MY DIY Notebooks–Long Term Review

It seemed to be a good idea at the time. And it was. Until it wasn’t.

A decade ago or so the school where I work asked us to hand out surveys to our students assessing our and their performance in class. (Many marked low scores without realizing they were marking themselves low.) Part of my game was to give out the survey at test passback classes and then, once I was safe, pass back the exams.

Unfortunately, not only did we get the results of the surveys, we also got all the surveys back to go through if we wanted. I had about 280 students or so and we did the surveys twice a year. This meant we had stacks of paper. Well, at least it meant I did. I have generally saved old worksheets as scratch paper in order to use the backsides before I throw them out. With the surveys, I had a stack of paper that got bigger twice a year.

I then downloaded a freeware program that let me make lines and set about making my own writing tablets. I printed the surveys and bunches of random worksheets I still hand on my bubblejet printer. (Keep in mind, given the price of printer ink, it would have been cheaper to pour Dom Perignon champagne on the floor.) I bound the pages with staples, covered the staples in black gaffer’s tape and, in a few cases, used an Exacto knife to create ghetto perforations to make pages easier to tear out.

The original stack of 50.

The original stack of 50.

I ended up with 50 tablets and set about using them to write novels. Each tablet had 65 pages and about 35 lines or so from top to bottom. With my handwriting it worked out to about 11,000 words per tablet and I used several of them for novels one and two.

There were, however, several problems.:

Not only could I see my shame (any poor surveys) so could anyone else who saw the tablet. Some pages had heavy ghosting from being printed with bubblejet printers. This made them hard to use.

Ghosting and, if you look real closely, you can see the results.

Ghosting and, if you look real closely, you can see the results.

My handwriting is terrible and 65 pages of my handwriting is madness. Before the school stopped asking us to do surveys, I acquired more paper, and therefore more tablets before I could finish the ones I had. The longer the tablets sat, the more they turned brown and the more the staples rusted.

Also, not only was there the ink expense, but printing them was frequently a pain in the ass that took more time than taking the train to Tokyo to buy expensive notebooks would have. Because I was using different types of paper, I couldn’t just start printing and walk away. I had to be there to undo jams and sort printed sheets from those that got fed through in clumps.

Lately I’ve been moving away from those tablets toward higher quality, more fountain pen friendly paper. I threw away a stack that had begun to turn brown and mildew. I also started tossing spare handouts in the recycle box rather than my desk. I still have a stack of tablets and several others I bound but never printed. I’ll use them to write morning pages, or to sketch out rough drafts of school assignments, but I’ll never print anymore.

A more modern stack. Now side-bound but still with staples and gaffer's tape.

A more modern stack. Now side-bound but still with staples and gaffer’s tape.

Note: The first two pictures above were first published in an article for Notebookism.


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