Blank Pages

notebook051610.jpgLet me ask you this: What is it about a nice, new, unwritten-in notebook? I mean: What is it that’s so attractive about the neat, pristine, unopened notebook? My leading theory, being one who thinks a lot about what I might scribble some day, what I might jot down when I grow up, is that all those empty, unspoiled pages represent possibility: Just think of what could be written there. Whole worlds.

I have lots of notebooks from over the years. A handful from long ago–big ones, small ones, steno books, tiny topbound spiral pads, full-sized college-ruled notebooks. Some of them contain actual sequential journal entries. More recent notebooks are filled with to-do lists, project notes, summaries of work hours, the occasional looking-out-the-airliner window notes. (I also have a small collection of reporter’s notebooks filled with a mostly unintelligible scrawl detailing interviews for past stories; reporter’s notebooks are in a separate category.

Most of these notebooks are humble and strictly utilitarian. I picked them up at drugstores and filled them up slowly over months or years. No big deal. However, during the last several years I came across mentions of Moleskine notebooks. Pricey and highly prized items. I think I bought some as Christmas presents a few years ago, and I got one for myself, too. It’s on my desk now, having temporarily found a place atop the surface clutter, within easy reach of my left hand. It’s got a hard black leather cover, lined cream-colored pages, a thin woven black ribbon to mark one’s place, and a black elastic band to hold it closed. But there’s something about this notebook: I’ve never made a mark in it. There’s something about it that seems too–what?–refined and important, maybe, for random jottings. I keep thinking the day will come when I’ll find the words that belong in that book, but so far it hasn’t happened.

Meantime, blank new notebooks maintain their odd attraction. I was reminded today of a Chicago-based design website I used to visit occasionally, Right there on the front page of the site is a come-on for a cool-looking line of mini-notebooks they’re peddling (called Field Notes) Wow! You can get a yearlong subscription to seasonally colored packs of these things, 24 little notebooks in all, for $129. I’m almost ready to go for that deal when the Moleskine comes to mind. OK–that’s one impulse buy I’m not making. For now, anyway.

[Later: One thing leading to another: Rhodia notebooks (they’re from France). Also: musical guest Traffic, with “Empty Pages.” And guess what? The National Stationery Show started today in New York.]

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