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99% of the time, “standard issue” is exactly what we want. We like matching sets; we like interchangeable parts; we crave goods that are dependable because they don't change. That’s what we sell in Code&Quill’s store every day.

The Code&Quill “standard issue” is what the good people of Kickstarter wanted. It’s what people love, share, and find new use for every day. We’re proud to make and sell our staple notebooks. (And we’re not the only ones who can say this, but there’s a real zen to having uniform stacks, amirite?)

But this still begs the question: what about the other 1% of the time? There are some occasions when “standard issue” is the opposite of your needs—in which case “special issue” custom work becomes its own artisanal pursuit for a brand.

No serious foodie would whip out a freezer meal to host out-of-town guests. They want to present something fresh, handmade, and memorable.
No serious ink collector would show off a cereal-box tattoo. They want to share the original, often-beautiful body art that has NEVER been created for anyone else.
No version of James Bond would survive so long with standard equipment—in other words, without the assistance of Q Branch (basically the MI6 "custom division"). 007 is crafty, but sometimes it’s an ejector seat or bungee belt or laser watch that saves his ass—and not merely his wits. (To the same point: he’s not as handsome in an off-the-rack suit.)

 

We’ve kept quiet about it, but Code&Quill has a growing Custom division which has already delivered some amazing work. Since many of you have written us to ask about Custom, we figured we’d make the answers to your FAQs more public. Read ‘em through to get some starter details!

 

1. Why bother with custom notebooks at all?

In our experience, people like custom notebooks for some combination of the following:

  • High-quality “swag” for external brand opportunities, like events or sharing with clients/prospects
  • Sharp gear for internal branding, cohesion, and team-building
  • Branded small-batch goods intended for direct resale
  • Bonus gifts for VIP clients/prospects or high-value purchases
  • You want notebooks no one else has, you’ve got money on your hands, and you can wait to have them made (whatever your motive)

 

2. How do Code&Quill’s custom notebooks differ from their regular notebooks?

We'll clarify this first: strictly in terms of materials and assembly, our custom and regular notebooks are the exact same. We don’t change the build formula, so the paper and cover material and composition—how it feels and works—should be extremely familiar. You start with an existing line of notebook (e.g. Traveler, Monolith), and it’ll function like usual upon delivery... but that’s where the similarity ends.

Our custom shop can make your notebooks look wildly different from anything sold on the market. Nearly everything cosmetic is variable: the cover material’s color, the color of liner pages, what’s printed on those liner pages, and even 3D details like debossing on the cover. And yes, you can print your logo on them, but you can print WAY more than that if you choose (and in as many print colors as you choose).

 

3. How do Code&Quill’s custom notebooks differ from other custom notebooks?

We’ll distill it down to three main differences:

 

(A) All of our custom notebooks are scratch-made to order. We don’t manufacture “blank templates” and then tack on your details at the end.

If we had to pick one word to describe most other custom notebooks, that word would be "boilerplate." Other "custom" notebooks are formulaic to a depressing extent for a creative product: send a monochrome logo, choose your color(s) from a small selection, maybe add some finishing. That’s about it.

You can see the boilerplate the moment you compare that shop's different custom notebooks. If we’re being precise, those are not custom notebooks. Those are personalized notebooks. Yes, small variations can make something uniquely yours… but if something is ultimately built to be the same as others like it, we don’t think it should be called “custom.”

Otherwise, there wouldn’t be dozens of identical unused notebooks in the trash can at the end of the event.

 

(B) As a result, we offer a much greater degree of customizability and design freedom than is available elsewhere.

Let’s mention some specifics: how is our shop able to do more?

For one thing, the materials for our covers are made in an impressive variety of colors each. Half dozen options? Try several dozen.

For another thing, you can often print directly onto the covers, and in as many colors of ink as needed. (For instance, we’ve seen great results so far printing directly onto plain-white Traveler leatherette.) Not least of all, what you intend for printing can span the whole cover area, not just one section.

As a final note here, we’ve gotten some super sharp debossing work done—and depending on your taste, you can leave it minimal or fill it with color. We’re glossing over some details here, but suffice it to say that sky’s the limit, especially relative to other custom work.

 

(C) To our latest knowledge, our all-inclusive custom prices are extremely competitive.

For instance, Code&Quill Custom is cheaper than Moleskine’s even though their comparable (base) products are cheaper than ours. We’re not keepers of the latest horse’s-mouth counter-intel, nor would we publish it anyway (any of it could change anytime), so you’re encouraged to do fresh research—but this is the pattern we’ve observed this whole time.

We also won’t commit to a specific price point here, given all the variables—but we can say that even our smaller-batch custom orders wind up costing (per unit) roughly the same as our normal notebooks. Last we checked, we’re alone in staking that claim.

 

4. How does the Custom process work?

We oversee the full process and talk directly with you the whole way. All you have to do is get creative, fill in some blanks, and comment as we go—we'll handle all the heavy lifting.

As you're concerned, there are five easy steps:

(1) You shoot us a quick message.
(2) We'll write you back and start a conversation about your ideal custom notebook.
(3) We’ll organize design materials with you and order samples made to spec.
(4) Once complete, we'll send you the samples to review (slash admire).
(5) Samples good? We’ll make the whole batch, air-mail them to you, and follow up.

 

 

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Pricing is tricky. Everyone could have an opinion about what your thing costs.

Even if you price perfectly, some people would be happy to pay double while others will think you're expensive garbage—while on sale, no less. 

We see this a lot in our own office. To our pleasure, plenty of customers (the overwhelming majority) have great Code&Quill experiences and consider their notebooks invaluable.

But we also see consistent comments—on our Facebook ads, for instance—from people who can't see the point because they're just as happy with a $2 bargain-bin notebook. 

For that person, that logic is sound. If you'd be happy with a $2 notebook, why spend $20?

Despite what some claim, we know our notebooks aren't overpriced for what they are. Still, the skeptics' line of thought does beg a fair question: why would you willingly spend $20 on one notebook? 

This article lists some of the reasons we—and our customers—can offer as answers. Sure, we're biased here, but we were people who'd buy $20 notebooks before Code&Quill was even a thing. (And not because we were swimming in money.)

Judge a Book By Its Cover

1. Our notebooks are roughly 10 times prettier than a typical notebook. No one ever stopped mid-conversation to ask about a Five-Star, but we've been interrupted plenty of times while holding a Code&Quill. 

