I wrote this on the bus this morn­ing:

I wrote this on the bus this morn­ing. I gen­er­al­ly hate writ­ing on the bus because it always seems so pompous. I don’t like to come off as some­one who thinks he’s an impor­tant writer, or as some­one who’s look­ing for atten­tion. Then I try to tell myself not to care what oth­er peo­ple think, because the fact is that all I’m doing is writ­ing in a note­book. And then I pull out my note­book.

The note­book itself, how­ev­er, may be the impor­tant detail. I bought a new ruled, pock­et Moleskine to keep track of my ideas. It cost me a pret­ty pen­ny, but I’m hop­ing it’ll last me a while. What I used to do was use a text file saved on my desk­top when at my com­put­er, or my Dominion Blueline A9 (com­ing in at a hefty 9 1/4″ x 7 1/4″) when trav­el­ling. The Moleskine is per­fect because it’s small enough to car­ry on the bus, and too small (a pock­et-fill­ing 3.5 x 5.5 inch­es) for oth­er peo­ple to read over my shoul­der. I can’t stand it when oth­er pas­sen­gers nosi­ly glance at my words.

It has a rib­bon to keep track of the cur­rent page, a small pock­et in the back to keep loose items, an elas­tic to keep the pages togeth­er and pre­vent dam­age, and some of the smoothest uncoat­ed paper I’ve ever used. Perfectly, all of the things I look for in a note­book. This does­n’t mean that I’m going to leave my A9 in desue­tude; I’ve rel­e­gat­ed it to keep­ing track of mis­cel­la­neous notes, lists, songs, etc., recent­ly the only task I have been using it for. The Moleskines also come with a lit­tle card in the back explain­ing an inter­est­ing his­to­ry:

It is two cen­turies now that Moleskine has been the leg­endary note­book of European artists and intel­lec­tu­als, from Van Gogh to Henri Matisse, from the expo­nents of the his­tor­i­cal avant-garde move­ments to Ernest Hemingway. Many are the sketch­es and notes, ideas and emo­tions that have been jot­ted down and har­boured in this trust­wor­thy pock­et-size trav­el com­pan­ion before being turned into famous pic­tures or the pages of beloved books.

This long-stand­ing tra­di­tion was con­tin­ued by writer-trav­eller Bruce Chatwin who used to buy his Moleskines at a Paris sta­tionery shop in Rue de l’Ancienne Comedie where he would always stock up before embark­ing on one of his jour­neys. Over the years he had devel­oped a ver­i­ta­ble rit­u­al. Before using them he would in fact num­ber the pages, writ­ing on the inside his name and at least two address­es across the world, and a mes­sage promis­ing a reward for any­one find­ing and return­ing the note­book in case of it being lost.

He even sug­gest­ed this method to his friend Luis Sepulveda, when he gave him a pre­cious Moleskine as a present for a jour­ney they were plan­ning to under­take togeth­er in Patagonia. And there was no doubt as to how pre­cious it was, giv­en that at the time even the last Moleskine man­u­fac­tur­er, a small fam­i­ly-run firm of Tours, had dis­con­tin­ued pro­duc­tion in 1986. “Le vrai mole­sk­ine n’est plus” was the short and curt state­ment of the own­er of the sta­tionery shop where Chatwin had ordered one hun­dred before leav­ing for Australia. Despite hav­ing lit­er­al­ly swept up all the mole­sk­ines he could find, they were not enough.

Now, the Moleskine is back again. This silent and dis­creet keep­er of an extra­or­di­nary tra­di­tion which has been miss­ing for years has set out again on its jour­ney. A wit­ness to con­tem­po­rary nomadism, it can once again pass from one pock­et to anoth­er to con­tin­ue the adven­ture.

The sequel still waits to be writ­ten and its blank pages are ready to tell the sto­ry.

Now I feel free to do this. Write what I want, when I want, where I want. I love writ­ing in this thing.

I’m back.


  1. I always found that the key to real­ly writ­ing was to have a book you loved to write in. For some rea­son, right now, I keep this shit­ty, dog-earred yel­low legal pad in my mes­sanger bag. It’s not my typ­i­cal spe­cial­ly picked note­book, and I find I’m writ­ing a lot more. My note­books were usu­al­ly full of poet­ry that i’d write ten times a day. Up here, I lost my muse, and would write a few pages, then the book would just become a list­book, note­book, sketch­book. And it annoyed me.

    The Yellow Legal Pad is every­thing and I can write what­ev­er in it with­out remorse that nice paper has been wast­ed, or I’ll look back on this a few years from now and won­der why I kept this non­sense in here. It’s a com­plete scratch pad. I love it.

    Here’s to the paper that draws us in.

  2. I know that exact feel­ing. I hate being con­strict­ed to neat­ness in my writ­ing. I’d love to be able to keep super-neat, per­fect­ly writ­ten notes, but I’d prob­a­bly end up tear­ing out all the pages in the attempt. That’s why my note­books are usal­ly a com­plete mess. It’s best to be able to for­get about how to come across and just spit some­thing out.

  3. Heh. I’ve actu­al­ly got the cov­ers of my note­books from high school scanned, with the inten­tion to put up the poet­ry inside them, but that uhhh has­n’t hap­pened yet. I haven’t both­ered to scan the ones from the last four years, cause theyre blank cov­ers, unac­ces­sorized, and/or just not filled with enough writ­ings to be con­sid­ered a true note­book of mine.

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