Life Books

by Lori Dwyer on June 1, 2012 · 32 comments

“You’re a writer,” says the Doctor, “but you never use a pen and paper. You see the irony in that, right?”

He’s absolutely correct. The few times I am silly enough to write in long hand, I can’t be bothered typing it up– it never makes into my blog, but I feel the therapy in writing it all the same.

It wasn’t always like this… I thought I had stopped writing for big chunks of time in my life, between high school and beginning this blog. I had– but those stretches of time weren’t as long and barren of expression as I had imagined for myself.

Long periods of silence… peppered by notebooks. Spiral notebooks, most of them– I still love a spiral notebook, and I’m not sure why; other notebooks fancier and far more expensive. It seems an odd paradox that itches at me as I look at them– the more I had spent on the book, the less I had written in it; and I can imagine my younger self trying to incite the magic of pen on paper without motivation or cultivation through the purchase of something for that purpose, never quite managing to allay the apathy or business or unwillingness to write.

I still have my notebooks- almost all of them, I think. I can’t remember ever throwing one out, but goodness knows I’ve probably misplaced one or two over the years– fourteen years, in fact, the oldest notebook I can find is dated 1997, and therefore written by my sixteen year old self.

These diaries, they’re staring to yellow, just slightly at the edges of their paper– when did I become that old, that my belongings actually look antique? In my mind they feel like books, full to bursting with someone elses mind; but I treat them with far more reverence than your average paperback.

I believe books– especially those hearty paperback novels that suck you into their covers and make you a glutton, eating them whole and returning to the real world hours later, glazed and slightly dulled by the story that’s still unfolding in your mind– are meant to be tattered and dog eared. They are meant to be shared, lent to people, donated to charities, borrowed from libraries, thrown pell mell into bags and have their spines cracked on commuter trains. You can tell how good a book is by how thumbed the cover is– or whether it still has its cover at all.

My books, my years of notepads, they feel ready to bubble and overflow with their contents. But they are not casual, to be lent or shared or tossed about. Some sit on my bookshelf, those used most recently– though even they date back to before the birth of my son, four years ago. The rest are kept hidden in two cardboard boxes, carefully stacked on my top wardrobe shelf. I get those boxes down very rarely, and when I do I lose myself for hours.

Is there anything more melodramatic and pensive and naively hopeful than the diary of a teenage girl?

There are pages of streams of consciousness, and I read them back now and wonder who the person who wrote them was– I know her handwriting, even her writing style to a point; but how did she believe what she did about herself? How was she so insecure for so long? I want to hug her. I want to tell her, if she could meet herself at thirty years of age, the age I am now, she would think she was one of the coolest people in the entire world.

There are lists in my notebooks, both profound and mundane. There are quotes from movies, songs, friends, books. Occasionally I’d try to sketch, and always failed miserably; but some of the multi–media collages I made in my early twenties were pretty freaking awesome.

There are letters I wrote and never meant to send. And poetry…so much poetry, so much of it utter crap; but every now and then I find one that I enjoy the lilt of, the jagged half rhythm of my fractured sentences.

As I’ve blogged before, Tony’s handwriting is on the back one of them. Another, a plain spiral a5 pad from my last two years at high school, contains the occasional scrawl of a friend of mine. I lent the notepad I was currently filling, one side of the pages only, to her. I trusted her with it– we weren’t the closest of friends; but she was, out all the girls I knew, one of the only ones who was, like me, a bit of a darkling.

I got the book back to find her comments littered through it; her thoughts and opinions written in messy, loopy scrawl across where I documented my life, no matter how small, and my disappointments, no matter how insignificant.

Nothing is insignificant as a teenager. Nothing is insignificant when you feel insecure. I remember feeling abused, as I I were naked and someone had scrawled their objections along my legs in lipstick. Until I begun this blog– were comments are always welcome, and rarely feel like an intrusion– I think that was the one and only time I let someone see so far inside of me.

