Dear Queer Diary: Let the Moleskine Wars Begin

Dear Queer Diary_Rory Midhani_640px

The time has come, my dear queer diarists, for this column to address an extremely controversial subject. Prepare yourselves for the ferocious arguments that will take place in the comments, and the relationships that will founder on the rocks of disagreement.

Today, we discuss the Moleskine notebook.

I, for one, have always been torn when it comes to the trademark black beauty that is the Moleskine. Which is not to say that I have not owned many. There was the original hardcover Moleskine that I toted about in order to record the innumerable “inside jokes” and hilarious teacher quotations that were an integral part of every high school day. Then, there was the reporter’s notebook I received as a token of my tenure as the editor-in-chief of the school paper. My father, who has always had trouble grasping the idea that he can purchase me notebooks much faster than I can fill them up, has bestowed upon me multiple packs of the softcover Moleskines—including the almost impractically tiny pocket-sized model, in which I occasionally took notes during rehearsals for whatever play I was slaving over at that particular moment of college.

So many Moleskines, so little time. (Via Postcards From Far Away)

So many Moleskines, so little time. (Via Postcards From Far Away)

My current journal is, in fact, a Moleskine— the plain old 5”x8″ soft-cover version with thin lines that are the perfect size for my exceptionally small handwriting. One corner of the cover has been creased in transit from some location to another, and the stitching towards the bottom of the spine has begun to come undone; however, all things considered, my journal is hanging in there.

By now, I have lost the tastefully ivory-colored paper slip that was originally stowed in the back pocket of my Moleskine. You know, the one that claims the Moleskine is “the legendary notebook used by artists and thinkers over the past two centuries: among them Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and Bruce Chatwin”? Back in my high school days, I recall being extremely impressed with that little slip of paper. However, as I have aged, my ability to romanticize what can only be described as an excellent marketing campaign has steadily diminished.

First of all, Moleskine, you didn’t exist until 1997, so I’m pretty sure Ernest Freaking Hemingway probably wrote in a regular old non-“Moleskine” notebook.

Second of all, you couldn’t think of single woman who might have used classy paper products in days of yore?

A message for all the Moleskine misogynists out there. (Via Katie Vaz)

A message for all the Moleskine misogynists out there. (Via Katie Vaz)

That’s right, my fearless journalers. My Moleskine skeptic is about to bust out all over this column. And I’m guessing I am not alone.

Wikipedia details several manufacturing-related “controversies,” one blogger is devoted to finding Moleskine alternatives, and the fountain pen nerds have stirred up quite a fuss about the shoddy paper quality, which allows ink to bleed from one page to another. A whole other camp of skeptics takes out their poison pens on behalf of their bank accounts: there is no doubt that there are cheaper notebooks out there.

On the other hand, someone loves Moleskine enough to make this cake. (Via Moleskinerie)

On the other hand, someone loves Moleskine enough to make this cake. (Via Moleskinerie)

I must admit that my objections to the Moleskine are less practical ones. There’s something about the gratuitous “e” at the end of the name that I can’t quite stomach, yes, but more, I can’t quite come around to the idea that a company so entrenched in capitalism as to have released a “LEGO Limited Edition” notebook vaunts itself as a champion of individual creativity. Would Pablo Picasso have appreciated the opportunity to record his wine-tasting experiences in a handy dandy pre-printed notebook, complete with cutesy stickers?

And yet. And yet, and yet, and yet. There is still something so tasteful about a set of notebooks in different sizes, shapes, thicknesses, and designs that match one another in perfect minimalist fashion. There is still something so delectable about the millions of beautifully illustrated Moleskines that seem to populate my favorite corners of the internet. There is still something so alluring about the shiny black cover of a new Moleskine, the perfectly cut pocket in the back cover, and the sexiness of smooth paper and simple gray lines. This, my dear queer diarists, is why I am torn.