2. Our notebooks can make YOU look 10 times prettier (give or take). Accessories matter—no matter who you are, male or female. The attractiveness of the accessories always transfers, in whole or part, to the person carrying them. It's not just the nice appearance of things, either, but what you can guess about the person as a result—and a classy, understated notebook makes anyone looking guess "sophisticated."  

3. Our notebooks are more likely to be taken seriously from the beginning—especially by their owners. It's way easier to get attached to something, to invest and actually care about a personal possession, when that possession is both attractive and durable. That way, it holds your interest and it will stick around. In Code&Quill's case, the covers are the main reason your notebook can stick with you for a long time.

4. The cover isn't just cosmetic; it's functional. A Kevlar vest is mighty expensive—but it stops bullets way better than a flannel shirt. Our covers are "awfully serious" for notebook covers—but they last way better than thin, glossy cardboard. And they lay flat!

5. The packaging is part of the Code&Quill experience—and we think you'll appreciate the difference. Presentation always matters. Whether someone is given a ring they'll wear for the rest of their life—or just served their dinner any night out at a nice restaurant—it's the first sight that's most memorable and meaningful.  

We don't advertise our packaging much in advance (on purpose) because we want that to be a fresh experience for customers. Many people have said that our packaging is part of what makes our notebooks great gifts.  


Thinking of someone who'd love using the world's best notebook?
Grab them one!

(How) You Get What You Pay For

6. We use better paper than most notebook-makers bother with. A typical spiral-bound notebook will have paper in the 50-60 GSM (grams per square meter) range. Our closer competitors, like Moleskine, come nearer to 80 GSM. Our paper is 100 GSM, so it's heavier and smoother and less likely to tear. 

7. Notebooks like ours aren't as simple to make as people think. It's just a bunch of paper bound together! you say. But look closely and you'll see how the manufacturing process is really a handful of manufacturing processes in a row.  

We'll go into more detail in a future blog post, but to give you an idea: the paper alone has to be cut, printed, cut again, cornered, folded, and formed into signatures before being sewn into the binding. Meanwhile, the binding (and cover, and patch, and so on) each have to be made separately—and THEN brought together into a notebook.

8. Notebooks like ours aren't as cheap to make as people think. Having read the above, it probably won't shock you to read that, no, our notebooks do not cost us "pennies" to make, even overseas. They're something of an investment, even direct from the factory—and that's not including packaging, quality control, shipping everything from the factory halfway around the world, or everything to bring it to market (which is still quite a bit). 

9. Notebooks like ours aren't as simple to sell as people expect. This isn't a complaint, just a reality you might not consider about brands like ours: if you're aware of our brand and seriously considering our products, you're in a relatively small group of people. 

This is why we're thrilled to "find our people" — 90+ percent of people don't care about notebooks and never will. Then, to make it harder for us, the 10-or-fewer percent who DO care are scattered far and wide. Sure, maybe you technically "found" us, but it took a surprising amount of effort (and some resources) to spread ourselves to the places where you could find us—and that's daily work for a lot of people like us. 

10. Relative to most goods, we're still manufacturing in "small batches." The misconception that our notebooks would cost "pennies each" to manufacture might persist because of what educated consumers know about economies of scale—that companies, especially big ones, can produce goods more cheaply the more they can manufacture at one time. The same consumers understand that this means better profit margins (and/or more competitive pricing). This is all generally true—in fact, it's Econ 101. 

The only "but" is that Code&Quill is still small, relative to the world of manufacturing and its standards for pricing—which just means we're further away from being able to pass along manufacturing savings. (That's the economics of small-batch anything.)

 

Hop on the Bandwagon

11. We have amazing customers who write amazing things about us. It's nice to be liked. And it certainly helps people come look at us.

12. We've been liked from the start. Not in the sense that we won any popularity contest—but rather, in the sense that we were started with crowdfunding. Paper to the people! (Check out our original Traveler/Origin Kickstarter campaign here and our second Monolith Kickstarter campaign here.)

13. We stick close to customers as we adapt. We're always looking for feedback and ideas, whether they're for existing stuff or not. Customer feedback is what prompted our first product redesign; it's driven a lot of our blog and social media efforts; it's a big influence in the development of new goodies.

We actively seek out and reward helpful feedback, so chime in whenever!

14. Certain pockets of people LOVE our stuff for their own particular reasons. For example, we've been very popular with programmers, designers, and other technical people because of our classic split page layout. They speak highly of the design in general, but they fall in love with the features that help them think.

15. Our notebooks, and the community supporting them, help people cross interests and think about their work in new ways. Not only do niche specialists like programmers think more deeply in writing, but most any person with a Code&Quill can think more broadly. Features like the slightly-wide dimension, specialty page layouts, lay-flat binding, and paper quality really do relax a lot of minds. 

 
Spacious working, smooth writing, sophisticated design.
Awwww yisssss.
 

Put Your Money Where Your Mind Is

16. If we care about something, we want it to do more than the bare utilitarian minimum.

If you just wanna write and just need something to write on, by all means—spend a buck, get a notebook somewhere. To some people, this might be the more responsible way to think, and we can’t entirely argue with that. But if that’s the case, let’s name the value at play: you want something utilitarian, something with nothing extra. We’re Americans, so we believe that kind of purchasing is your freedom—but with the understanding that you probably don’t care much about the cheap thing you’re buying.

17. If we care about something, we can’t AFFORD for it to break down when we need it.

Like we said above: if you just wanna write and just need something to write on, by all means—spend a buck, get a notebook somewhere. But this is a very fleeting, short-term thought… if you plan to keep that notebook for weeks or months, or maybe even years, do you think a $1 spiral-bound notebook with flimsy Bible paper and a cardstock cover is gonna last?

More power to you if it does, but realistically speaking, a notebook like that is not meant to last. And frankly, if you know the notebook won’t last, you know that what’s written in it won’t last, either.

18. People are identified by where they invest (not just money, but time).

We talk a lot about Elon in this house, but let’s consider something: aside from his drive and apparent genius, he’s also ballsy as hell. Why? Because after making enough millions in his 20s (from the sale of PayPal) to “IDGAF” well past the sunset of his life, he invested practically every penny into his new ventures. THAT’s how you know this guy is serious: he’s sharp, hard-working, and he’s willing to put all his money where his mind is—even if it’s his multi-million fortune. According to his employees, he’s relentless and exacting to a fault—but they rarely feel shafted because, for as long of hours as they work, Elon’s in there working even longer. In other words: he’s taken 1000% seriously because he has invested EVERYTHING, both his time and his vast fortune, into what he does.

In Musk We Trust

Same principle with each thing a person owns: the money and time you put into something tell the world how much you care. If you spend $20+ on a good notebook, that says something about your priorities.

