The notebooks that I use for scribbling down my thoughts when I’m away from a computer are nearly full, so I’m going to have to go shopping for new ones. This will entail a trip to four or five different shops before I find what I’m looking for. I’m not bothered about the price so much as the the quality of the paper. The paper needs to be compatible with the pens I use.
I’m left-handed, and bad ink-paper interfaces for me mean smudged and streaked handwriting, which doesn’t matter for scribbling notes, but can make writing a handwritten letter tortuous. Because of this, I’ve always been incredibly fussy about the stationery I use. What’s the weight of the paper, how quickly does it absorb ink? Will this pen smudge if I’m writing quickly? When the ink is absorbed into the paper, does my writing distort like a bad blotting paper effect?
I tell myself that I’m OK, and that I’m not obsessed, because I’m happy using whatever brand works, and I don’t pitch a fit when my favourite pen goes missing. But the fact that it can take me up to two hours to choose a notebook is probably some sort of warning sign. I feel the pages of a notebook for their quality, run my finger over them to see how smooth they are, flick between them to see how easily they turn. And I mentally weigh up which of my pens would be best for writing on that type of paper. All for something that will live either in my handbag or on my sofa until I’ve filled up the pristine pages with my messy scribbles.
It’s not just notebooks and pens, though. I am also terrible for judging people by the quality of their business cards. Quick basic job from Vistaprint or a machine in the train station? You don’t take your business seriously. Mini-resumé that includes your picture? You might be trying a little too hard. What I am most likely to go for are clean and simple designs, on heavy card, that are not likely to fall apart after sitting in a wallet for a couple of months or be used as roach material for roll-up cigarettes.
The right stationery can help make a good impression. I’m always impressed when I receive a letter that’s been printed on better-quality paper than run-of-the-mill printer fodder, just as I appreciate being handed a business card that has had some thought put into it. I am still without a formal business card because I am forever fretting over the design. I have had about five possible templates for one now, but I keep changing my mind between fonts, text arrangement, colours and the like. I want it to be perfect, so that when I hand it out it presents a professional image of myself and the work I do. Fussy as I am over stationery, it’s taking forever to do.
I won’t be taking a shopping buddy with me when I go hunting for new notebooks tomorrow; it seems unfair to subject a friend to my stationery fixation. I will though, be taking my trusty pens: one biro, one fountain pen, one liquid gel ballpoint. Once I have made my decision, I will use them to scribble all over my new purchases, as I have some thoughts I haven’t been able to write down just yet, for want of space in my current notebooks. Happiness is non-scratchy scrawling.
[Image by Sarah Parrott]