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Taking Notes

July 23, 2010

I’ve noticed that the best and brightest business professionals have been looking very writerly lately. They seem to have all migrated away from using plain notebooks and folios, and are now bringing these very expensive-looking leather bound diaries to meetings.

I first noticed this with my Executive Coach. As we spoke, he would take notes in this elaborate-looking oversized notebook that, by the looks of it, may very well have been scarfed from an ancient European monastery.

Then, darn it, my CEO started bringing one of these supple beauties to keep track of all the brilliant ideas I was proposing in our conferences together. I had this impulsive urge to grab the thing and hold it to my nose to get a good snuff of that musky grain leather scent. But so far, I have resisted.

And now, just about every meeting that I attend where the likes of sales professionals, investment bankers, accountants or lawyers are involved, I see someone pulling out a gorgeous 9 x 11 fancy book to take their notes in. 

Have all these business professionals become closet journal-writers?

It used to be the only people I knew who would spring for those big journally-looking things were the writer-journal-wonks (like me). I’ve got them strewn all over the house in drawers and bookshelves, stuck in between the couch cushions, for anyone to read my private thoughts. No wonder the cleaning people give me that startled look when I run into them. “Oh jyes, chello, meester Moore!” they say with a sly grin and sideways glances. And then it dawns on me: They’ve seen everything! Oh well. Who cares.

Apparently, journals notebooks are now the trendy thing for corporate professionals to be using for note-taking.

I think it makes them look smart and bookish, rather than all business. It says, “I may be speaking in business gobbledygook right now, but in my other life I am a deeply reflective and well-tempered intellectual.”

Maybe that’s why it’s catching on. I, for one, don’t mind this trend at all. 

And I found out where they are all coming from. Yesterday I joined the club and purchased my first business Notabilia Notebook from the Levenger Company, whose tag line, btw, is “Tools for serious readers.” How can you not want to drop some serious coin on that? I chose red. I even had my initials monogrammed on the corner.

I am certainly not going to let everyone else in my business professional world get away with this. I mean, come on. I’m the one who’s the writer here!

23 Comments leave one →
  1. July 23, 2010 9:01 am

    Sniff. Drool.

  2. July 23, 2010 9:08 am

    Oooo! Levenger catalog calls to me!

  3. July 23, 2010 9:28 am


    You’re so nosy, envious, and observant. You’re probably one of those bosses who tries to have a serious meeting with a direct report but cannot because your mind wanders off to the latest fad or gimmick that you haven’t scooped up off the market yet (swivel chair to the side, pen to the lip, and mindlessly stare out of the window as if your direct report just became a ghost).

    You’d probably be a pretty cool boss to have, but ohh…look out if you don’t get your fix off whiffs of well-oiled leather notebooks – a new age addiction for business professionals.

    • July 24, 2010 4:23 pm

      Matthew, you have described me better than I could have myself: “nosy, envious and observant.” Well done!

      And have you smelled one of these up close? You must.

  4. July 23, 2010 10:10 am

    I’ve bucked the trend and still just bring a plain old yellow note pad.
    Let them have their fancy-schmacey, big-ticket notebooks. I just need paper.
    But, a deep blue notebook sounds very cool and manly. Maybe I could sprinkle some Old Spice on the pages…

    • July 24, 2010 4:24 pm

      You and Glynn with the yellow note pads… Come on, men! I thought we were writers! We need to set the tone and the aura for those around us! We are better than plain yellow note pads!

  5. July 23, 2010 10:13 am

    Ooh. Journals, nice pens, and sharpened pencils call to me when I walk through the store. And a few months ago, my husband brought home the coolest pencil sharpener known to humankind. It sucks the pencil in, spins it around as it sharpens it perfectly, then spits it out again. I live with a bunch of writer nuts, so we all stand around and bow down to it!
    Interesting post. I’m not sure how I feel about execs trying to look so writerly, but I guess I can’t blame them!

    • July 24, 2010 4:26 pm

      Becky – I can relate to being in awe of the high-tech pencil sharpener. And living with a whole family of writer nuts? At least they don’t think you are the only one!