19. “Functional” is cheap, “luxury” is expensive. (And mostly because of supply, not artificial inflation.)

You can buy a brand-new KIA for, like, $10K. That’s a super cheap car—opposite of fancy, but it’ll get you there (which is the root purpose of a car). Conversely, examine a Porsche, which might cost (conservatively) $100K, or ten times as much as a KIA. Does that mean a Porsche is ten times as useful? Nope—not according to the root purpose of a car. But that’s WAY different from saying the Porsche is overpriced.

The Porsche is 10x as expensive because it contains countless features which are not necessary, but which enhance the experience—and the Porsche is more expensive not merely because it's self-important, but because it's that much more expensive to make (see #8 above). Half of it is engineering effort: it’s just a vastly superior machine, in terms of power and precision. The other half is extra polish: everything from hand-sewn leather seats to the Bose sound system to the automatic windshield wipers. Consider that, in extremely small-scale and loose terms, Code&Quill is a Porsche notebook to Five-Star’s KIA notebook.

20. This one stings a little, but it's true: presentation is half of your credibility, and in the case of your notes, the paper/notebook itself is half of your presentation. This is not to say that you must buy expensive things to be a serious person in life. In fact, our favorite stories from history are the underdog, poor-man, just-nail-the-damn-parchment-onto-the-church-door types. Einstein was a genius no matter what he chose to write on.

Having said that, let's agree on two things:

(A) Zany genius "madmen" like Einstein would get the public credit they deserve faster by putting on socks, tucking in their shirts, and tidying their notes a little.

(B) Other notable figures—like Thomas Jefferson, perhaps—are so well-known and important in history in part because they understood the value of presentation and perception. The Declaration of Independence is famous for its style, not its originality of thought. (For that matter, so is Jefferson... he died in debt largely because of the aristocratic appearance he "needed" to maintain.)   

Let's Do Some Math

21. One of our notebooks costs way less—per hour of use—than many other kinds of fun, hobbies, or vocational practice. A 200-page notebook could easily take you 50-100 hours to complete. Not only is that a conservative estimate for many of our customers, but that's only the time spent filling the notebook. '

So—in this one sense only—our notebooks really do cost pennies at a time.

22. Similar to #1: you're probably going to enjoy using one of our notebooks roughly 10 times as much, and that's where you'll sense the difference. It'd be enough to say it's a handsome, durable, highly functional notebook—but it's also way more fun to use than a bargain-bin notepad.

There's a reason people smile while driving Ferraris, and it's not because they're driving on better streets than the Fiats; it's because they're driving the same streets with much greater joy and precision. 

23. Most of us spend money which is, by comparison, patently stupid. Ever gotten a parking ticket because you were unlucky (and too lazy to drive 100 more feet to find an open spot)? Well, there goes $30. That's a Code&Quill and a half—in a merciful city.

How much have you spent on drinks out... that you didn't even finish? (You get it.) 

24. If you want a notebook that houses something very important, it's much easier to justify, no matter how miserly you are for everyday notebooking needs. This one you can fill out for yourself, if it applies to you.

25. Our company creates free stuff to assist and amuse people just like you... whether you buy one of our notebooks or not. For this last reason, we get to cheat a little bit—because if you've read this far, you've probably proven us right!

 

If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram. 

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There’s no way this won’t sound trite or cliché, but it’s true: we really do like hearing what customers think. We’ll confess: there is a little part of us that cringes checking email for fear of anyone unhappy. But the upshot there is being pleasantly surprised so many times over—whether by inventive suggestion, hilarious commentary, wicked-cool showcase, or just nice people being nice. So thank y’all, again.

Many of you have sent us unboxing videos—basically just the first 1-2 minutes as you open your package and “meet” your notebook for the first time. We think of them almost like teeny, tiny Creative Exposés... anyone’s unboxing video can tell us something about our peoples’ impressions, wants, needs, and philosophies of use, and in just a few seconds.

By now we’ve seen some patterns, so we’ve compiled them to share! Here are 10 things (roughly in order) likely to happen when someone opens their first Code&Quill notebook:

1. They notice the packaging.

We've had lots of people say the packaging is what makes our notebooks more "giftable" than they expected. Even if you buy it as a gift to yourself—as most people do—we've tried to give you some kind of presentation and experience.

  

2. They have a (very brief) struggle with the plastic front.

It's never been a source of complaint, so it's just kinda funny to us how most everyone has the same miniature "struggle moment" with the front plastic packaging. Then again, that's probably made trickier for them because they're trying to shoot a video at the same time.  

Jordan here has the right idea: for a smooth drop, turn it upside down. 

3. They see the notebook “fresh” for the first time.

A different Jordon (with different spelling) captured this pretty well in his unboxing video, which opts for a nice setup and music instead of narration.  

It's a fun moment for anything you've been waiting for: you finally get to see it in person, pick it up, turn it over, and touch it.

4. Some people smell the book.

Bibliophiles get it: books smell good. Not all of them, but most of them. Even if there's not really a smell, it's a temptation we can't resist. 

 

What do your ideas smell like? Let's find out...

 

We don't smell it anymore—we have our faces in them constantly—but a fresh notebook does smell nice. (Don't worry if you smell a bit of glue when you first open it.)

5. They pick it up and are sometimes surprised by the weight.

First, James says his Monolith looks better than he thought it would. Then he picks it up and immediately adds: "It's heavier than I thought it would be."

For what it's worth, we had the same first impression, way back when Monoliths were first made. It's a 2-pound notebook—which, for reference, is about the weight of 3 cans of soda. It's why we say that, in a pinch, Jason Bourne could kill a man with one. (That particular reference because of this fight scene from The Bourne Ultimatum.)

6. They open it, look at the liner pages, then fan through the rest.

We don't think it's a temptation anyone can resist when holding a notebook: you gotta flip through those pages to see how they feel under your thumb. (And it looks cool.) 

 

7. They test the spine, giving it a little press and watching it stay flat.

This is a silent test we all enact upon any non-spiral notebook: is this going to be obnoxious to write in? Are you going to have to pin the book down with one hand so you can write with the other? 

Nope, our covers actually lay flat. As Melissa illustrates, just a little press and it'll work anywhere in a Code&Quill. Write the paper, don't fight the paper!

8. They write their name on the first page.

Several of the folks in these videos actually took the time in their videos to stop and write their names in the front. Partly it's symbolic for the camera, but it's also how you officially claim the book as yours (and give it some way back home if it's lost). 

Don't know what to write first? Here's a good place to start, though (hopefully) it won't take you long to finish. 

