I Remember September ... Back to School Supplies

By the time I was in high school, I knew what I needed for Back to School supplies. First, I had to have an assignement book. I preferred the Day Runner At-A-Glance Weekly Planners. Each day I would write the homework I needed to do, with a check-off box next to it. Pens I got from my dad, a doctor who had a seemingly never-ending stream of pens, pencils, and mini-notebooks from drug companies. I would get a couple of binders, and then my notebooks. Somewhere along the way I settled on the Mead 5-Star 3 Subject College Ruled with 150 perforated pages. Perforated because these were the days when you frequently needed to write something in class and then turn it in, and it couldn't have those little fringies from the spiral notebook attached. I chose three subject notebooks even though I had a different notebook for each subject because of the pockets: three subjects meant six pockets in which I could tuck things.

As a writer, I mostly compose on my computer, but I still keep a notebook for each project. Some of my writing friends can be very particular and will choose just the right notebook for each project. I have tried that. For example, I purchased this really cute robot notebook for a project I'm working on.
Did I mention it was hot and humid here today?

But I abandoned it midway through for a good old-fashioned school notebook. It seems I always come back to the three subject, college ruled with perforated pages, and it's because I still need those pockets. I have gotten better at taping things into my notebooks -- research, notes to self, that sort of thing. But there are some papers that I need easy access to, such as maps and timelines. For those, I like to be able to just slip them into a folder.

It's a little sad because I do love nice stationery and writing supplies. Have I caressed Moleskine journals in the store? Yes I have. But I guess writer's notebooks are just like everything else: you have to find what works for you. I would love to hear about the notebooks and supplies that other writers use. Favorite type of paper? Best pen? Please share in the comments.


  1. I use those black and white composition books (wide rules) — the ones you can't tear anything out of. An early writer teacher of mine suggested them for that reason, so you don't lose anything. I fill them with research notes, character sketches, plot exercises. I even number of the pages and create a table of contents in the front for easy access. For a historical novel, I might fill as many as three or four. Now I feel like I couldn't write a novel without one —well I COULD, but it would be hard….;-)

  2. I do love the black and white composition books. And those you can get in kind of fun designs now, too.

  3. Unlined spiral notebook (usually actually a sketch book)

    Gel pens (at least 4 colors for rewrites and ms markup).

    Unlined index cards (planning)

    Sharpies in various colors (for index cards)

    Drawing supplies (for drawing to brainstorm)

    Scissors and tape (so I can literally cut and paste)

    Stapler and paperclips (to separate manuscript into scenes)

    Tape flags (101 uses)

    Sticky notes (ditto)


  4. Sage, you need to lead a workshop on your process. This sounds fascinating!

  5. Thanks! I'd love to, though I fear it might make strong women weep :-)

  6. I was using a 2-subject Mead notebook. I wasn't crazy about the rings, but what I loved was the folder that divided the two sections, and not just because it stored things. I used the front half of the notebook for my own writing and play with stories and I used the second half for professional writing about my classroom/instruction. The back cover is smattered with interesting words or things to look up later. Both sides of the folder have collected favorite quotes from book I've read/authors I appreciate.

    Now I'm in a bound journal that fits easily in my purse. Convenient, but I'm missing my sections and the pages are too small!

    I'm still searching for the notebook I LOVE, but my addiction to Sharpie pens holds fast.

  7. Melissa, I keep small journals all over the place, too. You never know when an idea will strike. But I really like you're two subject approach.

    In high school through grad school, I would write story ideas/notes in the margins of my class notebooks. Sometimes I would write whole scenes, flipping back and forth between writing my story and taking notes. I thought I was being subtle, but probably not.

  8. I use spiral notebooks--world's best "laptop"--for outlining and planning out chapters. I keep the notebook next to my keyboard as I type up the next chapter / section. Tarantino once called the pen a kind of antenna to God, and I think there's something to that. Just can't brainstorm as well on a computer...

  9. Megan, this is such a fun post! Like Laurie, I use comp books because they are the perfect size, and I am not afraid to write in them and make mistakes. I have a few really pretty journals but I never use them because they seem too fancy for my scribbles. And like Holly, I find great freedom in using a pen and paper!


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