it surprising then that these come out in April? Ruled only, comes with some pretty dull stickers. The numbered boxed edition is the best designed of the bunch in my opinion. These too are relatively expensive limited editions, though of course expect a difference between RRP and what you actually pay online and anywhere but the official Moleskine stores.
  • Gundam is the anime edition, and as usual is more subdued than the comic book edition, but still pretty colourful. Ruled only, comes with stickers.

Journals

  • I’ve no idea why Moleskine calls their Cahier and Volant offerings “journals” and not notebooks, but I guess you have to differentiate them somehow.
  • Cahiers, formerly available only in Kraft Brown and Black have been expanded to include Cranberry Red (a darker shade of red than the Scarlet Red, likely because of printing limitations) and Myrtle Green, but that’s not that new. What’s new is the three new seasonal colours, Brisk Blue (a darker shade of Reef Blue), Kinetic Pink, and Tender Yellow. I’d stay away from the yellow, as it will turn dirty and blah in about a day’s use, but the other colours are solid and fun. Kraft Brown is the most fun to decorate and make your own (with black in second place), but the other colours seem pretty vibrant for cardboard covers.
  • It is worth saying that of all of Moleskine’s offerings, the Cahiers got the most paper love in recent years, which is a very good thing as the old paper used in these notebooks was garbage. Not acid-free and super thin, it turned yellow and brittle with age very, very quickly. Now the Cahiers use the same paper as the regular notebooks, and they even got some dotted paper love.
  • Subject Cahiers, a new offering that is geared for academic note-taking (Cornell Notes anyone?), and is offered only in large and extra-large. If I was still working on my degree this would be something that I would probably look into using.
  • Volants have become more colourful as time has passed, with Moleskine moving them from a light and dark shade of the same colour to complimentary colours instead. They also got stickers to boost, but still only come in plain and ruled paper. They are the only notebook left that Moleskine offer in extra small, which is both not surprising and a bit of a shame.

There’s nothing new in the Pro Collection and I don’t use any of these business focused notebooks (I like to build my own meeting notes formats), and so I won’t go over these.

Art Notebooks

  • Moleskine’s art collection has gone through a significant overhaul in recent years, all for the better. The sketchbook paper is less pronouncedly ivory coloured, and the paper has less coating on it, which means that it can now take things like light washes, fountain pens, rollerballs, etc without them beading up on it.
  • The sketchbook also got some love in the form of new colours (Red and Sapphire Blue), which is always nice.
  • The recently added sketch album (which is a landscape formatted notebook with cahier covers) is now available in Kraft Brown, which is awesome, because they’re so fun to customize.
  • There’s also a sketch pad, which has less pages and I completely don’t understand. It appears to be a more expensive way to get a sketch album with less pages. Huh?
  • The ever popular (and justly so) Watercolour Album got recently expanded into a Watercolour Notebook (standard format, as opposed to the landscape album format). Now the Watercolour Notebook has been expanded to include the pocket, A4 and A3 size. This is a must buy for me, and will probably be pretty popular amongst urban sketchers.
  • The Music Notebook got a surprising new addition, a Music Cahier in extra large. Moleskine is one of the few stationery companies to offer this layout, and good for them for expanding it.
  • The Japanese Album and Storyboard notebooks are niche products and so unsurprisingly, got no love.

Themed Notebooks

  • Not much is new in this area. There are no new Passion Journals, no new City Notebooks and not much new with the Voyageur.
  • What is new is a Travel Kit, that contains the Ocean Blue Voyageur, a pen and a luggage tag. The Voyageur appears to be more popular than the Travel Journal, so I wonder how long before the Travel Journal is phased out.

As for the rest (the non notebook stuff), here my interest wanes, and this post has been long enough as it is. The catalog is 151 pages long, and full of eye candy, so even if you aren’t a Moleskine fan, take a look.

Moleskine Spring 2019 Catalog

Moleskine Large Dotted Hardcover Notebook

So it appears that Moleskine has finally hopped on the dot grid bandwagon, releasing several of their classic collection notebooks in dot grid, even going as far as creating dot grid versions of some of their seasonal colours (gasp!). Next thing you know they’ll be releasing limited edition notebooks in squared and dot grid paper, and then where will we be? (Don’t worry, it’s not going to happen).

The classic Moleskine collection consists of their hardcover and softcover notebooks, in pocket, large and extra large. Currently the dot grid is offered in black covers, both in hardcover and softcover, and in underwater blue (such a pretty seasonal colour) and beige in softcover. However, it apparently was enough of a success for them to issue the dot grid option in all their classic collection core colours (black, red, blue sapphire, and myrtle green), and in seasonal reef blue (both hardcover and softcover). These colours will start being available in February-March, so it may be worth waiting a little while before purchasing (although some of the hardcover core colour options already seem available).

Now to the review. I got the classic large black hardcover notebook, as it’s probably Moleskine’s best selling notebook, and what people have in mind when they say “Molekine”.

Dotted paper gets a new band colour – blue.

First thing’s first, Moleksine have listened to customer feedback and significantly strengthened their notebooks’ elastic bands. They’re a little thicker and wider, and there’s little chance that they’ll turn into the floppy mess that some of their earlier elastic closures turned into after a few months of use.

The sleeve also has a B-Side, this one is pretty travel oriented, and I love it because maps!

Phileas Fogg would have been proud.

Which brings us to the paper. The dot grid pattern is medium grey, dark enough to be visible, light enough to not be too distracting. It also is very precisely aligned on all pages, if those kind of things bother you.

The “In case of loss” endpaper, with the Moleskine logo, a relatively recent addition.