9. They get excited, especially if they had a specific use in mind.

In her video, Theresa took a few seconds at the end to explain that she got her white Monolith for a theology class she was about to start—and now she's excited to use it. She mentions wanting to order another in the other color, and we infer she's got something else that's exciting and worth a notebook to her.  

James (mentioned in #5) showed his intentions right up front: writing a 10,000-word chapter based on the stack of books shown on his desk. He notes at the end, of his own Monolith: "Oh yeah, this is going to work out nicely."

10. In some cases, they commit to an a cappella movie soundtrack for well over a minute.

Mark's video was one of our favorites because his had the most pomp and circumstance. Within the first few seconds, he's announced that "this needs a soundtrack," and apparently John Williams came to mind: we got the theme from Jaws, then the Imperial March AND the main theme from Star Wars IV: A New Hope.

We'll take it.

If they're lucky: They go back to pet the ADORABLE PUPPY. 

Not gonna lie, Denise, it was hard to pay attention during your unboxing video because OHMIGOD LOOK AT THAT FUZZY BABY FACE.  

 

We'll be back to share more—but if you want to throw your own hat in the ring, just email us and we'll be happy to see you. Until next time! 


If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram.

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We have to make two confessions.

First: if you work here, you don’t pay for notebooks. Like, ever. As long as we don’t flagrantly burn inventory, we can experiment and play around however much we want. It's the best way for us to know our stuff. 

Second: even though we could have tried bullet journaling any time before now, and quite literally for free, it took us THIS LONG to give it a fair shot. Consider this article our mea culpa and subsequent PSA on what a bullet journal could do for you.


Given the sparkly, perfect-looking examples in places like BuzzFeed—which, of course, get the most attention—we almost dismissed the whole bullet-journaling thing as a frivolous hobby or look-at-me trend.

After all: we'd say we write in our notebooks to dig to the bottom of things, not to polish the surface of them. 

Just out of pure curiosity, how old are you guys? :-)

A post shared by JUDY ☁️🐝🌿✨🌻 (@focusign) on

 

It’s very possible, if you’re reading this, that you’ve had a similar thought. But here’s what we’ve discovered: bullet journaling is somewhat like beer (or wine). Both the worst AND best examples can scare newcomers away—the worst because they're messy and harsh, the best because they're pretentious and pricey.

If you like beer or wine, we’re betting there was a time (probably right near the beginning) when you didn’t like or “understand” it. But then you had some fun, you figured out what you liked and why, and now here you are.

 

 

Same thing with bullet journaling: you can start anywhere, but you just need some context or guidance, and then you can find your own way to satisfaction.

 

The First Things to Know

“Bullet Journaling” is a reasonably accurate and descriptive name—though admittedly, it doesn't roll smoothly off the tongue. For the name, the essential thing to understand is that a bullet journal is intended for short, concise notes (i.e. bullets) and usually not for longhand prose.

Side note: The common abbreviation is BuJo, in case you were wondering.

Side note to the side note: If you’re Googling on the subject, make sure you spell BuJo correctly. “BJ guides” will not yield the intended search results.

The next thing to understand is that a bullet journal is meant to be a multi-function book which doesn't require (perfectly) linear use. In other words: not every page will serve the same function as the last, and you won't always finish one page before moving to the next. We’ll get into some details below, but for now, just think of a bullet journal as several collections of notes kept in parallel, rather than a single collection kept in sequence.

Since bullet journals are multi-functional, another crucial point: it is entirely up to you how your bullet journal functions. You’re not “doing it wrong” if you veer away from popular examples. We do encourage you to check out what others do since it’ll give you tons of ideas, both useful and creative. (Scroll down for our links to recommended reading.) But remember: whatever you do, it only has to make complete sense to YOU.

Bullet Journal Signifiers - Getting Started With Bullet Journaling
Source: Fix.com Blog

Finally: remember that this is an iterative process, one that you will adjust through repeated experience. Bullet journaling, like so many other hobbies and habits, becomes more natural and “broken in” once you’ve gotten a few laps into it. By the time you start your second bullet journal, the daily time with it will seem automatic and you’ll have a whole head full of ideas for starting again (or so we’re told).

 

Typical BuJo Starting Points

As we've said, you can adjust much of this—but to start with good footing, it's worth knowing some of the common functional pieces and "rules" of a BuJo.

Daily use of a bullet journal. Bullet journals are usually structured by time. As an example, each day might get a page to itself, and all such pages will work the same way. But then, there might also be a section before/between weeks where you include your choice of summary and "feature spaces"—and in turn, you might have bigger-picture notes you're keeping month-over-month or even across the whole notebook.

Fun Collection Ideas - Getting Started With Bullet Journaling
Source: Fix.com Blog

In practice: this usually means some shorthand notes each day, then coming back periodically to track the other features you decide to include at the week, month, or whole-book level. 

Starter pieces. A bullet journal needs its own "front matter" to function properly. Aside from name and contact info, you'll want to have space for a few key features:

  • An Index or Table of Contents. Whether you plan the whole book out or just add page numbers as you go, it's super-helpful to be able to find a spot quickly. 
  • A key (or if you prefer, "legend"). A daily bullet journal will use a handful of different symbols for bullets—their own added form of shorthand. There are common suggestions out there, but exactly what you'll choose (and then use consistently) should be noted here for your reference. 
  • Top-level summary, planning, and info. Whatever you want to see, track, or have handy for the longest-term reach of this journal, leave space for it at the very front before launching into the repeated blocks. 

 

Setting Up A Bullet Journal - Getting Started With Bullet Journaling
Source: Fix.com Blog 

 

Starter equipment and accessories. Really, all you need to start is your choice of journal or notebook and a pen(cil). 

If you're looking for a notebook, just check out our stuff. (Duh.) But especially the Monolith, since it's our biggest notebook with a comfy amount of writing room. 

 

 

From there, your style will dictate how your toolbox expands. Do you add different colors? Do you highlight? Do you use sticky notes or tape? Check out this list of inexpensive products for enhancing your bullet journaling.  

 

Where To Go From Here

We won't drill too much deeper, since the expanding world of details is where you can get lost or overwhelmed (we're still there ourselves, at least somewhat). 

Still, as long as you can take their how-tos with a grain of salt, it's always good to get perspective and detail from some other people who've done it.

