The Seductive Dangers of Moleskines

If the marketers did their job well, you already know what a Moleskine is: a fancypants notebook, available in hardcover and in different sizes, with a spectrum of lined pages, blank pages, grid pages, music staves, storyboard pages… during my rare outings to a book store, I inevitably find myself fondling them. All of them. The display and the product itself are both magnetic, irresistible.

The Moleskine as Seductress…

What is it about a Moleskine? I’m sure the answer is a little different for every person you ask, but the general consensus is that they’re damn sexy. I agree—they’re beautiful, simple. With their solid colors and unadulterated pages, each one is a clean slate.

And they do come in a variety of formats, as I mentioned above; the storyboard Moleskines struck me as particularly novel. I don’t have an immediate use for one of those particular types, but somehow it’s difficult not to pick one up—just as an experiment, to see how I react to the medium, to see if it draws something interesting and unusual out of me. But I’m holding out. I’m playing hard to get.

The status quo for most of us is that notebooks are cheap, ugly, disposable, and functional.

That’s how they should be.

The Moleskine as Black Widow

When it’s time to write a grocery list, do you painstakingly select a fountain pen to use on your most expensive letterhead?

Or do you just scratch it into the back of last week’s receipt with a ballpoint?

Most of us feel that a fancier medium should contain something that is of congruently higher quality. In school, many of us were indoctrinated with the idea that we shouldn’t write in textbooks. Moleskines are nice enough to feel dangerously close to “Something I shouldn’t write in. I’ll get yelled at.”

My friendly warning is that a Moleskine, or any similar high-quality notebook or journal, may inhibit you.

My songwriting notebook is cheap, scuffed, crammed, folded, bent, stained, scribbled, dribbled, and gouged.

I’ve bought Moleskines. They sit unused. Why do I do that? It’s like buying an expensive black suit when you live and work in a junkyard.

Sure, that’s the nicest piece of clothing you could buy for that amount of money… but is it something you’re going to feel comfortable wearing when you’re rummaging through all that scrap and mud?

When I buy something to scratch my ideas on, I now ask myself: “Am I going to feel comfortable when it’s time to tear this thing wide open and turn it inside out if that’s what it takes to write these songs?” If the answer is “no,” I go with something more… malleable. I like being able to rip something apart so I can see any two of its pages side-by-side without flipping around. I cut, I fold, I scratch notes, I mangle. I’ve got no business wearing a suit.

My recommendation is that, if you can’t resist the Moleskine display at the bookstore, but then you find your beautiful heirloom-looking notebook giving you a complex, just keep it around as an aesthetic object and find something else to scratch around in.

Do not let your fancy new tie become a noose, and remember that the content is what matters–not the container. Never let a medium discourage you—you can always just change the medium.

Posted on June 2, 2010

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2 Responses to The Seductive Dangers of Moleskines

  1. Mary Shaw January 4, 2011 at 14:10 #

    I must confess I absolutely LOVE Moleskines. They are all over my studio, as I use them for songwriting, sketching and web design. However I’m not afraid to mess them up and scribble all over them, especially my music notebook. It is loaded with scratched out marks and coffee stains. What I love about these books is that they are elegant (even if you mess them up), travel well, and help me stay organized. If you are not afraid to use them they are well worth the price, IMO.

    • Nicholas Tozier January 4, 2011 at 15:58 #

      I’m sure that Moleskines are terrific for anybody who’s not a completely irrational perfectionist, like I am. 😛

      Even though I have a mental block about using them, I can’t help but fondle those notebooks every time I’m in the store.