Watson's custom notebook line guides

I mentioned yesterday that I had made some custom plain paper line guides, based on these ones from The Well-Appointed Desk. 

These are kind of time-sensitive -- since one of their features is this and the next two months' calendars on the bottom of the first page. I figure they'll most likely get damaged over time, or I'll use them to scribble to get ink flowing in pens, or whatever -- and they'll need to be updated, my guess is around once every three months. If it's longer than that, I can add more calendars to the bottom of page 2, I guess.

Both pages have a space for the current date, my location, and the page topic. This is for easy organization and later reference.

The lines are 5.5mm apart on the lined section of the paper and 5mm on the grid. I like writing really small and that way I get the most use possible out of the page space, despite the amount of leftover white space in the header and footer sections.

I modeled these sheets after my most effective note-taking experience, which is at panels at Readercon. (It feels much more urgent to get things right there.) The box on the upper right of the first page would be for the list of panelists; I will probably generally use it for the names of instructors, and/or major themes or sources. That's an element that I'll explore more when I start actually using it. (One of the good things about the planned obsolescence of the calendar is that I get to tweak them based on experience on a regular basis.)

The grid section is for side-calculations, doodles, off-topic thoughts and other stuff that doesn't belong in the main body of the notes. The margin in the main body is so that I can have important headers stick out for emphasis, and/or notes about things I have questions about, so I can quickly refer back to them.

Every third line on the main note body is bolded, for an easier sense of page space. The dotted line down the middle is for quickly eyeballing the spacing for multiple columns. And the markings down the side of the top page are spaced in inches, because there was room to add a ruler so I figured why the eff not. I've got metric with the grid, anyway.

Page 2 is page 1 without the major content box or bottom reference notes. This is so I can go to class with the first two sheets already set. If Readercon is any good for experience here, 2 pages will be enough for most hour-long note taking sessions. But even if it takes three or four, that reduces the number of actions I have to take in the middle of class to adjust my notepad. (I also expect that I'd probably find the first-page content distracting on what was meant to be the second page of notes.)

The blurred out stuff in the lower right is a set of addresses and numbers I frequently need to reference, and often forget. None of them are actually particularly sensitive, but it seemed vaguely irresponsible not to blur them.

It's very important, if you want to use these, to make sure to print it at actual-size, not resize to fit. Otherwise, the ruler on the side will be inaccurate. And if there's any interest in a generic version I'd be happy to set one up.

A love letter to Rhodia notepads

I worked at Borders before they went out of business. A few years later, I worked at Barnes & Noble for a while. One of the noticeable differences between them for me was the quality of the notebooks section.

Barnes and Noble has a very consistent collection of quality notebooks at a great range. Within a bit of wiggle room, you can generally go into a Barnes and Noble and find the notebook you're looking for, if you know it's one that Barnes and Noble carries.

Borders had a somewhat more chaotic notebooks and stationary section. It often had an assortment of unexpected or unusual things -- things that felt rare. They may not have been, but finding something cool in that section felt like a treasure. Especially since the more obscure products were rarely re-stocked.

The Rhodia notepad was one of those things. A yellow lined one. It was discounted -- it wasn't too expensive, but I would never have been able to bring myself to pay full price for it. Paying more than five dollars for a notepad felt ridiculous, plus I was broke, and I used to have a lot of anxiety about taking risks on spending money for things I might turn out to not like.

It was amazing. The paper was smooth and sturdy, it took ink and pencil lead exceptionally well, and the perforations were better than any I'd ever seen before. They're really, genuinely reliable. I have a real problem with accidentally tearing sheets of paper in half trying to remove them from notepads. I never had that problem with that notebook.

I don't use up whole notebooks often, but I used up that one. Then, it was gone: I didn't really do online shopping then, at the time I probably didn't even have a debit card. And I didn't have free money. I would have switched over completely to Rhodia notebooks, but it wasn't within my power to do so.

Lately, I've been listening to the podcast The Pen Addict. They talk about paper a lot, and they mentioned Rhodia notebooks in a few episodes. And I immediately went to Amazon and bought one.

I got a plain white notepad, and it has been pretty close to the only paper I've been using since. I've been finding excuses to write stuff so I can use it. It's fantastic.

I downloaded and printed some line and grid guide sheets from The Well-Appointed Desk -- you can put them under the top sheet of a blank notebook and the lines show through -- and those worked out so well that I decided to make my own, structured around my note-taking style. I'll blog about those tomorrow.

(Disclosure: Product links are Amazon Affiliate Links.)