So here's our recommended reading:

Good Starting Points
Fix's "How to Start a Bullet Journal" (thanks for the awesome infographic!)
Sublime Reflection's "Bullet Journaling 101"
BuzzFeed's "WTF is a Bullet Journal and Why Should You Start One"
BulletJournal.com's "Top 5 BuJo Ideas of 2016"

What to Bullet Journal
Gurl.com's "20 Genius Bullet Journal Page Ideas to Stay Organized"
SheTriedWhat's "Bullet Journal Ideas You'll Want to Steal"
HouseBeautiful's "Bullet Journal Hacks"
BuzzFeed's "21 Tips from Normal People"
 

Why to Bullet Journal
BuzzFeed's "How to Use a Bullet Journal for Better Mental Health"
ScaryMommy's "Bullet Journaling is The Thing You Didn't Know You Needed"

 

We'll surely be back to talk more about the BuJo — especially once we've gotten further into our own. For now, we'll just encourage you to consider this whole hobby and habit anew. Sure, it's sparkly and Instagram-trendy, but peel away the aesthetic bits and it is, functionally, an excellent way to extend your mind in writing.

 

 

Even if someone's BuJo is way too colorful and over-designed for our taste, we're not gonna lie: those pages still look fantastic and, y'know, it seems like a relaxing way to take stock of things. Maybe we'll get there someday. 


If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram.

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Four weeks ago, we introduced Caroline—the code-cracking, dragon-slaying, rock-climbing extraordinaire of a customer who graciously served as our first Creative Exposé. 

We found Caroline—a complete stranger—on the interwebs when we saw a tweet she'd written about us. She seemed cool ("she does so many things we like!"), so we extended an invite.  

By contrast, our second Creative Exposé is someone we've known personally... but who, until very recently, didn't know about us professionally.

Today, ladies and gents, we'd like to introduce John Grimshaw.  

If you're wondering why he's pumped about the monitor and headphones above, it's because John was the winner of our first major contest, and this is the pic we snapped when giving him his prizes. When we invited him to be one of our Creative Exposés, he joked that answering seven questions was a fair trade for his gear. 

Kevin's quick story about that: It's a total accident that John won; no foul play, we promise. In fact, when Ronak checked our website's contest app to see who'd been randomly selected, he read out "John Grimshaw" and—since Ronak only knew him as "John"—I had to (excitedly) point out that this was someone we knew. 

 

The following questions and answers have been gently edited for clarity.

 

1. What is your notebook philosophy?

"My philosophy for notebooks is to structure chaos. I like to be able to record notes whenever they come to me, and I think about a LOT of different topics. In my notebook opinion, it's a cardinal sin to mix ideas from wildly different topics on the same page, so adding a bit of structure helps keep that from happening. 

"I practice a modified version of bullet journaling in my Code&Quill notebooks. I rely heavily on my own index function—mostly so I can add notes about the same topic to pages I don't fill up. Since it's mainly an ideation tool, I don't worry too much about tracking schedules in there, though I do timestamp pages whenever I'm adding new info to them."  

2. What's your "creative weapon" of choice?

"TUL ballpoint pen, 100% of the time. Embrace the scratch-outs."  

3. What does being a creative mean to you?

"Follow your impulses and make some f#&king mistakes. The spark of something truly meaningful is discovered through volume, not precision." 

4. What do you do?

This doesn't have to mean your profession! 
Do you design, create, build, dance, help, organize...?

"I'm a great analyst, a good marketer, a terrible writer, and an aspiring game designer.

"To be specific, my day-job title is Marketing Operations Manager at DigitalMarketer. It involves many, many Excel spreadsheets."  

5. What do you do with your notebooks once they're full?

"If I fill a work notebook, I'll pillage it for any ideas I need to remember or want to add to a digital swipe file (which I like for long-term storage because they're searchable and don't take up physical space). Then I ditch them. KonMari forever!

"If I fill a personal notebook, I try to save it. A notebook I've used for creative writing or game design notes usually represents a serious labor of love, and the contents are meaningful to me. Not because they contain a lot of information, but because they symbolize the creative project." 

6. What would you lose if you lost your Code&Quill notebook?

"I've got two main notebooks: one for work, one for creative projects. If I lost my work notebook, I'd lose dozens of might-be-valuable notes and ideas (though I try to review and transcribe the important bits at least once a month). 

"It'd be pretty crushing to lose my creative notebook. The current one has a Dungeons & Dragons campaign I've spent over 60 hours designing—everything from character names and records to map drawings, illustrations, and plot details. The notebook is basically my external brain for that, so it'd be near-impossible to replace." 

7. Why Code&Quill?

(And how'd you hear about us?)

"I know a guy. Ha ha. 

"But seriously. The paper weight is great, the mixed [dot-grid and indentation-rule] layout is awesome for ideation of all kinds, and the notebook as a whole feels solid and well-made." 

 

John likes the covers for his chaos and the paper for his purpose.
What will you love about your Code&Quill? 

 

8. Last Things About John

He's a wicked-smart guy and true-blue data nerd, but he's also got a sense of humor. 

 

Stay tuned for more Code&Quill Creative Exposés in the coming weeks!


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If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram.

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Writing is humankind’s most important invention. Without the written word, every new generation would have to “start over,” save what little can be passed down tribally. History—in the formal sense—begins with writing, since we can only make educated guesses at what happened before that (a period historians call “pre-history”).

It’s the same principle in everyday life: if you want to remember something, put it on paper. Obviously we can help you there, given what we sell

But there are still times when we can’t write things down — and despite our better judgment, we have to trust our raw memory to keep information for us. It’s practically common sense not to trust your memory… but what if you HAVE to?

In this post, we’re stepping away from paper and anything else you can use to write things down. For the moment, you’ve only got your mind—and we’ve come bearing our best tips for helping it carry things. 

 

Why We’re Bad at Remembering Things

There’s a LOT more to this subject, but here are three reasons our memory doesn’t work as well as we want.

1. Very little information has both urgency and immediacy. Put another way, only a few types of information grab our brains’ immediate attention as “essential to surviving and thriving.” The information likeliest to stick is both urgent (“this is important”) and immediate (“pay attention right now”), but very little counts as both. Killer habits like smoking are able to persist in part because, however urgent the cautions to your health, the hazards take a long time to kill you. Conversely, cable news has immediacy, but it struggles to make most news urgent for most people. 

 

2. Short-term memory is both small and slippery. Long-term memory is actually pretty impressive in humans, but it only contains what we already know. To learn new things, we have to rely on short-term memory first. But short-term memory can only hold so many objects at once (scientists think it’s about five). Making matters trickier, you can’t hold those objects in mind forever before they slip or before other objects replace them. If long-term memory is the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese, short-term memory is your two bare hands; that’s all you can hold, and worse, lots of those balls are coated in pizza grease. 

