Colors and Squares

When I was in Germany a few years ago, I was still in the habit of writing my stories by hand, rather than on my computer. I used up the notebooks I had brought with me several weeks before it was time to return home, so I went hunting for a new one. I’ll tell you now, I’m a creature of habit, and it nearly killed me when I realized that all the notebooks were A4–i.e., not the same size as all of my letter-sized notebooks that stacked neatly together. Nor could I find one with college-ruled paper. It was with great apprehension that I walked out of the store with a spiral-bound, A4 notebook filled with graph paper.

But, as we all know, tragedy is a wellspring of creativity. Upon being forced to let go of my letter-sized, college-ruled notebooks, I discovered a better way to plan. Graph paper is amazing! You can write in any direction. You can write in several directions on the same page. It’s SO much easier to make straight lines for tables. And doodling! Doodling is so much fun on graph paper.

Inspired by my forced breach of habit, I decided it was time to break away from my black and blue Bics and get myself a pack of Stabilo pens. And just like that, I went from Kansas to Oz, with planning sessions in ten bright, fine-tipped colors. I started color-coding my notes. When I would get stuck, I could change colors, and suddenly things were in a new perspective. And doodling! My doodles were ten times awesomer! If nothing else, guys, go get a pack of Stabilos for the sake of your doodling.

I changed to writing on my computer shortly after I returned home, but I still use that notebook and my Stabilos for planning (and doodling). There are pages with big blue questions scrawled across them, and pages with neat green tables, and pages with boxes of tiny red text facing every which way. I love this notebook, and when its A4 pages finally run out, I may just have to run back to Germany for another.

How do you plan? Do you have any obsessions with certain kinds of writing supplies?


  1. Notebooks. I love notebooks! College-ruled composition notebooks, spiral on the top college-ruled notebooks, a splurge on Moleskine notebooks(meh), and in a pinch, boring regular notebooks like we had back in school. I found a particular favorite recently at B & N. A soft-bound, 200+ (!) page graph-lined notebook. OMG! Heaven! Enough of those sad 100 pg notebooks. This baby is 1″ thick with 1/4″ squares for the graph and a binding that lets me fold the front cover back without complaint. Thanks for sharing your adventure. Now, where did I put those colored pens?

  2. Oh my gosh, I forgot all about graph paper! This post brought back such memories! These days I don’t do much actual writing on actual paper, but when I do, I’m rocking the unlined journal right now and just whatever pen I can find first. Back in the day, I used to journal with fine-tipped multi-colored pens. And I used magazine clippings and all sorts of multi-media. Ah, how much time I had on my hands back then…

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