Exeter, Personal, University Blog, Writing

A Snapshot of my Life in Notebooks

I have a terrifying number of notebooks in my possession. Seriously.

I’m the kind of person who is consistently given at least one new notebook a birthday, but then also the type to stand in Paperchase ogling over the frankly stunning Paperblank collection and thinking to myself, yes, okay, I may have approximately 72 unused notebooks in my bedside table, but do I have a peacock feather design one?? No, I don’t, and that frankly, is a travesty that must be rectified. 

I’m not quite sure what it is about notebooks. Maybe it’s the fact that there are precisely a million and one stunning designs to choose from; maybe it’s the beauty of all those crisp, clean pages on which you can doodle and sketch and jot down thoughts to your heart’s content; or maybe it’s the romanticism of the idea that perhaps, one day, the next Harry Potter will begin life scribbled down in it’s very pages late one night. Even though ever since I got my hands on a hulking starship of a laptop aged 13 I have done all my writing (fictional and otherwise) on a computer, I love the idea of drafting novels in notebooks.

And I think I always have. During an Intense Clear Out of my room the other year, I came across a fuzzy Panda notebook that looked like it had come straight out of the early 90s. In fact, that was exactly where it had come from, and it was an entertaining afternoon flicking through my 4-year-old self’s doodles of mummy and daddy and an imaginary bike trip to the park where we stopped to buy ‘tyoklat’ on the way home (‘Tyoklat’ is apparently the phonetic spelling of ‘chocolate’ as I used to say it. Clearly a sign of my on-going battle with spelling to come). As part of my emptying of cupboards and drawers, I also came across a staggering number of unused notebooks, and in filtering out the ones I no longer wanted (it was fun while it lasted, Bang on the Door merch­) I decided to put the rest to decent use. Or at least some use.

On packing for university, I managed to smuggle a select few of those notebooks with me when Mum wasn’t looking, slipping them between the Tesco crockery and Wilkos bathroom cleaner. They stuck with me through first year, and are now stacked up on my shelves in my student home in and amongst the textbooks and student recipe books.

Though I do still love these notebooks for their aesthetic and romanticised value, they now also serve a purpose, practical or otherwise, in one way or another. As each of them I think represents a little part of my personality, if that’s not too cheesy, I thought I’d share some of my favourites here:

The ‘Thoughts’ Journal


This lovely Paperchase gift from many birthdays ago now operates essentially as a journal. Except there is a key difference between this journal and my previous diary exploits. In this, I don’t force myself to meet any obligation in writing in it regularly, nor do I feel bad when I neglect to write for weeks on end. It’s more of an ad hoc venture, and that I established from the start. I write down what I’m feeling and what I’m doing when and where I want to. Reading through it chronologically doesn’t make an incredible amount of sense to people who aren’t me, due to huge gaps when I was too busy or forgot, but I like having it nonetheless. It tends to be a place to splurge why I’m feeling sad or stressed late at night, and in that sense it’s more of a therapeutic solution for the present moment, as opposed to something to look back on in the future (though I’m sure that’ll be interesting too).

The decision to take up journaling was in part inspired by my brief experience of counselling after I was diagnosed with depression in my first year at university. ‘Write down how you’re feeling’, they said, as did all the resources and online advice I could get my hands on, so I did. I can’t say it’s very cheery to look back on now, but it does make me appreciate how incredibly far I’ve come since then. I started it on Christmas Eve 2014 and am only about a third of the way through, so who knows how long it’ll take before it’s filled. I can’t say I really mind if it’s never completely finished. It is what it is.

The Poem Notebook


I am a sucker when it comes to poetry. It’s possibly one of my nerdiest qualities. I loved studying it in English at school, and when the time came for me to attempt to tutor my brother on analysing unseen poems for GCSE, it was with actual pleasure I marked the essay I set him (I’m a mean sister, but hey, he got an A*, so no complaints allowed.)

In this little faux-leather notebook, I keep track of all the poems that I’ve read or stumbled across that really mean something to me. Whether it’s the poem Posner recites in the History Boys, a favourite of mine by Robert Frost or little nonsensical limerick that my Grandad used to always say, even when dementia seeped in and destroyed any memory he had of me, they’re all, in my mind, beautiful and powerful and special in one way or another.

I’m not a religious person and never have been, but I think for me this notebook acts as a little like a prayer book. I flick through the poems when I’m anxious, and their familiarity, their rhythm, their frequent moral message in and amongst all the literary techniques and clever rhymes, is such a comfort. I’d say my absolute favourite in terms of prayers-equivalent is Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata – it says it all really.

‘You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.’

The Rainy Day Notebook


Now this notebook is a relatively new venture for me. I actually went out of my to find a book for the purpose, and thought this gorgeous little design, again from Paperchase (I spend so much money in Paperchase it’s depressing), suited said-purpose perfectly. The idea for the notebook came from a very good friend of mine who I met in first year here at University.

The lovely Evie and I became friends over chocolate digestives and cups of tea and long deep chats that meandered in and around all sorts of existential issues for hours on end, and during one such chat in her uni accommodation room, I started browsing her own collection of notebooks. It was then she picked out and explained her favourite; the little book in which she writes down all the lovely and inspirational things people say to her from different walks of life. Some of these quotes, from teachers, parents, friends and strangers, were advice for the future, some were words Evie had thought were important at the time, but a lot of them were just ad hoc compliments or words of praise.

For me, as someone who was in a decided self-love lull at the time, this seemed like a wonderful idea. A simple and sweet way to be able to look back on all the lovely things people had said to you in the past on days you don’t feel so great about yourself – who wouldn’t want that reminder?

So I started up my own notebook and I’m pleased to say I’ve kept it going. It has messages and quotes from all sorts of people, quite a few of whom I’d imagine have no idea that their words meant that much to me (I received some of the sweetest texts I’ve ever gotten in my life from people in my year after I was elected Head Girl, and they’re all definitely in here.) I always make sure to add a note about the date and the method of communication, so I can put it into context when reading back through it. It tends to be the ‘rainy days’, when I’m starting to question my abilities or my ‘goodness’ as a person, that I try to remember to flick through it. It always makes me feel a little better.


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