This is a new Sunday series that I’m calling Stuff that Works. Each Sunday I’ll pick an item that is for me a foundation element in my line up of stuff that matters or as legendary Texas singer songwriter Guy Clark put it – “The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall.”

Moleskine Classic Pocket Plain

About fifteen years ago I bought and fell in love with a little pocket sized notebook I found at Barnes and Noble. The company offering the notebook was a little startup in Milan called Moleskine, but the notebook had a long and storied past.

The Moleskine notebook is, in fact, the heir and successor to the legendary notebook used by artists and thinkers over the past two centuries: among them Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Ernest Hemingway.

The original, A simple black rectangle with rounded corners, an elastic page-holder, and an internal expandable pocket, was produced for over a century by a small French bookbinder that supplied the stationery shops of Paris.

In in 1986, the small family-owned company in the French city of Tours, went out of business. In 1997 a small Milanese publisher brought the legendary notebook back to life.

I’ve filled hundreds of these notebooks over the last 10 years or so as a way to capture thoughts, ideas and to do lists. For me they represent the tactile connection to the written word that has been increasingly replaced by this keyboard. In fact, writing in these notebooks is about the only time I touch pen to paper anymore.

One of my favorite pastimes is to dig a few of these filled notebooks out and thumb through them reliving moments and scraps and forgotten flourishes of ideas.

I found this handy little pen Quiver a while back and it’s the perfect add-on.

You can get these notebooks in many forms, functions, sizes and colors (check out the architecture and design series) and a handful of knockoffs have sprung up as well, but I’ll probably stick with the original Classic Pocket Plain, in a fashion forward orange of course.

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • Any small business owner that tells me that they have a limited budget should NOT own a single moleskin notebook and having a “Quiver” screams, “I feel insecure on a regular basis and did not receive enough attention as a child.”  (just kidding… sort of…) 😉

    • well, make of it what you will, but it’s a tool that works for me – I guess I wouldn’t say that anyone else should have it, it’s personal taste and as for the Quiver add on – it’s just a place to keep a pen so I can find it when I want it, the self-esteem issue might just be something you haven’t sorted out or it wouldn’t really bother – just kidding, but it’s the truth 🙂

  • I loved using a Moleskin notebook for years and still prefer reading real books over a Kindle any day, but it’s just so much easier to use my Android and Evernote to jot quick notes, record messages, save photos of things that inspire me or give me ideas that the Moleskin just doesn’t make good sense to me anymore, even though I do get nostalgic for pens and paper sometimes.

  • John:

    I’m also a big fan of the “working notebook” as a way to document, organize and develop ideas of all shapes and sizes. My wife and I have a saying when one of us comes up with a good idea, “Put it in the notebook.” That notebook also happens to be a Moleskine.

    It’s amazing how much more ideas are retained and refined using this method.

  • Anne

    I’m curious whether you organize or have a system for your notebook so ideas don’t get lost.  I find that paper and pen works best for me for jotting notes, brainstorming, and to-do lists.  But I often end up with scraps of thoughts in random places and half-completed lists that I never come back to.  Thanks! 

    • I guess that’s one of the things the notebook does – it keeps me from jotting in random places – I keep each notebook forever and label with dates. I also use Evernote as well

  • I agree! Having a notebook – rather than making notes on the laptop – just seems easier and more organic. I can’t live without my MacBook Air, but it just seems like the words/ideas/stories flow better when I put pen to paper. No matter how tech-heavy my world gets, I’ll always go back to journals for daily recording.

  • dave367

    Moleskins have become the Franklin Planner of this decade. Very tired meme. They’ve long reached–and passed–being chic. I knew their days were numbered when my firm started putting them in the copier room alongside the paperclips and coffee packets–4 years ago!

    I use, and prefer, the anti-chic of an ordinary composition book. Same stitched pages (so OK for time-tagging innovative concepts, stream of consciousness writing, etc, etc. Same consistant sizing for archiving, just as Moleskins. Always get a comment when I put it on the conference table, alongside my iPhone de jure.  🙂

    I flag, tear corners and tape-in exterior notes just as I’ve always done. Comp books cost around $1, can be had anywhere in the world. 

    I loved ’em in the 1970’s, still do.

  • I love Moleskine notebooks of all types – I use a Cahier for each client/project to keep all my thoughts and notes together  – it has proved an invaluable way of getting things done on that front – and I always know where everything of any importance is for that project.  Small notebooks for carrying around, larger ones for writing projects.  There are few things in life that give me more pleasure than a new notebook, a sharpened pencil and an idea….

  • I gotta say, I have some & do the same thing!  Love the small size & looking through them later on to see what was going through my head & of course errands I had to do.  Moleskine Rules!