Notebooks make me joyously happy. I can’t walk past a stationery store without ducking in to check it out. I caress the notebooks, flip through them, smell their pages, massage the covers, and usually walk out with an aching heart unless I’ve forked out the money to take one home. I’d happily spend my days surrounded by paper, whether in blank form or printed. It’s my personal Zen.
My memories of stationery stores stay with me long after I’ve returned from trips. I’ll always remember the little stationery store right behind the Pantheon in Rome, with its rich-smelling air and seductively soft leather notebook covers. I’ll never forget the adorable cartoleria along a Venetian canal with old postcards and embossed notebooks for sale. There was the trendy alternative coffee shop/notebook store in Zagreb with loud Slavic music blasting. I’ve visited an outdoor paper market in Paris, an upscale bookshop with an elegant notebook section in the coldest air-conditioned mall in Recife, Brazil, and frequented the stationery section of art galleries in Amsterdam and Barcelona. I bought cheap spiral-bound student notebooks in Sardinia, eyeing up the gorgeous handmade paper and twine-bound journals that I could never afford, and saved up for the beautiful fair-trade Indian-made notebooks sold by Ten Thousand Villages. My latest obsession is with Moleskine notebooks, available at art supply stores and Chapters.
I was delighted to find this article called The Paper Chase: Confessions of a Stationery Addict. While I wouldn’t call myself an addict, I can relate to her obsession. My saving grace is that I don’t like to buy notebooks that I won’t use because it seems wasteful. The purpose of a notebook, for me, is to be filled and treasured, so I don’t go too crazy with shopping for them because I simply can’t keep up. Still, that doesn’t prevent me from buying one when I fall passionately in love. Plus, having a gorgeous notebook on hand is inspiration for writing in itself!
After reading about the author’s collection of 267 unused notebooks sitting next to her desk, I decided to visit my closet to have a closer look at all my old, filled notebooks from the past fifteen years of my life — ever since I started keeping a journal at age 11. This is what I found:
There are 37 notebooks there, far more than I ever imagined. Some are small, some are big, most are average, but it still adds up to one heck of a lot of words. All my journalling and reading as an angsty, impassioned teenager must have a lot to do with why I love writing so much now. It reminds me of something I heard Caitlin Moran say in an interview on CBC (suitably crude, as usual): “If you eat enough books, eventually you’ll start pooping out words.” I guess that’s one way of putting it! A more poetic description that I can relate to is Christopher Plummer’s reference to “the intoxication of words.” That I understand.
The stationery addict article directed me to some links that are bound to become favourites: a blog called the Notebook Stories, dedicated to notebook lovers/addicts, and a Flickr photo stream called The Notebook Pool. As strange as it sounds, looking at pictures of notebooks and stationery stores fill me a delicious peaceful calm. I’m feeling a bit more daring about my notebook purchases now. My brother-in-law gave me a gift certificate for Christmas that I still haven’t used, and I’m heading to the city this week, so I think I know what I’ll be shopping for. It’s time to grow the collection even further…