Moleskine at its most delicious. (Via Anna Rusakova)

Moleskine at its most delicious. (Via Anna Rusakova)

Where do you fall on the spectrum of Moleskine love and hate, Straddlers? Which is your favorite Moleskine model? Your preferred Moleskine alternative? Tell me all, my journaling geniuses. Let the Moleskine wars begin!

Dear Queer Diary is a column about the joys (and occasionally, the pains) of journaling. We crack open our tiny notebooks and break out the rainbow-colored pens on the regular, so get ready to limber up your writing hands and document all your beautiful feelings!

Header by Rory Midhani

Feature image via Soula

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Maggie is a freckly, punctuation-loving queer living in the Boston area. She supports her book-buying and tea-drinking habits by teaching America’s youth how to write topic sentences and spends her free time writing postcards and making sandwiches for her girlfriend.

Maggie has written 53 articles for us.


  1. I’m so torn on them. I love having a bunch of matching notebooks–especially when I use them for acting journals or whatever, it’s nice to just have a stack of exactly the same notebooks that like hold a certain history for me?? But like they are SO pretentious and I know if I searched hard enough I could find a notebook that I liked just as much that didn’t pretend to be anything other than just a good notebook.

    Also, weirdly enough, I think buying them sort of has become a convinience… Like when I started getting the planner in high school, I could only get it from Wesleyan University’s bookstore…and now they’re at every Staples so like it’s easy to just keep using them than to look for something else.

  2. Moleskines are pretentious af but gotdamn I love a good pocket in the back of my notebook that can hold my stamps that is kept safe by elastic.

    Basically, I agree with you and I’m only commenting as verbal affirmation.




  3. I find they work best at catch alls- and I, well, I love Moleskines. I can see how they would be stupid for sketching with anything but pencil or ballpoint pen (markers bleed right through). BUT I use the big soft cover ones with no lines for school notes and random stuff. Filling one up is so satisfying, and the joy of looking back on two months of awesome learning is so worth the price! I could live without the other sizes (I have tried them). But I am a believer in the big blank ones!

    • I use a Japanese brush pen, my favorite thing to draw with, and it does not bleed through at all. But, I’m using the hardcover 5″x8″ sketchbooks, so maybe there’s a difference?

  4. Took me a few years to find ‘my’ moleskine model, but for the past 5/6 years I’ve been hooked on the 7,5×10″ (extra large) softskin plain cahier journals. They come in a set of 3. And eventhough I never really write on the front, I prefer the light brown version over any other color. It’s plain, simple and flexible. But most of all: functional. Yes I could choose for a less expansive option, but only going through 1/2 a year is still pretty reasonable to me. Also when it comes to these things I’m a total brand whore and victim of our capatalist society. Moleskine just happens to fit my image. (fuck I actually just wrote that?) Moleskine for life!

  5. I adore my Moleskine. I use it primarily for writing with some occasional (extremely amateur) sketches. I find the paper really smooth and I enjoy the uniform minimalist style.

  6. I dislike Moleskines for one reason right now – I can’t find another hardcover, ~250 pages, graphed Moleskine notebook that matched the one I used as my planner for two years (I draw in my lines & dates). The graph paper instead of lines is the important part.

    Suffice to say, I swore off Moleskines after that and bought a set of cheaper graph paper notebooks for my planners instead.

    Obviously I’m incredibly invested in my planners – they serve as a record of things I’ve done/accomplished and hold all my random notes.

    • I love looking through my old Moleskine planners and am kind of sad about Google calendar taking over my life for that reason.

  7. If the paper quality in a Moleskine is an issue for you, then I daresay you might improve your writing instrument. I humbly suggest a Pilot Razor Point, they come in many different colors and are so very friendly.

    • No way, I love fountain pens too much. I’d rather endure the bleedthrough and feathering than use a marker like that. :)

  8. I actually started keeping one at the behest of my mentor. There is something great about having stacks of books that go together uniformly, and something tasteful and easy about their color selection. I have a deep love of blank pages and graphing paper, and putting it down in something that’s easy to keep together is nice. I’ve kept lots of journals since I was a kid- and there’s something really minimalist about their design that makes them nice to stack together. They’re simple. Capitalist, scummy, yes- but they’re ubiquitous because there’s something about their design that works.

