On Stationery

…and unreasonable joys in small, real goods.

Assumed audience: Other stationery enthusiasts, or at least people who will put up with enthusing about pen and paper.

Epistemic status: I am a ridiculous human, but all humans are ridiculous, and this very ridiculousness is a good thing.

A friend from work very kindly sent me a bunch of Field Notes notebooks, a fountain pen, and — this was the thing — a Panobook, which is my desk notebook for work, because I had run out and they’re back-ordered. And as I sat there opening it up, I got that warm, deep sense in the chest you get when you come to someplace calm that feels like home. I kept laughing at myself because that sounds ridiculous — a notebook, really? — but there it was. A good notebook is a good thing.

Why the so-very-strong reaction? Well, Field Notes includes this quote in some of their materials:

I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.

Replace remember it now” with think it through” and you have my relationship to notebooks. Pen and paper are how I solve problems. I have kept a notepad of some variety at my desk for solving problems since at least 2012, and maybe longer. (I no longer have all of those notebooks, but I have them back to 2016!) After trying a variety of other things, I landed on the Panobook in early 2021 for my desk notebook — and it’s perfect for me. The wide/tall format lets me put it to whatever use I need. And those uses are broad: from high-level technical strategy for the web UI at LinkedIn to solving thorny implementation problems.

Sitting at my desk without my tool-for-thinking for the last month, I have felt unmoored. And so perhaps it is no surprise that it felt like coming home when I opened the new notebook late yesterday. Is it still a bit ridiculous? Perhaps. I rightly laughed at myself for how strongly I felt that. And yet: the small joys of well-crafted tools are very good indeed.