On Finishing a Notebook

As someone who has acquired several notebooks, and used them all to some degree, I have found that I love starting new notebooks. I love turning to the first page, breaking in the spine, assessing the smoothness of the paper, and inspecting the thread or staples. Making the first mark in a notebook is delightful.

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Filling and finishing a notebook, however, is more challenging.

I’m not entirely sure why, but filling a notebook has always been a bigger challenge for me. Maybe it’s a fear of commitment, or just a very short attention span, but I have so many half or partially filled notebooks floating around my apartment dating back from my childhood. Whenever I fill a notebook now, even a smaller one, I feel so satisfied flipping through the pages full of my ink and graphite mess. They are small pieces of my brain, minute manifestations of my soul.

As journaling has become an indispensable part of my daily routine – and an outlet for most of my stationery interests – I have been filling and finishing notebooks more regularly. Due to my newfound ability to fill a notebook, I have also developed a bit of a routine when it comes to finally calling them finished. I leave a few blank pages at the back of the notebook to use for the review process I go through with each finished notebook: summarize, transfer, and express gratitude.

For reference, the journal I use in this post is a Baron Fig Confidant with a yellow Guardian cover.

Summarize

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Upon finishing my notebook, the first thing I do is go back through it immediately (or within a few days, when I have a moment) and just flip through the pages and use a sticky tab for anything that catches my eye. I don’t read my entries or notes in depth, I just skim for the basics.

What was I working on in this notebook? What themes run through my entries and notes? Is there anything that I want to carry over into my next notebook?

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After I finish tabbing my notebook, I flip to one of the blank pages in the back and write a little summary of what is in the notebook. Usually these summaries take on the form of a list – bullet points of the things that I tabbed. Overall, this process takes 10 – 15 minutes.

Transfer

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After taking the time to tab and summarize my notebook, I choose the pages or ideas that I want to carry over into my next notebook. When I use a Field Notes notebook (or other pocket notebook) for my daily planning and note-taking, I might carry over a task list, or notes about a project, or a quote that I really like. The first few pages of my notebooks are notes and ideas from a previous notebook. Sometimes, these notes are carried through to my next notebook, and sometimes they are not.

Express Gratitude

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The very last thing I do before putting my notebook on the shelf is write a short thank you note on the very last page. There is no structure for this note, no prescribed pattern for it. I just write a few lines of gratitude for having a space to play, for the pages and the thoughts and ideas that came up and found a place in that notebook.

This small note is the way that I know the notebook is officially finished, and then I put it on my finished notebook shelf, alongside my other journals and notebooks.

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