Notepads, diaries, books, spiraled and bound. 23 that I can count in total. They begin in 1997, and I watch myself hop, skip and leap through the years after. There’s a huge gap where I had my children– while I have the functional family notebook we used (that of the Chinese take out order), actual ’writing’ is only evident in the first smattered pages of another. But, hey, again– some of it, not so bad. Not so bad at all.

And I’m not done yet, despite what the Doctor may imply. I have a notebook I’m filling right now. It’s black with Mickey Mouse on the front. And it’s another one of those ’functional’ rather than creative notebooks– all the creativity in me ends up right here, on RRSAHM. And that’s a good place for it to be.

There is something so inherently satisfying in writing in script, filling page after page, running your hand lightly over the paper to feel the tiny, uneven indents left by the pressure of hand on pen.

I know it’s not just me– it seems as bloggers, tech geeks and grown up girls who still feel sixteen; we all cling to those basic tools of communication– a pencil and a notebook. Preferably one that looks funky and is going to last quite some time– while I may revere them once they’re no longer used, my resident notebook seems to cop it hard while it’s in service.

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

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Pearl Red Moon June 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Many of lifes greatest pleasures have been experienced snuggling between satiny sheets – of paper. When travelling overseas I've made a ritual of seeking out special books. Some of my favourites are books bought in Kathmandu of handmade paper with wood block printed covers and cloth ties. From New York city a book of exquisite thick cartridge paper begging to absorb any medium I want to slaver it with – water colour, collage, pen and ink, crayons, oil pastels…

For each journey one book becomes a visual diary and others are collected to take home and remain blank to be fondled affectionately until the time comes that I succumb to the need to illustrate a new journey.

Nowadays I live in a small bush town and its been years since I travelled overseas so my collection of blank books is dwindling. We don't have a shop here catering to paper fantasies! So my hankering to collect and dive into the satiny sheets is limited to the occasional city trip.


Ms Optimism June 5, 2012 at 8:44 pm

I spent ages writing a long (very funny, obviously) comment, and then my browser ate it. But that's ok because I have more notebooks than I know what to do with already. xx


Mich June 5, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Im a notebook and pen kinda gal. I ADORE Typo and think Smiggle is just too cute. My hubby constantly asks me everytime I buy a new pen, "dont you have enough pens at home?" the answer is always a No!


Tutus & Trikes June 4, 2012 at 8:41 pm
Tutus & Trikes June 4, 2012 at 8:39 pm

I write list after list, I have 3 notebooks going at once! I love to jot down thoughts, ideas and plans! I have journals for my babies many actually! I gaze into stationary shops from the outside way too afraid of what may happen if I enter! I confess I am an addict…..a stationary addict and I'll never quit!


tarin June 4, 2012 at 5:36 pm

I am a greylead person…There would be hundreds in my house, Mostly blunt but I love them. I buy them all the time plus I am forever going to the shops with my shopping list and then realising I forgot a pencilso I buy a new one……When I do remember to pack them they always match my outfit!!!


Anonymous June 4, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Hi my name is Sarah and i have a stationary problem…. Seriously I don't think people realise how amazing the feel, smell, and potential uses of brand new shiny stationary is, almost every time(no every time) I walk into a shop I feel the need to stand in from of the bright writing, colouring, never ending possibility isle that contains stationary, only to remember… Oh yeah your a hairdresser you only use a pencil to write in your appointments what could you possibly use this for?!?! That thought only lasts a whole of 10 seconds before I grab something and spend the time walking to the check out justifying my purchase… But have no fear I am a child's best friend always handy with endless coloured crayons and pens but awesome smiley face rubbers! And I must say I am one of the most organised hairdressers diary in hand ready to write any event in a flash


Hespera’s Garden (Kristie) June 3, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Stationary is like a type of foreplay. I slowly and purposefully look at it colourfully laid out along shelves and racks. I run my fingers across it, adoringly feeling the textures, the paper stock, the weight of the card. I allow my eyes to feast upon the colours, dancing in my heart. Blues and purples tickle my excitable fancy while black is sophisticated and strong and bold. I collect pieces like secret toys to hide under your bed. Each one hidden until it is needed, so as not to reveal just how bad my problem is. And pens.. and pencils… and sharpeners. Each on fulfilling a purpose, but doing it as sexily as possible. Ahhhhh… I think I need a cold shower..