  9. I would love to use Moleskine more often, but sadly, they are too expensive an investment. I bought a bunch of 3.5″ x 5.5″ black, hardcover, ruled Piccadilly notebooks on super sale a few years ago and have been using them ever since. I love how compact they are. I can toss one into almost any purse or bag I’m using, and because they’re small, people assume it’s a planner and don’t bother me about what I’m writing.

    However, when I was accepted into a leadership program, I did purchase 2 green 7.5″ x 10″ Moleskine notebooks for our classes because I wanted something bigger than what I was using for my personal journal, but something smaller than a standard Five Star notebook because I knew I wouldn’t fill it up.

    • Yeeep. Especially if I do what usually happens: start writing in it, then get annoyed that I can’t write random things in it (I like one notebook for one purpose) and then want to rip out pages and because I can’t I feel like the notebook is ‘ruined’ and I don’t like it anymore.

    • It’s the worst thing. I’ve stopped using notebooks at all when I can help it; I just use blank printer paper and I sort it into cute anime clear files by story.

    • YES. I always feel like I’m wasting paper and and that the journal is just incomplete if there are still blank pages left.

  10. I am a sucker for paperblanks. I love their designs. The paper is perfectly suited for writing with a fountain pen, no bleeding. In comparison I always preferred paperblanks to Moleskines. To me they are perfect and my wasted heart will love them…

    For lovers of plain looking notebooks I can recommend Leuchtturm 1917, I love that the pages are numbered. Chronicling your life never felt better. :)

    I have to admit that I am a hoarder of notebooks. It is so addictive. One for drawing, one for inspiration and affirmation, one for random bits and pieces….

    • Paperblanks is my favourite brand ever. If they weren’t so expensive I’d have lots. Perfect paper, lovely designs, nifty magnetic closures, a storage pouch for notes… *drools* It’s about the only notebook I can stand to use for a diary but I can’t justify buying anymore because I have about 14 empty notebooks just waiting to be filled. I buy pretty notebooks just because they’re pretty and forget that I have no use for them. I also like Rhodia notebooks because of the paper but they’re sort of ugly. And again, expensive.

      I’ve never used a Moleskine. I’ve been tempted to buy the one where you can record what you wore and do a wardrobe inventory but I can’t handle the price. I’m also a massive paper snob tbh. I like the look of Moleskines but the price and the reports I’ve heard make me stay away.

      I can talk about stationery forever. :p

      • Stationery talk is highly underrated.
        Quality and aesthetics matter to me. The choice of notebook or paper, pen and ink are part expressing yourself.

        You positively sound like my long-lost sibling. :)

        Blessed are the paper snobs for they shall inherit all the stationery.

      • One of my life goals is to have my own stationery. My boss orders hers from this little shop in Paris, and it paper quality is so beautiful. Until then, I’ll just whittle away at my giant stash of blank note cards with different designs and themes.

  11. I’ve always stuck to the leather type ones especially on etsy. The pages are also look like they’re old so it gives me a feeling of having a vintage journal and the scratches and marks made on the cover are like a mark of love and use.

    For those who want to protect their moleskine journals or want it to have a really really nice cover, I’d recommend the Saddleback Leather ones. They not only look great but smell great too. =)

  12. Of course Moleskines are apart of the capitalistic scheme to manufacture nostalgia and individualism. BUT I have to say that I really love it them and prefer them to any other notebook.

  13. No matter how many Moleskines I have…there is ALWAYS room for one more. They are very aesthetically pleasing and I mean what better way to make a college student take notes then giving them stickers made by Moleskine?

    Lets get real….the fact that there is even an article on them? Ha.
    I don’t see people “torn” about 5-stars notebooks.

    You know you love your moleskines…don’t front. :)

  14. I can’t bring myself to use Moleskines because for an embarrassingly long time I thought they were made out of mole skin and it made me really, really sad.