 

3. We’re easily distracted and confused where memory is concerned. If you watch detective shows or police procedurals, you know eyewitness testimony seems like a big deal, and for an intuitive reason: “someone literally saw it happen.” But what those shows rarely capture is how unreliable that evidence can prove upon scrutiny. Most such witnesses don’t have a perfect, point-blank view of what happened; they don’t usually have context for what they’re witnessing; they can easily mix up or mistake details that, in the ether of memory, had seemed specific. You probably know, in your own way, how memories collectively “blur” together and details can get misplaced; consider that this happens all the time without us noticing. 

 

Tricks We’ve Already Taught Ourselves

Fortunately, we’ve been collectively aware of this problem for a long, long time—so much of the education we receive is meant to help us remember essential information. Whether in school or not, some of the most important things we know were taught to us in “sticky” mnemonic format. 

Mental tricks or not, writing is always the best way to remember things. 
Which notebook is best for keeping your most important thoughts and ideas?
 

Some examples:

The ABCs. We learn the alphabet—which, when you think about it, is a 26-character string of arbitrary shapes and sounds—in song format. It’s one of those tunes that gets stuck in your head FOREVER, and thus even young children can nail that challenge on demand.  

Stop, drop, and roll. Anyone who suddenly finds themselves engulfed in flames has been prepared for it since elementary school. 

The Five Ws (and H). This is pretty fundamental to anything grade-school students write: making use of Who, What, When, Where, and Why (and sometimes How). Even in adulthood this kind of “thinking toolkit" is useful. 

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. It (probably) takes a Ph.D. in Mathematics to fully understand, but none of us here can explain why the sequence is PEMDAS: Parentheses first, Exponents second, then Multiplication and Division and, finally, Addition and Subtraction. So if you’re trying to teach this to a 7th-grader, a cute little sentence like this is probably easiest to make it stick. 

King Philip Came Over From Germany Soaked. If you need to keep ecology/biology stuff straight, it’s helpful to picture an industrial-age German with a cloak and crown wading out of the Atlantic Ocean onto the Jersey Shore. Then you’ll never forget the taxonomy: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and finally Species. 

Roy G. Biv, keeper of the rainbow. In your mind you can personify Roy however you want, but associate him with the rainbow and you’ll remember the color spectrum: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. 

Longitude runs long, latitude lies flat. They’re both L words, so they’re easy to mix up. But with this mnemonic — even just one half or the other — you can keep it all straight. 

“Invest between yourself and the ground.” Pithy bits of advice like this one practically count as mnemonics because they’re densely distilled. With just six words, you’ll be more conscious of respecting your feet, back, quality of sleep, and odds of a car crash. (The usual objects of this advice are shoes, mattresses/chairs, tires, and in the case of women, bras.)

“Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy.” This is Howard W. Newton’s definition of tact, and it sticks for a couple reasons. For one thing, it defines a word that is otherwise difficult to distinguish from similar qualities like compassion or articulateness. For another, it gives a person specific calls to action… if you want to be tactful, (1) make your point, but (2) be nice about it. 

 

How to Remember More (Including This Blog Post)

Mnemonic devices are extremely useful, but it can require effort to invent your own because you have to stop and think—more creatively than usual—about retaining mundane information. What will work doesn’t always make (perfect) sense. 

To wrap this post up, it seemed appropriate to give you a mnemonic for mnemonics—a trick for remembering how you can remember other things better. (Whoa, meta.)

It’s a SAD DAY when you can’t remember things, right?

S — Song & Silliness
A — Acronym & Abbreviation
D — Distillation

D — Definition
A — Analogy
Y — Your Life (and Context)

The examples in the section above should illuminate what these are, but here are quick outlines anyway:

Song & Silliness — any tune (original or covered), rhyme, or other “childlike” connection sugary enough to stick
Acronym & Abbreviation — making multi-part info easier to store by shortening component words/phrases into letters (like this mnemonic, "SAD DAY")
Distillation — capturing the “essence” of an idea or fact in a short, sharply-worded phrase
Definition — precisely describing something to be distinguishable from its neighbors or counterparts
Analogy — drawing comparison (e.g. simile or metaphor) between one concept and another concept you already know
Your Life (and Context) — remembering information via details unique to your experience (for example, your teacher’s quirks) 

Turn your sad day into a glad day. 
Which new notebook is right for you? 

This is the conclusion of the article, which—to the point we’re making—rarely contains anything memorable. (Statistically, most people are long gone by this point, even on a blog’s best posts.) That might be disappointing to some writers… but if you remember only two words and they are “SAD DAY,” our job is done here.

See ya next week!


Email subscribers get special promotions, exclusive content, and a present just for joining. Click here to stay in the loop. 

If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram. 

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For a paper company, we spend a lot of time promoting technology.

We don’t just mean recommending certain hardware, or featuring favorite apps and software, or writing about big tech exemplars (though we’ve done all of those).

We’re believers in technology as a way of life. Not only are we nerdy, tech-forward kind of people; former coders or not, our entire careers are now carried out through our computers.

We like digital; we like smarter, faster, automated, spell-checked, and backed up in the Cloud. It’s the best way to work.

But we’re also believers that not all good technology requires circuitry. Even though we’ll spend a lifetime at our desks, plugging away at computers (as at this moment), some of the things we’ll always want nearby do NOT sync with the computer.

Those are the ones we’re covering here.

 

Like Technology (But Not Quite)

You might be asking: where do we draw the line between "tech" and "non-tech" stuff? 

To count as a "non-tech" desk item, something can (1) plug in and (2) have a single switch or button (because that's typical of a desk lamp, which have been commonly used since forever). Any more than that and an item will belong on a different list!  

 

1. Laptop/monitor stand. It's amazing how simple changes, like raising your monitor four inches, can improve your life. For external displays, you can make one for free with any spare books (or other solid boxy objects). 

It'll probably be harder to jury-rig a (good) laptop stand. There are plenty of good ones already out there, but we've recommended the Rain Design mStand (above) for two reasons: (A) it's solidly built and grippy without any moving (read: breakable) parts, and (B) it perfectly matches the MacBook's aesthetics. 

 

2. Cell phone stand. Your phone still needs a home during the day. Your pocket might NOT be the most comfortable or convenient option, and leaving it flat on your desk might not be super useful either.

But stand your phone up and suddenly it's part of the flow of your desk. It's not physically in your way, you can see it at a glance, and it's plugged in!

