The Curious Notebook Expo
A guided tour through a somewhat large number of notebooks being used at once
I love notebooks.
I love notebooks, journals and almost anything with decent writing paper sandwiched between two covers. Using pen and ink for creative work is a pretty old fashioned
obsession hobby for someone working in information technology and yet I always return to physical writing.
My love of pen and paper is probably a side effect of growing up Gen Xwhen there wasn’t much choice of writing tools. It wasn’t until the end of my university career that personal computers really started to make inroads into academic and personal life. Plus I haven’t been using smartphones for more than six years.
For the past ten years or so I’ve been regularly using notebooks and journals, giving myself permission to drop more than $10 (well, maybe closer to $30 in some cases…) on a good hard covered notebook with high quality writing paper. I prefer the Leuchtturm1917A5 hard covered notebook, with either lined, dotted or squared pages (like graph paper), but I try other brands.
After a recent inventory, I determined that I’m using ten notebooks on a regular basis so in the interest of science, I decided I’d have a virtual Notebook Expo and show you how I’m using all of this paper. This is just one person’s somewhat eccentric system and it probably isn’t necessary for most
So let’s take a quick look at each notebook.
#1 - The Regular Journal
Hey, what, this again? Didn’t I just write about this practically yesterday?
Well yes, yes I did. In cased you missed it, you can go back and read this post about regular journals and bullet journals. The plan is to keep all of 2022’s journal entries in this book and then… start another in 2023!
#2 - Health/Fitness/Habits
This notebookreally isn’t getting the love that it should and I need to make a better effort to use it. In the past I’ve tracked habits by making lists for them each week and checking off when I successfully complete the habit each day. I really need to do that again!
I also use this notebook to track any health stuff that might be important later on. Because, you know, middle age.
#3 and #4 - Commonplace Books 2 and 3
I wrote about my Commonplace Books a couple of weeks ago, you can follow the link for the details. They are still going strong and someday CPB1 will make its debut.
The two book covers are helpfully labeled Commonplace Book 2 and Commonplace Book 3.
FYI, CPB2 is a Leuchtturm1917 A5 notebook but CPB3 is a Miro notebook, wider and taller than CPB2.
#5 - Sketchbook
This is a Moleskine softcover notebook filed with squared pages. Occasionally I try drawing, something to stretch my skills. I did a 30 day drawing challenge a few years ago and I used graph paper to make it easier. Here’s a sample sketch.
I really need to get back to drawing!
#6 - The Scratching and Rough Drafts Book
I got this notebook as a Christmas gift. It’s not my first choice for a notebook and I don’t usually use ring bound notebooks but hey, it was a gift. So I’m using it for random ideas or to start developing longer pieces, like posts for this newsletter. It’s a mess inside so no pictures, sorry!
#7 - The Collections Notebook
This is the first Leuchtturm1917 notebook that I purchased. It’s a Whitelinesnotebook. I originally tried to use it as a bullet journal but I abandoned it after a few weeks, I just couldn’t make the habit stick at the time. But I kept one concept from bullet journaling: collections. Collections are lists of different types that you want to keep for the long term. I use this for a few things, mainly to keep a list of books that I want to read someday.
#8 - The Media Consumption Notebook
At some point I thought it would be a good idea to start making notes about the media I was consuming: books, TV shows, movies, comic books, etc. I wanted to both keep a log of what I was consuming and what I thought about it. Maybe I’ll use it to develop longer reviews that I’ll publish someday.
Fun fact: I made this notebook from a used hard-covered book, sewing together folios and gluing the end result to the old covers.
#9 and #10 - The How About This Notebook Duo
A couple of years ago I had the idea to publish zines. I barely published one and then set the idea aside. That’s what I was going to use the left notebook for.
And I also started yet another bullet journal and abandoned it. Twice. That’s the notebook on the right.
Fast forward ahead to May 2022: on a whim I decide to start a Substack newsletter called How About This.After experimenting with a bunch of different ideas I hit upon the Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule that I’m currently using. But the themes need planning and organization, especially these two.