  15. I used the Cahier brown paper looking mokeskine’s in my second year of uni, I had 3 modules, they came in 3s it had a pleasing symmetry when I handed in all my work. The tutors liked you to have aesthetic cohesion what with it being an art degree. I like the paper of mokeskine’s, I have to say the Evernote one isn’t my favourite with its dotty squares but I’m sticking with it til it’s full.
    Sidenote-I am a huge fan of the Parker Jotter pen also. I’ve tried own brand versions of the mokeskine hardback but they don’t stand up to the punishment I put them through. I’d love to find a cheaper option it has to be said. I’ve even tried making my own. Until I find a solution I’m sticking with them.

  16. The black lined moleskine is my go to journal. I am incapable of journaling in anything else. It’s mostly because the lines fit my handwriting size perfectly and I like how very simple they are. I use moleskine planners too, but only because I have yet to find a pocket planner that gives me the correct line spacing and design for what I need. -_- Most planners are too big or have too much wasted space.

    For any other writing and note taking though, I use different brands. I’m weirdly specific about which kinds of notebooks I’ll use for different types of writing. I have a hard time using moleskines for things that I’m going to either throw away or just transfer to my computer eventually (like my writing). I don’t know why.

    • These are soo nice. I’ve been thinking about buying myself one as a late birthday present. I like that you can replace the pages and keep the nice cover, so if I say something insufferably stupid, I can rip it out and get a refill.

      • And you can easily make your own inserts which is awesome.
        I actually even made a couple of journals the other day which I’m planning to give to my friends. Leatherworking is so much fun. :)

  17. Ah, real quick: the top image is work by Mattias Adolfsson; i noticed that the tumblr linked didn’t appear, at least, to give credit (unless it’s a layout that doesn’t allow tags or links to be seen?). Just letting you know, i hope that’s okay? ♥

    re: the actual books, i went to a magnet high school where the extremely cliquey, snobby, i’m-such-an-arteest of us favored Moleskines. So i do have that side-eye feeling towards them for that. I started calling them “silly little Moleskinnies” because the fact that they were so favored, & so expensive, & the people who favored them were always so snobby & rude just combined to make them silly to me.

    That said, i have used a small one once, i have another unused small one (i have more unused sketchbooks than i have used; they’re overflowing in a box if you want to see), as well as one of the three-packs of the floppy ones with very thin paper that i found on sale for $7. I have only ever bought Moleskines– or the Travelogue sketchbooks, for that matter– when i’ve had a coupon available, simply because of the price. The one time i used that small sketchbook, though, i felt very overly self-conscious (not only is it ~a Moleskine~, & thus everything you draw must be perfect & worthy, it also cost a ridiculous amount of money, & thus everything you draw must be perfect & worthy), & felt ridiculous at myself for even using it.

    First of all, Moleskine, you didn’t exist until 1997, so I’m pretty sure Ernest Freaking Hemingway probably wrote in a regular old non-”Moleskine” notebook.
    casually chokes on my own air & hisses “silly little Moleskinnies”

    • I’ve always felt so self-conscious about using any fancy notebooks for the same reasons you describe. I’m not a great artist, my thoughts aren’t that deep and I have the bubbly handwriting of a thirteen-year-old girl, which looks silly and out of place in an expensive fancy notebook. I feel like I’m marring it’s perfect endless possibilities with my ugly handwriting and boring ideas.

      • or you draw a really crappy sketch that you wanted to turn out okay & you’re like “i spent $15 on this why is everything shitty” & then you doodle on random paper & it comes out way better than expected

        It definitely plays into the whole “you have to care but not too much” thing. Caring too much makes you seize up & freak out, but once you’ve spent Money on a blank book, it makes it so much more potentially “precious” along with feeling like you’ll ruin it & have wasted your money.

        I miss Borders, because they always had cheap, nice, unfrilly sketchbooks that you could use without hesitation or feeling like you were doing something wrong in them.