Vicky June 3, 2012 at 10:22 am

Glad it is not just me that keeps notebooks.I have them dating back to when I was 15. I can't throw them out. No matter how many times I have moved, they get packed up and moved too. There is something carthetic about the physical act of putting pen to paper…
There are big gaps in my notebooks too, and then notebooks where I have spewed my heart and soul onto their pages, they plot the ups and downs of my journey through this thing we call life. Reading back on them cause me to often feel two things simultaneously, dismay that often I have repeated the same acts of insanity, and triumph that I have adapted and overcome so many things…

Would you believe Lori, that there are a couple of notebooks in amongst your piles that I have too – the covers stood out the like signposts


Bron66 June 2, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Oh stationery, how I love thee. I cannot choose my favorite as one cannot admit to a favorite child, I love it all. How can you love a new notebook without loving a new pen to form the words on it's wonderful page? I have boxes of old notebooks in my garage with pages of self-pitying prose written in my favorite fountain pen. If I ever had a favorite it was the onion skin paper I would buy to write long long letters to my friends when overseas. I would be beside myself if I won this prize and my 7 year old is developing the same obsession. We will fight over it!


Melissa June 1, 2012 at 11:45 pm

Oh I love Smiggle!! Ooh, and Officeworks! I just adore browsing all the different stationery items, trying to justify my need to buy ALL of it. My personal weakness (this week anyway) is coloured pens. Specifically, pink and purple.


Rydell June 1, 2012 at 10:13 pm

As a journo you would think I would get sick of things like pens and notebooks since I have to deal with them so much. Not true. If anything, I think it makes my obsession worse because I'm forced to use non-fun stationary – standard spiral notebooks and company issued pens (I have however forced them to order Pilot pens, since they're the only pens I can make work all day, every day).

Once I get home though, watch out! I'm a big pen girl. Love pens. Different colours (both ink and the appearance), different sizes, different styles. Normal ink, glitter ink, scented ink, it's all fun. My main pen at home is an oversied pink Smiggle pen my future sister-in-law bought me that has two different colours and a pacer/pencil section. She also got me a giant eraser to go with it.

Of course, if you have pens, you need notebooks. I tend to use colour themes a lot – certain colours mean certain things. I wish I could put more inspirational thoughts in them, but sometimes I just can't!

I'm also a huge fan of post-it notes. Love them! Different colours, different sizes, different shapes. I have no less than 12 different kinds of post-its. Awesome.


The Flying Drunken Monkey June 1, 2012 at 9:45 pm

The Officeworks catalogue is totally my porn.
I browse the Typo website almost daily and drool and dream.
I used to be extremely excited about starting school because it meant new stationery.
I've actually thought about starting a uni course so I can buy new stationery.
I use good old notebook and pen for all of my blogging planning and the occasional writing.
I actually haven't looked in Smiggle before. Hello new obsession!!
I still have my diary from when I was in primary school. It's hilarious to read now. I actually remember when I wrote in it that I wasn't being dramatic enough so I put in extra strong feelings and worries. I think I even pretended that the diary was writing back to me because I hadn't written in it in awhile. Yeah, I was a pretty sad child. :)


Spinkled June 1, 2012 at 9:06 pm

I havnt gone in a smiggle store yet … I can't trust myself to!! Pity I can't add a picture here to show you my notebook collection of different shapes and sizes. I was shocked when I moved house to find out just how many notebooks I personally own (37 not to mention the ones I cover and sell ;-) there's no smiggle store here which is a good and bad thing – I save money but have no outlet for stationary therapy. I also have five pencil cases full of pens, and two pen jars … But none of it smiggle! I need a cool new notebook to make me feel better and keep track of all the meds Im now on for pain control and what time to take them :-/


