I was browsing the Viking stationery catalogue on Wednesday looking to see if they had a different version of my attractive, hardback, high quality Oxford Black n’ Red notebook.
Why would I be doing this when I had a perfectly good, brand-new notebook already? I wanted to see if they had a version of the same notebook with Irish ruled lines (for the uninitiated, Irish rules are just narrower).
The ‘right’ stationery
Minutiae like these drive people who believe that – to do their best work – they need to have the ‘right’ collection of stationery.
And not just that. The stationery has to be arranged on their desk and in various draws ‘just so’ (compulsive neatness usually goes hand in hand).
To such people, achieving this lofty goal means they will be able to turn lead into gold, or write the great 21st century novel, or finally produce the blindingly fantastic writing that currently lies just just beyond their grasp, awaiting the day when the right pen is held over the right notebook.
Legendary notebooks for ordinary people
This is one of the reasons why Moleskine has proliferated. Moleskine markets itself as the ‘legendary’ notebook that was used by artistic luminaries such as Hemingway and Picasso.
But what are their marketers actually doing? They’re playing on the subtle idea that, somehow, anyone can scale the creative heights of the greats by recreating similar surroundings or circumstances – which might, just might, have imbued their work with that little something extra.
This is, of course, untrue; but like the relics of saints, there is a certain mystique that draws people towards the idea of owning something of the same kind as someone great.
So do I have a stationery fetish? Well, I have a slightly excessive appreciation of good stationery, but the fact is that one of my best pieces of writing was scrawled on the inside of a cigarette packet I found on the floor of a Nottingham club.
It was a short, vitriolic social critique, and I still have it – thoroughly disinfected, though.
Ultimately, any form of creative angst can lead to superstition. What we must not forget is that the answer doesn’t lie outside ourselves, and certainly not in a fresh packet of Field Notes or a cellophane-wrapped Moleskine.
Copywriting’s not excluded. When you use words to connect buyers with the answer to their problems, it’s human insight – not handmade paper – that’s behind the art.
So, I’m not going to order an Irish-ruled notebook from overseas. Besides, I’ve already got two precisely positioned on my desk at home…