Whenever I get toward the end of a notebook, I become edgy. The completist in my wants to fill every page before moving onto the next notebook. But another part of me wants to get started in a new notebook. There is something refreshing about cracking open a new notebook and scribbling on the first page. This happens, most frequently, with my Field Notes notebooks. I can fill one of those notebooks in a month or less. And I have so many new ones to choose from. When I get toward the final pages of one, I am eager to start another. I’d say that half of my Field Notes notebooks are filled to the last page. The other half, well…
I use large Moleskine Art Collection sketchbooks for my journals, and I fill the last page on every one of those volumes. Even so, when I get to the last couple of pages of one, I get eager to unwrap the next from the cellophane it comes packed in, and cracking open the thick pages. I get a little worried that an entry might carry over from one volume to the next, and that might be confusing in the future, but so far, I’ve managed to avoid it, filling every page in those notebooks with little or no margin.
The notion of coming to the end of a notebook is lost in the digital world. You can’t come to the end of a notebook in Evernote, for instance. You just add more virtual pages as needed. There isn’t a hard and fast limit, and of course, in some sense that is good because you can add as much as you need without taking up space. But at the same time, there is a loss of dimensionality with digital notebooks. There is no thickness to an Evernote notebook. There is are no frayed edges on the pages of a OneNote notebook. There is no texture to a page in DayOne. I’ve used Evernote for years, and I use OneNote exhaustively at work, and there is not the same kind of joy in creating a new OneNote notebook as their is in unwrapping a Moleskine, or flipping through the various unused Field Notes notebooks on my shelf to figure out which one I want to use next.
Sometimes, just completing a page feels good. I use a Leuchtturm1917 notebook to track all the books that I have read since 1996 (1,033 of them as of today), and as I get to the end of one page I look back to the completed page with nostalgia for the books I’ve read over the last month or two. But I also look eagerly to the blank page beside it, wondering what books will fill that page over the month or two to come.
I don’t feel the same sense of possibility when looking at the digital version of my reading list. All I can see is the past, with no blank page promising the future.
I look forward to final pages because, like a tree shedding its leaves, it is a sign of completion, and the excitement of starting something new.