        (i’m sorry i clearly have far too many thoughts & opinions on blank books)

  18. I like Moleskines (extra large, black softcover, unlined cahier is my jam) because, like my person, my handwriting is very large and voluptuous and cannot be reined in. It’s like if the Hobbitty font from Tolkien books was mixed with Sanskrit and done by a weird 9 year old femme-to-be. Strange, strange handwriting.
    Also I already carry extra-large purses because I always have 1-2 in-progress books with me, so space is not an issue.
    I’ll admit it: I drink the pretty-journal Kool-aid.

  19. Moleskine is generally my notebook of choice. I use them for journals, sketches, and specific things like jotting down notes about people I meet at conferences so I can recall who I met and in what context.

    I used a Moleskine daily planner for 9 years, but this year I switched to the Hobonichi Techo. I regret nothing! In recent years, I have relied more on Google Calendar for appointments, so my daily planner tends to be more of a way that I record interesting experiences in my daily life. For example, I glue movie ticket stubs and other paraphernalia in my daily planner with some notes.

    In terms of miscellaneous note-taking, I use Field Notes notebooks. These are about the same size of a small Moleskine cahier. I use these notebooks for my daily to-do list at work, for work meeting notes, to jot down management notes for my direct reports, taking notes for panels I attend at conventions/conferences, and almost any other random use that doesn’t require a more ‘polished’ product.

  20. I spent my pre-iPhone years (and some of my post iPhone years) using exclusively moleskine planners; my entire life was in those things! And now they so neatly cronicle my life… I eventually gave them up becuase technology is great and I couldn’t be bothered to keep my google calendar and write things down, but I just started journaling again and picked up one of those super inconvenient bright purple pocket sized ones that someone had given me as a gift and I kind of love it?!

    No shame…I do love it, moleskines forever!

  21. I feel so cheap right now. I use graph-lined spiral notebooks from Staples for note-taking (though for that I’m moving more to Evernote app) and idea-jotting (must be by hand), and I wait until back-to-school time to buy a bunch for $2 each.

  22. I’m torn on Moleskine because of the price, I simply can’t justify spending that much on a notebook. I really love Apica notebooks though because the paper is absolutely beautiful to write on and they cost less than their Moleskine equivalent.

  23. I will write on any damn thing, Walmart notebooks for 70 cents, composition notebooks I abandoned in 6th grade, and my favorite is finding something at a thriftstore. But I do love Moleskines since I got hooked on them in a creative writing class I took in my teens where they were provided. I filled up one completely not just because I had a lot to write about that summer, but also because I sensed they were expensive and I wanted to take an extra one home.

    I love the brown paper covered ones, their slim profile, the way they fit in my back pocket, and especially the way the cover gets worn and soft like paper money or leather. I don’t buy them for myself but I do ask for them for the holidays/my birthday as well as their brightly colored mini cousins. I always want unlined.

    Having an unlined Moleskine was the first thing that broke it all the way through to me that writing/sketching/planning/grocery-lists could all combine into one book. So many “college-lined” spiral bounds just seemed too office-supplies-ish to not organize with great seriousness into 1 separate notebook per function, and larger format sketchbooks just seemed to have paper that was too primo to waste via my bad handwriting.

    So, I give Moleskine all the credit for giving me the freedom to carry around a true “ideas” book. If I see something that is very similar but cheaper I’ll be sure to buy it — got to check out Apica, that looks nice.

    P.S. I have stopped carrying around certain notebooks when they get too full because they seem too valuable. I once was carrying around about a hundred dollars and the notebook and thought I lost something and was crossing my fingers “please just let it be the cash and not the notebook.” Does anyone else feel the same way?

    • Love bookbinding. So much fun/stress/joy/misery/gross fish glue stench/busted fingers/sobbing over destroyed covers which ruin everything at the last minute…and that’s why I’m still using mokeskine’s. One day I’ll get good enough that I won’t have to.

