Thursday, May 6, 2010

That's What She Said (Wrote)

Brainstorming supplies

I don't know whether this is one of those freaky typosphere convergences, or another tribute to the utility of paper and pens, but today's post on Little Flower Petals was spookily similar to what's become my own standard practice: namely, using a composition book to jot down all manner of ideas. I've talked about this before, in using a small Rhodia pad for on-the-go capture, and I still tote that little guy around with me on walks and to the kids' sporting events, as it's the ideal form of pocketable pen-friendly paper. But lately, I've been using a composition book by the bed, and trying to make myself write at least one thing in it every night.

Composition books are great: they're cheap and spacious and a comfortable lap size, and the stiff covers are suitable for holding a reading light: good for those of us jotting late at night. I'm using Staples "eco easy" line of books, which are made from bagasse paper (remnants from sugarcane production.) It's a light, slightly crispy paper that also takes fountain pen ink exceptionally well, especially for the price. My barely-awake ramblings in the notebook get transferred to index cards on one of the typewriters: usually Norma Jean as she's an elite machine, so I can pack more words per card as needed.

I have a number of works-in-progress in mind when I make notes, and put an abbreviated working title next to the notes which gets transcribed onto the cards (makes it easier to sort out later.) Currently, I've got nine works in various states of woolgathering, including my 2009 entry, and a first draft that I started writing just to test out a restored typewriter (and which will need a do-over, since I got stuck and abandoned it.)

With all the hype about the latest greatest iThing and how it will revolutionize media consumption, it's very satisfying to find rewards in low-tech acts of media production.


D. Loon said...

Paper from sugarcane? Dang it, why did you have to tell me about that?

Elizabeth H. said...

They do! And it's--wait for it--really sweeeet paper.

Well...not literally (not that I'd be so juvenile as to check or anything). But it's awfully nice for fountain pens. Our Staples here had these notebooks on sale for 99 cents right before school started last year, so I have a small stash of 'em waiting in the wings. My only quibble with 'em (as I said on my blog) is that the brown paper covers curl like crazy. I suppose it gives them personality, but....

My other favorite comp books are the Norcoms, which Wal-Mart carries. They can be ridiculously cheap at times. They sometimes aren't quite evenly stitched, and they don't always have the correct number of pages, but *if* you get the Made in Brazil ones (says on the back), they have very nice paper.

Ryan said...

I too use composition books for brainstorming, draft writing, and simply recording life. My current book, a graph-ruled Office Depot brand, takes fountain pen ink remarkably well.

How have your comp books held up over the years? I have heard horror stories of the acidic paper yellowing and becoming crispy with time.

For permanence, I also write in a Moleskine. Rhodia tempts me, but I would need to buy the Webnotebooks online and cannot justify the additional cost.

Elizabeth H. said...

I know, I know - this is Mike's blog so your question was really aimed at him, but hey...I'm good at barging into conversations. It's what I do.

Mom gave us composition books to use for our journals starting back in grade school, so some of them are...well, over twenty years old at this point, scary as that is to me. The oldest *are* a little yellowed, but not like, say, a cheap paperback. They've held up remarkably well, really, considering how many years I've been carting the things around and how often I skim through them.

Of course, there's no guarantee the paper in an '80s era composition book is remotely similar to what's out there now, so maybe that isn't all that helpful.

My more recent Norcoms (oldest is maybe five years old at this point) haven't really changed much over time. Maybe I've been lucky. I'm curious how the bagasse will do. It sure is nice to write on.

mpclemens said...

Please! Jump in with answers and comments, as I'm often useless! Also, I don't check the blog often enough for comments waiting to slip through, so my apologies for the delay.

My plan for the composition books is to fill 'em and forget 'em. There's no claim anywhere on the Staples book that the paper is acid-free, so I do not have high hopes for its longevity. text in there lasts only long enough to get typed onto cards, which then only last long enough to get turned into a novel. They may all become mulch in the garden in a few years. :-)

On the flip side, I like the cheap disposable-ness of the books. I don't feel like I need to write Wisdom for the Ages in them -- they are flimsy and cheap, and no idea is too poor or plain for them.