The Moleskine ritual

For all my quirky habits, I’m not much of a ritualistic person.  Some things I do repetitively or consistently out of mere habit, but rarely do things procedurally according to any kind of personal tradition.

Having said that, I do have a bit of a custom when it comes to “retiring” a filled notebook and beginning another.  I did this with one of my Moleskines the other day.  The first one in a while, actually; it’s pretty rare when I fill one from cover to cover.  I always have a bunch of them going at a time, some for specific projects and others lying around for general note-taking and core-dumping.  So more often than not, I’ll abandon them at some point, and they’ll just get stuck on a shelf or tossed in a drawer.

But when I hit the back page of a well-worn Moleskine, it’s fun for me to use that as a reason to grab a fresh one, get it ready, and start filling it with ink.

old notebook

I reached the end of this notebook the other day.  It’s been in use for a couple of years, staying near me on my desk or in my bag.  It’s gone with me pretty much wherever I’ve travelled.  It’s been places.  It knows things.

used up

This wasn’t really a jot-it-down book so much as as a place for more fleshed-out ideas and concepts.  It’s full of scraps of paper, a writing “cheat sheet” that I keep in most of my notebooks, and other ephemera.  There was a lot of creative energy in that book, and now I’m tempted to scan it into a pdf so I can reference some of it later on without having to pull it down off a shelf.

fresh one

There’s nothing like grabbing a fresh notebook off the shelf and taking the plastic off of it.  It’s not nearly as fun as unboxing a new Mac or other Apple gadget, but it’s such a great tactile buffet.  Peeling off the wrapper.  Cracking open the (so far) unbent cover.  Pulling the elastic band off.  Feeling the crisp paper.

It’s almost like the book asks something of you.  No, it demands something of you.  “Put great things in here.  Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone if it sucks.  Just give me words. Lots of words.”


Alright, back to business.  I label the spines of all my Moleskines with a silver Sharpie.  Once you get a few dozen identical black books floating around your world, you have to be able to tell them apart.  I’ve gotten into the habit of scribbling a quote on the top of some of them too.  Whatever comes to mind, usually.  This one got a Balzac (and before you roll your eyes at me, I’ll tell you that the last one got a Ralph Wiggum).


For my more “important” notebooks, I’ll usually grab a new (or new-ish) pen to keep with that particular book.  I had a Lamy fountain pen that I wanted to use this time, but after trashing my office looking for it, decided to use this Acme rollerball instead.  I don’t use rollerballs much, but this one has a great balance to it, and the ink flows really well on the Moleskine paper.

property of

The first ink to go into a fresh notebook is always the “if found” part.  I’ve put the exact same text into that space on every Moleskine I’ve ever used.  Only one has ever been lost, and I got an email the next day from someone who had found it in the coffeeshop where I left it.


Once the new book is prepped and “in circulation”, the retired one gets shelved somewhere in my office.

So then.  That’s my only admitted “custom”.  Silly?  Sure.  These little books, they’re cheap and ordinary.  But they’re the kinds of objects we creatives bring into our lives, and we invest into them so much more than black ink or colored chalk or elegant code.  They have power over us, and have power because of us.  They’re never just tools.  And because of that, I think, sometimes even a $10 hunk of paper can be worthy of a simple ritual.

posted 5/6/08 at 7:45am to Me me me, Photography, Writing · 0 replies · »

Leave a reply