Stationery pleasures

by Steve

I love stationery. Probably a little too much. There. I said it.

I thought I ought to acknowledge this, particularly as, for the first time, stationery got a few mentions on the blog, in my post on writing.

First, there was the Wall Street Journal article, How to Write a Great Novel. Reading through it, it was clear that stationery is pretty central for many writers. It’s not just about scribbling on any old sheet of paper – each writer has their own needs and wants, when it comes to what to actually write on, and write with.

Orhan Pamuk writes in graph-paper notebooks. Hilary Mantel always carries a notebook. Kazuo Ishiguro collects notes in a binder. Michael Ondaatje has a thing for notebooks from Muji. Dan Chaon writes on colour-coded note cards.

Margaret Atwood is perhaps less fussy, scribbling away on napkins, restaurant menus, in the margins of newspapers. (Interlude: Working that way reminds me of an interview with Elvis Costello I read. He said that despite buying many notebooks with the intention of using them for lyric writing, they would often be left unused, as he would end up scrawling his ideas on whatever pieces of paper came to hand. He clearly can be in my Stationery Fan Club, as his intentions are good, but it is interesting that he and Atwood are not tied to a particular method for physically writing their work.)

I was then delighted to see that the world of WordPress has a few stationery fans too. Frances Bean commented, “There was nothing like a fresh compilation notebook and the possibility it holds.” There is definitely something special about that new notebook, ready to be filled. Sometimes it almost seems a shame to write in a good notebook. Almost.

So why do I love stationery? From a very, very young age I enjoyed having paper and pencils. Apparently, before I could write, I would scribble on page upon page, convinced I had written a story, and would then ‘read’ it back to my parents. When I was a little older I’d spend hours writing in A4 pads. Sometimes I’d write stories, sometimes I’d make up football scores, sometimes I’d make up entire discographies of imaginary bands. Paper and pencil was a means of channelling my imagination. I was as happy with a new exercise book as I would be with a bag of sweets.

As an adult I’ve continued to enjoy using stationery, especially notebooks. I’m a real sucker for Moleskine notebooks and have completely fallen for their marketing and stories of famous writers and artists using them in the past. I find them wonderfully tactile, sturdy and just right for carrying wherever I go. They are a bit of luxury, but hardly an extravagant one.

I can also be quite fussy with pens, although so far I’ve shamefully stuck to the disposable type. One day I’ll find the right ‘proper’ pen. One day.

My Significant Other shares this love, luckily for me. We’ll happily mooch around the huge Staples superstore near where we live, or smaller shops we find, like the pen shop we came across whilst holidaying in Eastbourne. As silly as it sounds, enjoying stationery has been a lovely, fun thing for us to share.

I suppose when it comes to me actually writing, with this blog or whatever else, I’m far more likely to use my laptop than pen and paper. But my notebooks are still really important to me. I enjoy having something to hand to jot an idea in, or write a list, or to simply play around with an idea. And there is something more satisfying for me to use a notebook for this, rather than a laptop, or smart phone (not that I have one), when I’m out and about. I look forward to, many years from now, looking through those notebooks and reading those snatches of my thoughts, those snapshots of a past me.

So, do you covet particular items of stationery? If you use pen and paper, are you fussy about the pen and paper you use? Does it depend on what you’re writing? Or where? Or do you think this is all stuff and nonsense?

Photo from mrbill via Flickr