  24. I submit for your consideration the Leuchtturm1917 notebook.

    1.) It’s the same size as moleskine notebooks, but comes in a variety of colors.
    2.) The pages. Are. Numbered. And there are more of them.
    3.) There’s a table of contents at the beginning.
    4.) It comes with labels for proper archiving.
    5.) It still has the pocket and the page marker.
    6.) It is a better pair for my pen of choice, the pilot varsity disposable fountain pen.

  25. I will write on anything, I am a jotter! All pocket size. I carry two with me at all times, one ruled and one blank. Sad to say but the maker is least important to me. I don’t use fancy pens so bleed through is never an issue.

    I am a Artisan, and I get inspiration from my surroundings, so as I go about my day, I always have a journal handy to make sure I capture the idea while in the moment, and a pocket size is perfect for that. I currently carry one leather cover. It can hold up to 4 pocket notebooks, but I only carry two, and use the two side pockets for receipts, and my iPhone. I carry one ruled notebook (usually Field Notes or Moleskine), and one blank notebook (usually made myself from this ridiculous large sketch book I had left from an Art class, or Fabriano.) Ruled for my ideas, blank for my sketches.

    I have the pocket size archival storage chest from Field Notes that allows me to store and organize my notebooks when they are full. (Yes everyone is full!)

    I do love my Moelskine notebooks, but I also love my Field Notes, Fabriano, DIY notebook, and the ones I get from the dollar store 5 for $1! They are all great as they serve one purpose, allowing me to capture on paper my journey through life!

  26. I use composition notebooks, the eternal schoolgirl classic. Great for leftys because they open flat, really cheap. I just wish they came in smaller sizes.

    I always see moleskine and want to buy one so bad, but my wallet would hate me if I bought one. We are on good terms lately so I would like to keep it that way.

  27. The fact that moleskines are pricey is on the one hand annoying but on the other, it makes me actually care about what I’m writing and makes me treat it like a book as opposed to a mere source of scrap paper. I have a tendency to rip pages out of cheap notebooks, so I like having at least one notebook that I know will last and that is separate from the mounds of scratch paper covered in illegible incomplete sentences that seem to multiply in the depths of my backpack.

  28. The best notebooks are made by hand for yourself or a friend! Aside from that, even if you are looking for a minimalist idea book,THERE ARE WAY BETTER OPTIONS (politically, monetarily, and aesthetically) than Moleskine. Come on now; how skeezy is there made-up legacy?

    Like, some companies can say “we don’t need an elaborate marketing scheme; just look at our history to measure the quality of our product”. Moleskine, on the other hand, has an elaborate marketing scheme in the form of a pseudo-history. That’s a heap of rhetorical lamesauce, if you ask me.

    Now that we’re acknowledging the eerie capitalist qualities of certain companies, let’s use our consumer power to make a statement about that awareness…especially when there exists a wide and easily attainable array of alternatives, like in this case.

  29. The sketchbooks are nice. There’s one with watercolour paper, and it’s hard to find that kind of paper in such a small size, but I just use a cheap comp book for everything else.

  30. I have gotten through my fair share of Moleskins in my time but these days I’m using Leuchtturm 1917. I like having something sturdy that will last a long time, but picking a new journal has to feel right.

  31. I love moleskines. They feel great and are super versatile. I am a supporter of capitalism so their marketing ploys don’t bother me. In fact I think it’s great that a company seeking simple notebooks has become so well known in not too many years of operation.

  32. Until another company makes a diary which has the days of the week on the left hand page and *notepaper* on the right, I will not be swayed from Moleskine.

    For journalling however…Leuchtturm all the way! Slightly bigger + slightly fatter + slightly more colourful = quite a lot better.

  33. I’m a bit late to this but if anyone has experience with either Moleskin or Leuchtturm and watercolor or other artist mediums please let me know.

    I currently have one notebook for everything, note taking on several subjects, and really need to get a bit more organized. I need one for art stuff and one for personal journal and one for school stuff. I was looking at Moleskin vs Leuchtturm. But I can’t find the Leuchtturm sketchbooks anywhere.

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