Tuesday, 23 September 2008

#23 – Picking the right notepad

Or why good things come in small packages.

Fussy about the notepad?
It’s amazing how picky some travel writers can be about the notepads they use. Some aren’t fussy at all – they’ll take any old scrap of paper, or whatever’s lying around in their hotel room. Others are incredibly specific, and like Ernest Hemingway, will only use a Moleskine.
I’m not even going to begin to push you towards one sort of pad. But I will try and explain why I favour the ones I go for. And I shall start with a cautionary tale.

Large pad = easy filing
When I first started out as a full time freelance travel writer, I’d carry a large pad around with me, trying to get all the notes from one trip into one pad.
There was good logic to this – it would make filing the notes away a lot easier: One per trip – it’s logical.

Five days worth of notes
And then I lost it three quarters of the way through the trip. Five days worth of notes, all gone. I manage to rescue some of it from memory, but a lot of the little details were gone, and I’d say I probably lost out on two or three stories as a result.
That, as you can imagine, hurt.

The advantages of small notepads
Since then, I have learned from my mistake. I now use a series of small notepads – a maximum of two days’ travelling per pad, and never more than one destination in one pad. And after experimenting, I’ve found that there are a few other characteristics I like:

- Soft cover, not hard cover. It’s more comfortable in the pocket.
- A cover that can be written on. It sounds silly, but many notepads have glossy covers or covers that are so dark that the writing can’t be seen. And when you have piles of pads in a drawer, being able to look at which one it is from the cover is a great help.
- Lined paper. It keeps my scrawling in some sort of check. With plain paper, it’s absolutely all over the place.
- Small enough to keep in my pocket, ready to be withdrawn when needed. But big enough to be able to get a decent amount of material in there over the course of a day.
- If ring-bound, I prefer the binding to be on the side. When it’s at the top, pages and the cover have a tendency to tear off when you lift it out of your pocket.

But, as I say, this is entirely subjective. Everyone has a pad that suits them best – it’s just a case of finding it.

1 comment:

Ben said...

Excellent post! I've often found myself justifying my choose of notepad. I am one of the droves who use Moleskines (though I pride myself on choosing them before it was the trend to do so--but that only means I'd never heard of them when I bought my first).
Agree with just about all of your preferences, though. Writing on the cover of one has never been a prerequisite (or even something I've ever thought of); I prefer hard covers (because I'm pretty rough on everything I own); but I simply hate spirals (they catch on everything and bend, distorting the spine).
Anyway, those are just a few of my thoughts on the matter :-)