Spinkled June 1, 2012 at 9:06 pm

I havnt gone in a smiggle store yet … I can't trust myself to!! Pity I can't add a picture here to show you my notebook collection of different shapes and sizes. I was shocked when I moved house to find out just how many notebooks I personally own (37 not to mention the ones I cover and sell ;-) there's no smiggle store here which is a good and bad thing – I save money but have no outlet for stationary therapy. I also have five pencil cases full of pens, and two pen jars … But none of it smiggle! I need a cool new notebook to make me feel better and keep track of all the meds Im now on for pain control and what time to take them :-/


Claire Chadwick @ Scissors Paper Rock June 1, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Oooh stationery excites me….sad I know.
As a teacher, I get to buy all kinds of funky pens & notebooks and declare "it's all for work….all part of the job….for the kids!" but really I just get a little buzz out of a pretty diary, a funky fury pen & an array of colours to jazz up my desk!
This giveaway ROCKS!!!


Deb June 1, 2012 at 7:47 pm

as every good teacher will attest to, I have a stationary habit that is insatiable. smiggle/Officeworks/newsagents etc is my happy place. Even while grocery shopping in woolies I will linger at the stationary section.

so. good.

my personal faves…. pens, textas especially. Sharpies are THE BOMB.


seasidechik June 1, 2012 at 1:43 pm

My husband bought me a label maker for my birthday. That is how much I love stationary.

The first thing I thought when I enrolled in my uni course? "Oh, yay! I get to buy stationary!"

I could spend hours pawing over notebooks full of lined paper, little address book size through to A4 size. I love finding just the right one for what it's needed for. I love hand writing my notes and assignments first, even though I know it would save time just to type them.

I still write hand written notes and post them via 'snail mail'. We don't have a Smiggle store here. Only what our post office keeps.

Paper, pens of all shapes and sizes, erasers, staplers, hole punchers.

I love stationary!


Josefa Pete June 1, 2012 at 12:56 pm

opps! forgot my email address :(



Josefa Pete June 1, 2012 at 11:14 am

the pen is merely a tool for the soul, a blank page a canvas for a dream to unfold, each moment has a humble beginning

in our legacy we do not toil over, swoon and fall in love with the USB of history, it is its pages, the real pages of our history that we fall in love with

we may live in our cyber existance, but my soul lives in the pages of my writing, the words i write with my always sharp pencil

a notebook and a pencil, as essential as my coffee and phone


she-sleeps-here June 1, 2012 at 11:10 am

Hi Lori,

When you first said "stationery fantasy" I thought that sounded… well, a bit odd. Then I remembered oil pastels. I LOVE these messy, smudgey rainbow creativity sticks. My parents never allowed us to have them at home (Blu-Tack was also banned due to many instances of carpet-smooshing) so I could only use them at school. Nothing increases the appeal of an object to a child more than forbidding it. :)

Smiggle has awesome products. I can go and browse in their stores for hours with all the little knick-knacks they have!

Lys :)


Spagsy June 1, 2012 at 10:44 am

Hi Lori,
I would love to win the stationary packs. Im not sure this will amuse you or win, but here's my story all the same.

After I was married for three years I purged a lot of my diaries, it was a hard decision but I found they grabbed me back into being that insecure child. I kept a diary since I was seven (I'm 33) so u can magine there were a few. One thing I did keep was an old box full of peorry, song lyrics, some written by me and others. I kept my favourite diary, which was a lime green spiral notebook. It was one I had when I was 21. I cut photos and stickers and made a pretty funky looking collage. I found it amusing that I burnt (thats how much it hurt me to read them that I had to burn them) pretty diaries and kept the rugged green loud notebook.

It sits on my bookshelf.

Since then I have the utmost respect for notebooks and am no longer scared to buy ones I think are funky. My latest notebook is a Victoria's Secret one, it has graffiti all over it and it is a multi functional one- I write important lists in there but it also has a journal of important kids milestones- the last was toilet training Sebastian. The funny side of it.

