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Updated on February 26, 2011

Mmm, notebooks...

Many of you will have it, being as this is a place where writers convene/congregate/err...convalesce. Stationeryphilia. The love of stationery. I'm certain it has a proper name, but I haven't been able to find it. One of you will know it - you always know, for you are a wise collective. Stationeryphilia. The inability to walk past a stationery shop without stopping. Without stopping, going in, browsing for half an hour, and buying at least one new notebook, pack of sticky notes, pen or mechanical pencil; possibly even a basketful of goodies.

It is one of my lofty ambitions in life to finish a notebook. I have many notebooks, but very little will power. I am very good at making excuses to abandon a half-filled notebook and begin new ones. As a stationeryphile I find soemthing irresistible about that blank first page, crisp and white, like fresh fallen snow - that does seem like a lazy cliché, I know, but truly it's the best one I can make. Think of that moment when you open the curtains on the morning of the first snowfall of the year, and the world is hushed and still, and although you don't want to spoil the beauty, you also want nothing more than to run outside in your pyjamas and be the first to step on the velvet white coldness; you want to make a snow angel, if you're honest with your inner child. In my ideal world I would start a new notebook every day. I would fill that first page with wordy equivalents of glorious snow angels. To a stationeryphile the reality doesn't matter at all; it makes no difference that most new notebooks are left only half written, that only a very small percentage of the words scribed in them will be of any real value, that all new notebooks start to be considered old and a bit less attractive after the novelty of them has worn off. Every stationeryphile only knows the desire to possess that gorgeous notebook, and cares little for the consequences of breaching overdraft limits, or of filling the house with what their significant other might think of as clutter.

It's not only notebooks. Pens. Oh, pens. Pens that write smoothly, pens that scratch, pens that are very fine tipped, pens that are wide, pens that are colourful, pens that are only black. I am a pen lover whose preferences change with my moods. Other stationeryphiles can only write in blue, for example, or only with a non-scratchy pen, or only with a fine liner, or only with the cheapest supermarket brand of ballpoint. The pen itself becomes an extension of the writer, and for the stationeryphile it does not matter what brand the pen is, it only needs to feel right. We are not necessarily pen snobs. We do not have to have expensive pens (although, expensive pens are divine), we just have to feel comfortable with them. Our pens are like our slippers (not all stationeryphiles wear slippers) and when we find the perfect pen or pair of slippers we are very likely to stick with them for a long time. For certain, we will not be able to resist buying a nice looking new pen if we see one that takes our fancy, but if it does not surpass our old favourite in comfort and writability, it will quickly be abandoned.

Personally, my own stationeryphilia only really extends to notebooks and pens. I have been known to buy sticky notes, but there I am able to be rational. I know that I am an infrequent user of the sticky note, so I will only buy them if I do actually need them. Other stationeryphiles are not driven by need, only by desire. They are unable to apply rational thought to any action once they enter the stationery shop. Like magpies, finding themselves in a treasure chest, they can only fill their arms/beaks/feet with as much as they can carry and ignore completely those guilty feelings as they hand over cash that was intended for the milkman, or for the childrens' school lunches, or for the savings account for next year's holiday.

The outed stationeryphile may have an area of their house for stashing their hoard, such as a dedicated shelf for notebooks, a drawer for pens. Books and pens that are in current use may perhaps be kept in a pile by a favourite chair, or on a desk, so that they are always within reach. It will be obvious from this that many stationeryphiles have a degree of obsessive compulsive disorder, which may explain that desire to see that first clean page over and over again. They may possess a need to have their stationery neatly stacked or laid out, and possibly even inventoried.

The closet stationeryphile is not at all likely to have a specific area of the house designated for stationery, since to them, that would be the equivalent of admitting to their addiction. They would certainly not wish to display their weakness for paper and ink in such an overt way, if indeed they were even conscious of their addiction. The closet stationeryphile may not believe that they have a problem at all. Or they may be fully aware, and may choose to have a secret stash, or perhaps hide a new notebook between Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, or underneath a pile of Terry Pratchetts (Terry Pratchett books that is, not a pile of miniature bearded fantasy authors - although anything is possible). In my opinion, that closet stationeryphile cuts a sad figure, and I would wish for him or her to know that stationeryphilia is nothing to be ashamed of. As addictions go, it is rather a nice one, and if it's embraced it can be controlled more easily. Welcome your parchment and pen greed - and if you feel guilt, then just make a concerted effort to fill a notebook before you buy a new one. Imagine that - buying a notebook because you actually need one? Pure satisfaction.

I used to hide my obsession, but I found that that made it worse. These days I am open about my stationeryphilia, and I find that this helps me to curb it a little.

Not completely though. In my handbag-that-has-to-be-able-to-accommodate-enough-paper-products-to-give-me-a-severe-crick-in-the-neck, I have two books by MARKs.Inc., which I have refilled with chunky, soft covered, narrow lined notebooks from WHSmith. One of these is for writing hubs, and one is for writing my novel. I also have, in the bag, a Moleskine reporter's notebook, which I use for noting down ideas for hubs and submissions. And I have a new notebook in there that I bought not half an hour ago (*hangs head in shame, but then remembers that stationeryphilia is not at all shameful*). I bought it because it's pretty, and I do not yet know what I will use it for. In another bag I have a pile of notebooks and pens that I just bought for my mum - it's her birthday, and she is a stationeryphile. What more perfect opportunity for guilt free stationery purchasing could there be than a fellow stationeryphile's birthday? The ability to buy notebooks and pens without the responsibility of having to fill them before buying the next ones.

My mum's stationery affliction is worse than mine. But she buys less reading books than I do.

Ah, libraphilia - that's another story. I'll save that for another hub...


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