Tag Archive for moleskine

Notebook Nerdery

I still dig paper notebooks. Though I could tap notes into my smartphone via Evernote or a host of other apps, it’s much easier to write in a notebook. I also find it helps me think faster and make more connections. I’m more free-form scribbler than mind mapper. So, when I’m out and about, I tend to have a small notebook with me, preferably something that fits in a jacket or jeans pocket.

I finally filled a Piccadilly I’d been carrying for a while. It’s a cheap knock-off of the Moleskine pocket notebook style, and while I expected it to get beat up, the binding just didn’t hold together. I have Moleskines I carried longer, and though the covers around the bindings began to fray, the bindings themselves held.

I know there are a lot of other things out there, so I decided to do a little browsing. Here are the highlights:

  • Field Notes are pretty cool, but I prefer a hardcover and elastic strap. The hardcover is easier to write on without a table, and the strap helps contain anything I stuff into my notebook.
  • The Midori Traveller notebooks are gorgeous. For $50+, though, they can stick them in their ass. The passport size comes in brown for $28 on Amazon, which is still a bit much. However, I’d prefer the black passport size, and it’s $45. It might be a different story if I were an artist or a fountain pen nut looking for superior paper, but I’m just a pencil scribbler.
  • The Leuchtturm1917 intrigued me, and a video comparing the Leuchtturm1917 pocket notebook to the Moleskine got my attention, but I’m not convinced spending $8-10 more (including shipping) is worth the difference. Page numbers would be cool, but I could do (and have done) that myself.
  • I felt the same way about the Rhodia Webnotebook. Another comparison video suggested some advantages, but once again it’s paying $8-10 more for things that don’t quite make a difference in my needs.

A few other brands looked like more of the same. For all of them, I might change my mind if I wrote in pen or wanted sturdier paper, but I write with a pencil. Always a mechanical pencil, and always one with a retractable, non-stabby point. I still prefer to erase rather than scribble or cross things out (I have a different use for strike-throughs), so my eraser sees a lot of action, too.

I’ve considered the Evernote Smart Notebook before, and I looked at it again now that it comes in a pocket size. The extra cost comes with three additional months of Evernote premium, which adds value. However, I’m not convinced it will really do me any good.

For one, there’s no reason I couldn’t snap a photo any other note notebook page. The sticker tagging and the dot guidelines make it easier for Evernote, I’m sure, but I’d rather have straight text notes than photos. I also don’t think Evernote will make any sense of my manic chicken-scratchings, either.

I haven’t been motivated to test it, though, because the act of transcribing those notes into the computer helps keep the details fresh in my mind and often prompts new ideas, corrections, or improvements. It’s become part of my process. Transcription is also quicker with page numbers (whether pre-printed or hand-written), as I can leave a lot of the extra brainstorming notes in the notebook and just type a book and page number into an Evernote entry for quick reference.

On top of that, Moleskine’s Evernote design is not very enticing. I can live with the lime-green band, but the stuff all over the cover is ugly. A simple Evernote elephant logo embossed on the front, or a just few additional elements like on the Hobbit notebook would be much nicer. Not a deal-killer, just a nitpick.

In the end, I came right back to the standard Moleskine notebooks. I have two now: a standard, pocket-sized one and a larger one with my name on the cover (gifted from a friend). I could still be convinced by some hands-on with the other notebooks, but from what I’m seeing on the web I’d rather not spend the extra ducats. I’m good with a middle ground between affordability and premium features.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Pencil vs. Keyboard

Most of the time, if I have my laptop or iPad sitting on a table somewhere, my trusty Moleskine and a good mechanical pencil are sitting nearby. It’s not uncommon for me to have the electronic device pushed off to the side in favor of the pencil, nor is it unusual for me to have the Moleskine in my pocket while I travel, or sitting close at hand (often right beneath my smart phone) on a bar or restaurant table.

People will often ask me “What’s with the notebook? Why not just type the same thing in your laptop?”

Because of the feel, I’ll tell them.

Artist Patrick Hoover and I talked about the pencil versus the keyboard recently, and here’s how he explained it:

“It’s very tactile and triggers something creative in the brain. I can’t write in a notebook and not end up doodling all over it. It’s physical and dirty and imperfect, and by it’s nature chaotic in a sense. That’s what creating is all about. The computer is just too hard, sterile, and inflexible. It’s great for polishing up something, but I think the best creations come from old school pencil and paper.”

That about sums it up. The ideas just flow faster through a pencil. I love the feel of scribbling on paper, and sometimes I’ll doodle or draw balloons and connecting lines, underline for emphasis (or scratch out to emphasize how hard something sucks), and capture stream-of-consciousness thoughts that may or may not amount to anything.