How does the paper perform? Better than you’d expect. Gel, ballpoint and pencil work well with the paper, but even fountain pen inks, including pretty saturated messes like the Montblanc psychedelic purple work pretty well. There’s no more weird spidering, as there used to be and the spreading is minimal (better than Baron Fig, well above average). If you don’t insist on super saturated inks, you’ll be able to enjoy using fountain pens in this notebook.

A closeup of my writing samples. Montblanc purple has behaved this way on Rhodia paper too, so I blame the ink, not the notebook:

Show through is better than tomoe river paper, but not as good as Rhodia (I’ve had mixed results with Baron Fig, so I’m not using them for comparison here). Again, the only real problem was with the Montblanc ink, which is a problematic ink in general, so I’m not using it for comparison. I’d find this notebook to be usable on both sides of the page, but again, that comes down to preference.

Moleskine seems to be making an effort not only to come up with innovative limited editions, but also to give their regular line-up a bit of a refresh (with new added colours) and boost (with new dotted paper, better quality paper, and a fix for their elastic closure problems). That’s a move in the right direction, and one that I plan to enjoy.

I still need to figure out what’s going on with that Montblanc ink, though…

Moleskine Large Dotted Hardcover Notebook

New Year’s Resolutions

For the last three years I’ve been making and tracking yearly goals in a Baron Fig Three-Legged Juggler Confidant. I call my new year’s resolutions my yearly goals because unlike resolutions, goals are something concrete and well defined that you continually strive to achieve.

The goals are personal, so I’m not going to share them here, but I am going to go over how I set them up, in the hopes that it might help and inspire those working on their own yearly goals.

  • Set yourself up for success by picking goals that you:
        1. Actually care about.
        1. Are measurable.
        1. Are achievable even if your year goes horribly wrong. The trick is to set up easily achievable basic goals, and then “bonus” or extended goals that go beyond them in various tiers. So if you aren’t reading at all and you want to read more a good basic goal would be “read 4 books a year”, with extended goals of “read 8 books a year”, “read 12 books a year” and so on.
        1. Are a mix of things that you track all year and one time events ( for example: participate in X number of races, and run X kilometers a month/year).
        1. Aren’t focused on one area only (to avoid boredom and burnout).
  • I use a paper notebook to track my yearly goals and the “Streaks” app to get my streaks going. The notebook is something I open and update at least once a week and so is constantly on my desk, resting against my laptop. It’s a physical and constant reminder of what I need to do. I can’t emphasize enough how important the physical aspect of putting a check mark or crossing out a box is for this to work.
  • Be ambitious only with extended goals, or you are going to disappointed and discouraged very quickly. Human beings are terrible at assessing deadlines and the amount of effort required to achieve a goal. Cut your goals by 25-50% at least from what you think you can achieve. Yes, it’ll make them easy, but the point is to create a momentum of action and success, not frustration and failure. If you know you’ve missed all or most of your goals you’ll stop looking at them, and by March 2019 you’ll be done.
New Year’s Resolutions

Field Notes Rams Review

I got these notebooks because I like Field Notes more minimalist designs, and this is most certainly one of them. I’m not a fan of dot grid though, so I’m not sure whether I’ll actually enjoy using it.

The orange highlights go well with the cream coloured covers and the grey type.

White staples, to complement the covers:

The best part of this notebook, Dieter Rams Ten Principles of Good Design:

Testing the pages a bit:

The reverse side of the page:

The Field Notes Rams edition is a utilitarian notebook that would be perfect with a Lamy 2000, provided that you’d fill the pen with something like Noodler’s Black. As it is, because of the dot grid, I have no idea when and how this edition will get into my rotation. If you prefer dot grid notebooks, this notebook is definitely worth checking out. Otherwise, the more colourful Three Missions or the more interesting Clandestine would probably be a better purchase.

Field Notes Rams Review

My Reading Journal, or How I Taught Myself To Enjoy Reading Again

Ironically enough, by the time I finished with my MA in English Literature a few years ago I had “lost” the habit of reading. From someone who used to read at every available (and not so available) moment I had turned into a non-reader almost entirely. This bothered me so I set up to rectify it by “gamifying” reading until I had tricked myself back into the habit again.

Field Notes had just come out with their Arts and Sciences, the perfect format for my plans. The idea wasn’t only to create a journal where I would log my thoughts on each book as I read it, but create a little set of “achievements” that I could unlock for each book as I read it. For each quarter of the book I read, I got an achievement, a little logo that symbolized the book which I drew on a separate page. The accumulation of those silly little symbols was enough to push me forward as I learned to enjoy reading again. I kept that up for three Field Notes Arts books and then when I ran out of them, I simplified the format and moved to the Moleskine Two-Go, which had just come out. The Field Notes Arts notebook wasn’t fountain pen friendly so I used a Karas Kustoms Render K, a Blackwing pencil and the Caran d’Ache Bicolor 999 double sided coloured pencil.

On the first year that I tried using this system (from March 2016) I got from not reading any new books (just my old familiar favourites) to reading almost 20 new books. On the second year (2017) I got up to 42 books. This year to date I’m at 58 books, and I’ll probably read 60-61 books by the end of the year. I no longer need to spend time drawing little “achievement badges” as my reading habit is back here to stay. I do, however, still keep a book journal even though I’ve started using Goodreads since 2017. It’s a satisfying way to keep track of my reading and organize my thoughts on the books that I’ve read.

You can check out the format of the entries for fiction and non-fiction below. The unlined left side of the spread (verso) is where I do a little doodle that reminds me of something central in the book, and explain the star rating that I gave the book in each category. I really recommend that if you choose to create your own analog reading journal, you create your format yourself. Mine has changed over time, particularly for non-fiction, and it works with my reading goals for the year.

This is the index, which is useful for reference later on and is a good way to check my reading progress throughout the year.

My Reading Journal, or How I Taught Myself To Enjoy Reading Again