The plugging-in thing is another important detail. Unless you start with a topped-off battery and you don't use much data, you'll need to have a charger around. If your phone has a home on your desk, it's likelier to stay juiced up and ready. 

You can pay virtually any amount for a phone stand. For something simple but functional, here's a handy $6 piece of aluminum.

 

3. Lamp. You might be saying: but guys, I've already got eight kinds of lights in my face. Between my computer, phone, windows, and overhead flourescent lights, why do I need more photons shooting at me? 

For one thing, it's generous (read: delusional) to assume that you've got consistent good natural light in your office. In any big city, you'd need Lex Luthor's salary to guarantee that.

Otherwise, darkness is default—and neither fluorescents nor computer screens are "friendly" light to your eyes (or your appearance in the mirror). It's time to love you some lamp.

Again, you can spend as much or little as you want. Old-school halogen bulbs with warmer light might not be super-efficient... but hot damn do they LOOK way more inviting. (We've known people with overhead fluorescents in their office who just never turn them on; they use 2-3 lamps instead and their offices look way more pro.) 

 

4. Smart hubs and connectors. Remember laptops 10 years ago? They had enough ports for an army's worth of cables, thumb drives, and peripherals. Then again, they had space because laptops were once the size of a Humvee.

One downside to slimmer, sexier computers is fewer connections. Apple seems to like rubbing salt in this wound; "one port for everything" sounds futuristic, but it's only cool in a future where you've bought all new gear (or Apple's expensive native dongles). 

It was already a bit tricky to convert a laptop for desktop power use. Fortunately, a few smart wires and you're set! 

You shouldn't have to spend much, but it's worth considering versions like this 4-port Anker USB hub which have the looks (and cable length) to be fixed permanently on your desk. 

 

5. Canned air. OH YEAH. You only need this bad boy every few months—perhaps a bit more frequently if you eat lots of toast over your keyboard. The rest of the time, it's useful for deterring annoying co-workers and entertaining yourself on really slow days. 

Also, turn it upside down and it becomes a frost-thrower. (You know, like a flamethrower, but with icy-white cold air instead.) Not that we recommend you do that, of course. 

 

6. Post-It Notes. Post-Its really are genius. They offer a solution to the biggest problem with a little note, which is: where do I put the damn thing? As it turns out, you can put Post-its virtually anywhere and they'll stay—maybe not for long, but you don't expect them to.

At a minimum, it's useful to have one pack of Post-Its somewhere within reach. But if you use them a lot, you might consider a Post-it dispenser like the kitty pictured above. Not only is it kinda cute for warming up your desk, but it's weighted so you can reach and snap off a quick note without needing both hands. (There are other variants with little suction cups or that can be mounted a bit more permanently.)

 

 

Everything Gets a Home

7. The Pen Cup. You know what we're talking about. The only question is: what does yours look like?

At different times, we've used...

The Mug. Perhaps your alma mater, favorite team, or some sass of choice. 

The Pong/Solo Cup. Very collegiate and temporary-looking... unless you get the melamine ones that are heavier and washable.

The Metal Tin. The square's option is the black wire-mesh one from Office Depot. You could do just as well with something like a miniature bucket.    

 

8. The Candy Jar. And then you have to fill it! Whether it's legit candy or something more innocent like mints, it's surprisingly nice to be able to reach for something tasty. Just take stock of your own taste (and self-control). 

For hygiene, it's probably best to get something individually-wrapped.

For sudden popularity, consider selections like Andes mints, gumballs, Riesen, or something fun like Warheads.

 

9. Coaster(s) for your beverages. This may sound a bit snooty of us... like, who actually CARES about a little condensation?

Ah, but that's only ONE reason for coasters—and not even the best reason.

Coasters hold a spot for a drink. This way, you'll always have an open space AND you'll be less likely to knock the drink over and ruin everything. "Holding a spot" also makes you likelier to remember to drink water—hydration is key to life, people. 

The coaster is also an accessory, a small personal statement. Hence, the nerdy example below: silicone floppy-disk coasters

And yes, they keep water rings away too. 

 

10. Utility Hooks. Sounds boring, but wait until you suddenly have a place to hang your headphones (or purse)... you'll thank us. The wires can't tangle themselves anymore!  

For $10, you can get the surprisingly-weight-bearing Anchor under-desk headphone mount as one example. But, of course, a hook's a hook... we're sure you can figure it out.

 

Personal Effects

11. YOUR pen. One of our most popular articles is our intro to fountain pens. One of the main reasons to get a nice pen, we argued, is that the pen becomes a permanent personal effect—not just a pen, but YOUR pen. And that feels cool.

Besides... as we've noted consistently, it's worth investing in the kinds of tools you use every day. True, you don't need a $22 fountain pen any more than you need a cheap Bic ballpoint—but the fountain pen will last, and it'll be way nicer to use the whole time.  


12. YOUR notebook. You should have your own pen because, no matter exactly where, you're gonna need to write with your own hand. 

You should have your own notebook for an equal and opposite reason: whenever you need to write something personally important, it should go in one place reserved for important thoughts. 

 

Your choice of notebook says something about you.
What kind of place do you want for keeping ideas?

 

Not to mention, of course, that taking a notebook to work can make you a smarter, sharper-looking professional at whatever you do. 


13. Your mascot or miniature friend. Any of the above might reflect your personal taste, but it's helpful to have one thing on your desk that you can talk to. 

No, it's not THAT lonely around here. There's a reason.

If you're not a coder, you might not have heard of rubber duck debugging. Basically: programmers often find it helpful to try explaining their code, line by line, in the process of trying to correct errors. But most of the time, they don't need a real person to listen; they just need to talk it out.

For talking it out, it's helpful to have a "listener," even if it's a $2 rubber duck. (Besides, doesn't it just brighten things a bit?)

 

14. Something for "fidgeting" or de-stressing. Let's face it: whether you're prone to stress/anxiety or not, sometimes you don't feel like sitting still. Especially when you're having a bad day, a fidget spinner (like the one below) or stress ball or little puzzle can help more than you'd think, if only because it's a tiny distraction. 

That's also a much cleaner way of burning nervous energy than, say, biting your nails or shifting in your chair or going on an American Psycho-style rampage.  

 

15. Greenery (probably fake). If you're like us, you WANT the plants to be fake. A real plant is a living thing you can kill by neglect—and until we can properly care for ourselves, we'll skip the extra stress, thank you very much. But a natural-looking touch is a big boost to a room's appearance, and even super-fake plants can get you far. 