Why not dump these notes into Evernote? Because Evernote’s for storage and retrieval, not generation. I can’t afford to be deciphering my scribbled handwriting, flipping through the notebook for the right page, or worse, not have the notebook available when I’m trying to write. I also have timelines and character notes for The Pack in Evernote, but there are several drafts of the same in the Moleskine. It’s like Evernote gets the final draft notes, if that makes any sense.

Why not dump them into a story document? Same reason, really. I sit down and start writing when I have an idea of what I want to say. Sure, there’s still a lot of creativity going into the writing process at the keyboard, but that’s more choosing words and stringing together narrative and dialog than it is conjuring the actual scenes and plot. I don’t always work from full outlines, but thinking back, I can hardly think of a time I didn’t at least work off of notes, even for short stories.

Brainstorming and creating just comes easier for me with a pencil. I tinkered with mind map software, but it doesn’t click with me, either. A pencil and the Moleskine — or pretty much any blank piece of paper or yes, a cocktail napkin — works much, much better.

I may be content to replace books with electronic editions, but I’m not sure I’d ever give up my pencil and paper.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Shuri-ryu: Year One

Karate Moleskine

Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

Last week marked the one-year anniversary of my Shuri-ryu karate training at the Academy of Okinawan Karate.

It amazes me how far I’ve come in just one year. In addition to losing a lot of weight, my stances have become longer and lower, my kicks have gotten higher, and my techniques have become a lot sharper. I advanced two belt ranks, I learned two kata, and I’m learning to use the sai and bo.

What surprises me most is we never stop learning; not just new techniques, but new applications for or tweaks to what we already know. For example, just as a punch feels natural, sensei starts pointing out finer detail like elbow position. Also, I’ve been running my kata the same way for weeks with little comment. Last night, sensei tells me my hand techniques look great, now we can work on my stances in the second half of the kata.

Something else I just learned was I should have had a notebook all along. I showed up to a Black Belt Club workout and saw several people with notebooks. I asked my sensei if I should be bringing one, and he told me karateka should have notebooks at every class. He doesn’t always give detailed lessons, but he frequently throws out terms I tend to forget after a week or two.

I bought a Moleskine sketchbook to rectify that, which is what prompted the photo above. I didn’t want it to get lost in the shuffle around the dojo, so I personalized it by stenciling the kanji for the word “karate” onto the front with a silver Sharpie. The sketchbook will be a little sturdier than a lined notebook, it will allow me to doodle in footwork and diagrams, and I’ve even started turning it into a sort of scrap book by including photos of some of the Okinawan masters in the Shuri-ryu lineage. (Yes, I’m a geek that way.)

This first year has been a good one. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this next year takes me.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Year of the To-Do List

About a month ago, I started putting together a to-do list at work. It sits neatly on my Palm and became a good reminder of all the little crap I needed to do when I finished a major product and couldn’t remember what I should be doing next. It also goes a long way to correcting (ruining?) that feeling of not having anything to do when you’re sitting in front of the computer refreshing Google News every five minutes.

It worked so well that a week later I set up a to-do list for my writing in my Moleskine. The notebook is with me all the time (unlike the Palm), it keeps my job work and writing work separate, and it’s faster than flipping through all my notes (or the index I adopted over the summer) to see what I’ve got cooking when my mind goes blank.

The only problem is these lists look rather daunting at first. I wrote my to-do list on a right-hand page near the back of the Moleskine, thinking I’d have plenty of room. Wrong! I filled it up in about two minutes and if I add anything more I’ll be overflowing to the left page. Why is it so easy to forget how busy I really am?

I’ve long thought organization is a big part of my problem. I’m just scatterbrained by nature. I obsess about new tasks and forget old ones. I’m lucky if I’ll be able to finish this blog post if something shiny catches my eye while I’m working on it. I looked into the Getting Things Done (GTD) system, but I don’t want to make this a religion, nor do I want to spend time learning (and obsessing over) a whole new system. Just cursory looks at some of the GTD-oriented software was enough to realize I’m not near anal enough for GTD.

A simple to-do list I can handle. Everyone knows how a to-do list works: you make a list and cross things off as you accomplish them. But it turns out there’s a little bit of art to it, too, as shown in this Lifehack article. Most of it is just tips on handling your to-do list and how to make sure you don’t just put it aside and start another one the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Yes, a lot of it is common sense. But think about it: how much of it do you actually do?

I don’t know that something as simple as a to-do list will make 2008 my “best year ever,” but it’s a start.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.