Atlantic Canada Mondays require me to plan and coordinate interview posts so I work on lining up people in advance, sending out questions, coordinating responses and scheduling the posts. Finally the list of potential and confirmed interviewees got large enough that I needed a table and checklist to keep things straight.
The “creative” Wednesdaysposts started from a couple of simple ideas which led to a three part series on pen and paper writing and related knowledge management tools. And then ideas for more multi-part series started to emerge and… my planning needs increased.
To get to the point, I repurposed two old notebooks to run this newsletter. The first picture below is from the former bullet journal (#10, for those counting). I’m now using it to track daily activities for the newsletter, including preparation, the date that I published a post and any “marketing” activity I did to try to promote the post.
The next photo is from Notebook #9. It’s the planner I use to track interviews from the original contact through to publication. To maintain privacy (and some mystery) I’ve obscured the names of the people that are going through the interview process.
who I’ve asked
if they’ve agreed to be interviewed
when I sent the questions
when I received their answers, and
when the interview is published.
Other big picture or more specific concepts to grow the newsletter are stored in here.
And that’s your view into my kookynotebook world, hope it was entertaining if nothing else.
Please tell me I’m not the only person in the world who uses so many notebooks!
Or, better still, tell us how YOU use notebooks in the comments!
The full series of The Knowledge That Won’t Fit Inside Your Head posts:
Thanks for reading How About This! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and see if my eccentricity blooms into madness.
Generation X refers to the cohort of people born between the years… oh never mind, you already know this.
I’m referring to when PCs and later models of Apple computers started to make their way into everyone’s homes. There was a generation of Apple and non-Apple personal computers which many people happily used but I fell off the personal computer wagon after the Commodore 64 and never really jumped back on board until I bought a Compaq PC with Windows 3 back in 1992.
I used to be Team Moleskine. They’re still in my top 3 brands of notebooks. Rhodia is also in my top 3. The exact order of the top 3 will remain secret until the time is right to reveal the truth.
I actually have more than 10 active notebooks but 10 is just eccentric enough to make a good post.
Psychology… well, mental health to be more specific.
I’m currently #2 in Google’s search engine results for the term “notebook expo” - shooting for #1!
Dirty little secret: this is a Leuctturm1917 yearly planner that I never really used. Since I don’t care too much about how it looks on the inside, might as well put it to a good use. Especially since it’s a 2020 planner.
I was pleasantly surprised recently when someone saw a picture of me and thought that I was 10 years younger than I really am. (pause) Fortunately it was just a head shot!
OK, I had to retell the story about the numbering of these notebooks. I’m numbering my commonplace books backwards. My first two books became outdated and useless, plus I had more of my own draft scribblings in them that weren’t valuable to keep. Every now and then I do a “notebook harvest” where I go through a notebook, cut out parts that I want to keep and then paste them into a different notebook. I’ve filled Commonplace Book 3 (CPB3) and started into CPB2 a few years ago. If I fill that one then I’ll start CPB1 (Commonplace Book 1). I have a feeling that eventually I’ll “harvest” CP3 and keep the good bits elsewhere, then create a new CPB3.
I own that label maker.
Whitelines notebooks have light grey colored paper and use dots instead of lines. It’s supposed to make the pages easier to scan into an app.
Bullet journaling led me to develop a preference for two page spreads in notebooks. At this point I think my eccentricity cred is getting quite strong.
Reminds me of Harlan Ellison’s Glass Teats.
The thought of typing all of that up is daunting, not gonna lie.
I went through a phase of trying to make notebooks by reusing old hardcover book covers. I made about half a dozen of these before I decided that I preferred using someone else’s notebook. But it was a fun project for a couple of winter months.
Maybe someday I’ll zine again. As opposed to singing. Not sure I should try singing.
This newsletter that you’re currently reading! And thank you so much for that!
Need a better name. Also, this post falls under the same theme and it’s a Thursday. Guidelines, perhaps?
Need a better adjective than kooky.
Mainly because I
need want you to keep coming back for more.
I’ve heard of at least one person who has 15, so there’s that.