  6. July 23, 2010 12:56 pm

    I think you should grab his journal and sniff it next time.


    And now I want one of these journals. Very cool!

  7. July 23, 2010 4:47 pm

    If you are like me you get much better ideas when you have a cool pen and high quality journal or notepad. I have been a Levenger customer for 15 years and totally justify the added expense by telling myself I will come up with much better ideas that will pay for themselves.

    And in this day and age with all of the electronic mediums we have to keep the Art of pen and paper alive!!


    • July 24, 2010 4:27 pm

      Tell that to David and Glynn. Honestly, I don’t know what’s gotten into them. You have justified nicely the return on the investment of these high-ticket writerly items: you get better ideas!! Of course!

  8. July 23, 2010 5:29 pm

    i hear a red one means that you’re a poet.

    • July 24, 2010 4:29 pm

      That may be true… Or else it means someone is screaming for attention. ‘LOOK AT MY NEW LEVENGER NOTEBOOK!! LOOK! KEEP LOOKING! YOU CAN’T STOP LOOKING, CAN YOU?”

  9. July 24, 2010 9:29 am

    I’m surrounded in meetings at work by leather or cloth or bound journals.

    I still use yellow writing pads. There is almost nothing that transpires in meetings that merits permanent remembrance in a leather journal.

    • July 24, 2010 4:32 pm

      Au contrair, mon ami… Around these parts, we generate creative and curious plans and paths of tremendous value that definitely require special recording for future reference.

      All right, taking notes just helps me remember what the hell we talked about yesterday. My memory is not what it used to be.

  10. July 24, 2010 4:39 pm

    I actually met Steve Leveen (founder of the Levenger catalog and now retail shops) at a business function about 15 years ago. I sat next to him at a dinner, and he was wonderful company. That was the first I had heard of his catalog, and he told me the whole story of his love for reading and why he started the business. Here’s to you, Steve Leveen! And to all the great productivity that will come from my new red leather Notabilia!

    FYI here’s the story from their website.

  11. July 24, 2010 6:41 pm

    I used to carried some sort of fancy organizer around with me wherever I went, but now there’s not much need for them since I can accomplish it all much easier on my iPhone. I’ve found that even my fancy Bible organizer hasn’t seen the inside of a church for quite a while with all the Bibles I carry electronically.

    I think the organizer is slowly fading out of the norm just like the briefcase did before it. Perhaps the journals are an attempt to keep those last visages alive? It’s also not acceptable in some circles to pull out your smart phone (I still get those looks in church) to take notes. The journals make a good substitute.

    Plus, as you point out, they make everyone look smarter, more thoughtful, and important.

  12. July 25, 2010 4:21 pm

    You made me laugh out loud with your opening, Bradley. It sounds like your buds are into accessories. Do ya’ll have those man purse thingies too? I’m laughing, not making fun. I think it’s great when professionals get into their job enough to find accessories to go along with it!

  13. July 25, 2010 6:44 pm

    ““Oh jyes, chello, meester Moore!” they say with a sly grin and sideways glances. And then it dawns on me: They’ve seen everything! Oh well. Who cares.”

    Made me laugh pretty hard, there. Those things are all over my office as well! I for one, have lost more than my fair share of them, so have found myself writing novelettes in my phone, because I know I won’t lose that beauty and all its contents. Wonderful post!

  14. July 26, 2010 11:48 am

    I’m so above all this gimmicky status symbol stuff. I mean I can get perfectly decent spiral bound notebooks with nice hard covers for absolutely nothing at conferences, and I shamelessly parade the logo of a company with which I have no connection on the front. Besides those fancy big notebooks take up too much space in a briefcase that’s already jammed with things I’ll never get around to reading, accessories for my laptop (which sits on my desk at work … hmmm) and of course my fancy Bose headphones. Oh wait – perhaps I do have a weakness for gimmicks after all. Regarding notebooks, I guess I’m just plain cheap!

  15. July 31, 2010 5:42 pm

    every note you take is going to rhyme

  16. July 31, 2010 5:43 pm

    oooh red leather….

    oh, man…. did i say that?!
    shut my mouth!

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