I suppose I'm a notebook junkie…


helgaanne June 1, 2012 at 10:09 am

I'm a stationary addict! If I'm really stressed, all I need is a trip to Office works. lol. I have notebooks that stretch right back to high school, full of writing, stories, poems and angst. I suffered an anxiety disorder a few years back, and I am sure journalling it all is what kept me sane.

I love spiral notebooks as well, but my favourite notebooks ever were ones I bought on a trip to the Philippines when I was 18. I'm not sure what standard they were printed to, but the lines were differently spaced, I can't remember now whether they were wider or narrower, but whatever they were, it suited my handwriting style to a T. I had the clichéd moment of wishing I'd bought dozens, but as I'm now 40 and haven't been back to the Philippines since, I've had to make peace with that one! LOL. I haunt the Asian style stationary shops on occasion, still on a quest. ;)


E June 1, 2012 at 10:06 am

I could lose hours, nay DAYS, and hundreds and thousands of cash in stationary stores like Smiggle. I remember the first time I saw a Smiggle store.. (I'm ashamed to admit) gave me a rush like meeting my now hubby.. you know what new romance kinda rush.. but for stationary.

I LOVE pens, all colours and shades and types, a note books.. SPIRAL in particular too!

And yet I've never been a journal-er. I've tried many times and only ever got a few pages, and somehow using beautiful books for work seems a waste. but there's something lovely about writing in a beautiful notebook. Even if its just to record meeting minutes or shopping lists :-). So, to communicate my LOVE of stationary .. here's a poem :-)

An Ode to stationary

Smiggle, Typo, my heart soars,
Even walking through 'Office works' doors,
A grand pen, a pencil case and a spirally book,
A perfect little container for every nook,
Stationary, I love thee, let me count they ways,
You make my life sunny, on those boring working days!


Casey June 1, 2012 at 10:03 am

I am unlikely to amuse or confuse you BUT I find myself terribly amusing… Does that count? I have a love affair with all things stationary. I am misunderstood in my home, where my obsession with purxhsing a new notepd for a new 'reason' is met with dumfounded confusion (But the one you bought last week has barely been touched!) Ummm yes, but that's for lists, I want one for ideas this week… They do not get it. If only he knew that I once spent my last $120 on a pen because it was going to help me write the masterpiece I just knew needed and deserved a special pen to be written with… I think that notebook may still be empty and the pen as loved as it is, never fulfilled its purpose, but I am certain it wrote many many lists!


ourbigexpatadventure June 1, 2012 at 9:49 am

Many years ago when a rather large office supply store first openedin the Melbourne CBd two co-workers and I snuck out during the work day to check it out. We were gone 2.5 hours. 2.5 hours oohing and ahhing over felt tip,pens (me), notepads and all the other paraphernalia. I love a good pen, always have, always well. It doesn't have to look pretty, but it does have to feel nice!

So, 2.5 hours later we slink backminto desks trying to look like we had been in a meeting to be greeted by our boss who wanted to know where we had all been. Sadly, the rather thick stationary catalogues in our hands gave us away. He was flabbergasted. "Why didn't you invite me?, you know I'm a stationary nerd!"


Lori @ RRSAHM June 1, 2012 at 9:36 am

Hi Pearl, Oops!!! Dates updated- so sorry about that! Giveaway is still open, for sure :) xx


Pearl Red Moon June 1, 2012 at 9:11 am

Hi Lori – can you clarify for me if the entries are still open as I'm a little confused over the dates!? If you talked about this first on facebook or twitter I wouldn't know about it as I don't do either of them. I'd love to compete for this giveaway! I'm a notebook junkie too, but fill them with mostly with my art and only a little text. I'm more comfortable with pictures rather than words…


Rene Demspey June 1, 2012 at 10:08 am

I have a weakness for perfectly sharpened, top quality coloured pencils. Pencils of every shade kept in beautiful wooden boxes. As a primary school teacher, I would use this as my excuse to purchase and colour. Then of course there's the yearly top up of the supply cupboard…ahhhh…office works catalogue….coloured paper….crayons…pens….


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