Posted in writing

What’s that Smell?

I am odd. Or maybe not. Or maybe I’m odd for reasons entirely unrelated to what I am writing about today. I’ll leave that discussion for others to have.

As you all know, I’m a writer. I write. I don’t claim to be a Writer (capital W) like some heavily paid novelist. But from age 24 to about age 41, I was a professional technical writer. Got paid to show up every day and put words into a computer. People all over the world read those words – some of them, to not be hurt or killed on the job. Others, to figure out how to get started with their new laptop computers. It’s not glamorous work, but it pays well.

I’ve also written freelance stuff for a newspaper that no longer exists, and I consider myself some kind of humorist, at least at times, with this 11+ year old website. It isn’t a paying gig, but I like it. (Don’t you think I’d be writing more often if it were paying? I do.)

So with that background in mind, I can tell you that over the years, I have purchased probably every kind of notebook ever made. I’m kind of an addict. And the ones I like the best are the ones with thin-ish paper that makes a rustling kind of noise after you’ve written on it. Not exactly like the old air mail paper (does anyone but me remember that? It was super-thin so that it wouldn’t weigh down the envelope and cost more to mail) but not far off. I like thin paper.

So I got a new notebook out of the supply closet at work when I started a new project (because the notebook I’d bought at Staples was really nice, except for the thick paper). I love it. Perfect paper thickness. The ink from my fountain pen doesn’t bleed all over the place.

It smells like it came from my grandmother’s barn. (She didn’t own the barn, she rented an apartment in a multi-family house that happened to have a big (HUGE) barn behind it.) The house no longer exists as it did when she lived there, and the barn is long gone. But when I was about 10 I went in there with older boy cousins I had never met before (because they lived in Mississippi and had come up for my grandfather’s funeral) because you cannot keep a teenage boy out of a giant old mysterious barn. We found some glorious old stuff – in one workroom the calendar on the wall was literally from the 1950s. It was as if the owner had turned off the lights one night and had just never gone back in. To be honest, I’m surprised none of us fell through a floor or needed a tetanus shot after that experience. Knowing me, I probably spent the entire time saying “We shouldn’t be in here! This is dangerous!” whether it was or not.

Anyway, the one thing I still remember from that day (other than the funeral) was the smell. An old abandoned barn can really get quite a stink up. God knows anyone with a dust, mold or mildew allergy would have had to be hospitalized.

My new notebook with the perfect paper smells like it was stored in that barn. I’m so incredibly torn – I want to keep using it, but it stinks! I guess I’ll just keep using it until I can’t stand it any more. Or until I notice people wrinkling their noses when I walk into a meeting. Darn you, notebook supply company! Why did you do this to me?


8 thoughts on “What’s that Smell?

  1. 1 – You actually use a fountain pen?

    2 – It was called “Onion Skin”, right?

    3 – I’m a notebook fanatic, too. I write in one almost every day, whether it’s ideas for blogs, a list of things to do, financial reckoning, whatever.

    4 – Yes, you do rival me a bit for parenthetical usage.

    5 – I see that my word verification is “tpqonmoe”. As a Three Stooges fan, I read that as “TPQ On Moe”. I have no idea what that means, but somehow it brightens my day anyway.

    6 – My own personal preference is college-ruled, which is much harder to find than wide-ruled.

    7 – I guess that’s about enough.

  2. I also loved that old Onion skin paper. I used to wish I had an exotic penpal in a far away country to write letters on it. Instead I probably drew pictures of Snoopy.

  3. The right notebook is extremely important, as is having the right pen. I had a nice notebook, but then I had pen trouble so I used a ballpoint pen for a while, but that messed up the feel of the whole thing so I had to get another notebook and new pens, a process which required wandering around Staples for over an hour. And it’s never exactly what I would like it to be. *sigh*

  4. To answer all comments:

    Yes, I use a fountain pen. This is a recent acquirement – I bought a $30 one at Staples (take note, bunny) and decided I really wanted a fine point, which means you have to move up to the big leagues. I have a REALLY nice fountain pen. I have several jars of ink that I use with it. Right now it has purple ink. (You can use the jars of ink with the $30 Waterman, too.)

    I too prefer college-ruled. The stinky notebook is college ruled. Apparently you can see it at (item 33709)

    I adopted the Moleskine line of notebooks for my journal about a year ago. I used to buy the cahiers because they were light and thin but I upgraded to a “real” one around the time I bought the new pen. I’m digging it big time. Check them out at Barnes and Noble…

    When not using my fountain pen, the ONLY other pens that I like (and own) are Pilot Easytouch ballpoint pens (they completely rock out loud) and Pilot Precise V5 Extra Fine “Rolling ball” (they come in a pack that includes purple and green pens…essential, I think.)

    That’s it. I hate all other pens. (Okay, hate is strong.)

  5. I once had a chair that made “fart” noises. One day I sat in it with people around and they started cracking up. Apparently, everyone in the company thought I sat at my desk farting all day. Ditch the notebook. Unless you want people thinking you ride your horse to work every day.

    Sorry to keep posting anonymously.


  6. If it smells bad, ditch it. Probably some chemical contamination from China.. Where is it made ? Jerry

  7. Have I missed a couple of birthdays?

    Olivier still sniffs books, though only in secret (I saw him). I just remember all those multiplication tables they used to print on the back of exercise books (sorry – copy books) – put me off writing.

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