Things of Beauty, Blank Forever

A few years ago, while I attended my first C2E2 comics convention, I made the mistake of wandering through the dealers’ room. I was able to withstand the temptations of the cool clothing, books, and collectibles. I avoided the posters, and the original artwork.

But then I passed a leatherworks booth, and stopped. So many lovely things. I wound up buying a rustic shoulder bag in a rich cognac shade. I also bought a notebook. Whip-stitched, ruddy brown, with an ornate hook-and-eye closure and paper that appeared handmade.


rustic paper

I’ve never written in it. Every so often, I page through it, and ponder the possibility of using it. But I fear spoiling those roughened silk-like pages with scraps of dialogue that will likely never be used, or notes that will never be formed into a story. I would want anything I wrote in that notebook to stand the test of time. I would want it to mean something.

Moleskine* notebooks. I know folks who buy them by the pack and use them to the exclusion of all others. Some time ago I splurged on a three-pack, which rested unopened on a bookshelf until one day I finally tore off the cellophane. I use one of the notebooks as a mileage log, but the other two remain unused. Blank. Clean.

Cheap notebooks, on the other hand, get filled up pretty regularly. They’re the medium that holds so many messages, the story notes, lists, doodles. Maybe it’s because they’re inexpensive, so I don’t mind filling them with words that may never go anywhere else. Maybe it’s because the pages are often removable, so that at any given time, I can tear out all the used ones, and have a clean notebook again. Another fresh start.

puppy notebook



actual writing

Still, I like to think that someday, I will grab a pen and make that first mark in one of those special notebooks. They say that you can’t enjoy a new car until it sustains that first ding or scratch. Only then does it become something that you can sit in comfortably and drive. Maybe after I write that first line or sketch that first flower, they will become like any other notebook. A tool, nicer than some, but a tool just the same.

Do you own something that you love but have never used? If so, do you think you’ll always keep it pristine, or will you finally wear it, or use it, or make that first indelible mark?

*I confess that the name puts me off. In my mind, I delete the ‘e’, which leaves me with the odd notion that the covers are made from mole pelts.


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About Kristine Smith

Kristine Smith is the author of the Jani Kilian series and a number of SF and fantasy short stories, and is a winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. She worked as a pharmaceutical process development scientist for 26 years, but now writes full-time. She also writes supernatural thrillers under the name Alex Gordon. Check out her BVC bookshelf


Things of Beauty, Blank Forever — 6 Comments

  1. Guilty as charged. Beautiful leather bound journal? Pristine, except for the thick layer of dust on it. Moleskines? All but one rattle around in my desk. The third is in my purse collecting mysterious and fragmented notes about Mom’s doctor’s visits. Cheap journals? Got rid of the last of those a few years ago, haven’t felt any need to replace them. I’ve moved entirely digital with my writing. Wish I felt well enough to make better progress.

  2. Some things, I still need to write down. I’m trying to switch to 100% digital–Evernote, Scrivener–because that way, everything is saved in one place. I forget which notebooks I write things in–I have notes for various books scattered all over the place. I’ve started using the Voice Memo function on my phone more and more. It’s a process.

  3. Yeh, but think about the person, many, many years from now, coming across that notebook: the difference between them opening it up and finding the pages blank, or finding whatever thoughts and ideas and snippets of dialogue you might have written down. Which will be more meaningful? Mysterious?

    I used to save things ‘for later,’ because they were too special or beautiful to use. But then I realised that all things eventually decay. Better to enjoy them than to leave them to gather dust and end up in a pile of refuse.

    That leather notebook is screaming to be written in. That’s its purpose. What better way to honour it (and the person who crafted it) than to fulfill that purpose?

    • I know. I have a number of ideas rattling around in my head, and writing in something that appears so old could trigger plot developments. It’s the sort of notebook that can inspire.

  4. MacBook!!! They make the damn things so delightfully smooth and pristine-looking… I was torn between cladding it in something utterly impervious, or flaunting its beauty whilst leaving it vulnerable. In the end I protected it from scratches for two years – already double the average lifespan of a computer in my hands! Then it got a scratch, I bunged a sticker on it, breathed out… *unclenched*… and I can finally use it to write on coffee-stained cafe tables. You know, like I bought it for 😉

    • I baptized my MacBook with a nice splash of coffee about two weeks after I bought it. The equivalent of a champagne launch.

      I managed to keep liquid from seeping beneath the keyboard cover. Hurray for surface tension. Took it to the Genius Bar for further cleaning, but they didn’t need to do anything. I had managed to catch it all with cotton swabs. ??