IKEA sells decent-enough fake plants like the one pictured below... they come in a few varieties, and they're a few bucks each. (Protip: you can pluck the fake plant from its standard-black plastic pot and "repot" them as you please.)   

If you wanna go hard into the greenery, you can also get a full-size fake ficus for less than you might expect. Still doesn't need water, and if you've got an empty-looking corner, your office is about to be bougie—wait and see. 

 

If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram. 

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We've written a LOT on our blog. 

Honestly, it's easy to forget, especially since we keep moving forward. But we noticed that this Tuesday (the day we usually post) coincided perfectly with our very first blog post two years ago—

And then we thought: holy crap, we really have done a lot here. 

Can't say all of that content is sterling, but there's something like 100 posts on our blog. If each one is about 1000 words, that's 100,000 words — collectively about as long as a novel. (Of course, week over week, it's seemed more like turning in dozens of 4-page papers.) 

We decided to commemorate that anniversary here, and with a change to one assumed convention: this week, instead of speaking as "we," the person behind the keyboard has a chance to speak as himself. 

So hey, y'all—it's Kevin here.

Some of you have seen my name before, but if not, I'm one of the main thing do-ers for C&Q. In short: I oversee content, customer service, and related parts of our logistics. I haven't written every blog post, but certainly most of them—and while some might imagine that's a chore, it's actually been way more fun and educational than I'd imagined.

My team came up with a list of "interview" questions and I've answered a few of them below... so if you wanna know my life, here it is! 

 

What's your starting point with C&Q?

I’ve known Ronak for a long time… actually, I first got to know him when I was his freshman RA in college, of all things. 

We lived together the year after I graduated, when I was waiting tables and starting my own little business on the side. By the time our lease ended, Ronak would graduate and found a tech startup, and I would manage to get my own little editing-and-web-design business off the ground. He moved to New York City; I moved back to my hometown in Kentucky.

The next winter, Ronak is selling his startup—and during this time he’s mostly home alone at his desk, waiting for the next call with his lawyer. Likewise, I’m mostly alone at the desk in my apartment. Most days that winter, we'd get on Google Hangouts and just leave the cameras on during the day so we could keep each other company from 700 miles away, almost like we were roommates again.

During this time, Ronak is exploring e-commerce and wondering if he could build a better notebook—given the kind of notebook he was trying (unsuccessfully) to find for himself.

He launches a Kickstarter for what he calls Code&Quill notebooks; next to the Google Hangouts tab, we’d each have a tab open to the Kickstarter. Each time we refreshed the page to another backer, one of us would shout at our computer screen in celebration, like we were storming the beaches of Normandy: “MOAR BAAAAAACKERS!”

When Code&Quill was funded successfully (and then some), Ronak needed to meet with his manufacturers in China and tour their factory, and he invited me to join. Along with Dan—a mutual friend and, conveniently, a Chinese major in college—we shipped across the world. The meeting itself only took about 2 hours, but being halfway around the world, we made a longer adventure of it 

(BTW, Dan is now our custom specialist—so if you want custom notebooks, email him!)

 

Where did your work for Code&Quill begin?

Once we were back from China, Ronak got a job offer in San Francisco and he invited me to be his roommate there—partly good history, partly the fact that my own business could be run from anywhere. I’d never been west of Chicago in my life, but I was looking for a change—so I packed my car and drove 2,400 miles west to the coast, across the vast expanse of the United States that I’d never seen, to a city I’d never visited before.

Once we got there, Ronak gave me an opportunity I couldn’t refuse: help build this brand we both believe in, whose birth we both witnessed.

I’m (mostly) a writer by trade, so my first order of business was starting this blog. And so, even though my responsibilities have grown over time, Ampersand has been here as long as I have.

 

How did your other responsibilities evolve—and how did those changes affect the blog?

For a while early on, one of my jobs was to make connections with local retailers (at the time, in San Francisco). This didn’t affect the blog directly so much as it gave me a bigger picture of what customers would be looking for—not just the ones we sold to directly, but the ones browsing in bookstores and stationery shops and gift boutiques. There’s some overlap between our online customers and “offline” ones, but certainly not 100%.

While still in SF, I started getting involved more with our social media, especially Instagram. We realized that one of the things we needed badly was good imagery—if nothing else, so that people could SEE and imagine the notebooks as they might use them. Eventually we got a Canon Rebel for the purpose—but fortunately, iPhone photography plus good lighting can get you really far, especially nowadays. I’m wordy, so being forced to think visually really helped sharpen the blog ("show, don't tell"). 

 

 

Over time, I also became more and more responsible for the logistical and customer-service functions of our company: in short, what happens between the arrival of notebooks at our warehouse and their eventual delivery to the customer, then what needs to happen when something goes wrong for one of those customers. It became a lot easier to understand the natural challenges of delivering physical products—and by understanding those “mundane” parts of our business better, I was more comfortable discussing some of the abstract and creative stuff with customers, like why we’ve designed things a certain way, or how we might be able to change products or develop brand-new ones in the future.

 

What is Ampersand’s “voice”? If you will, who is the person speaking in each blog post?

This has also evolved over time, but one early decision we’ve maintained is the first-person plural voice — in other words, writing as “we” and “us” and not just “me.” This post is, therefore, a notable and deliberate exception. =]

Beyond that, there aren’t many hard-and-fast rules. We try to keep it light, snarky, even smart-alecky to the extent it sticks. Profanity is allowed if it enhances the writing, but we try to restrain that as a matter of good taste. We want to sound educated without being snobby—that is, that we’re smart people with stuff to say, but who don’t know everything and want to listen where there’s more people can add.

The rest, I think, can be explained by our attempt at generally-good writing. We phrase things shortly if we can; we try to break up text with imagery whenever it’s available; we assume that any reader’s attention span is short and try to respect it. After all, if a huge overarching goal is to provide y’all with value, to give you something you WANT to read, we can’t assume you’ll want to know our every thought.

 

What are some of YOUR favorite blog posts and why?

I’ll name three.

The first one I’d think to mention is, actually, one of the first posts we ever published: our intro to fountain pens. People have tended to really like the post, maybe because it’s a primer in something paper-related as written by someone who was just learning it himself. That was the first post we wanted to “feature,” in the senses both that we treated it as a “premium” piece of content (we took our own photos and everything!) and that we’d want to share it with other people, especially prospective customers. 

The second one is 4 Questions You'll Ask Yourself When You Become an Entrepreneur. Partly this one is semi-autobiographical (who doesn't like telling their own story?), but also, it was just super-fun to write and pretty rewarding to share with our folks, many of whom are self-starters or considering it. 

Last but not least, I'll mention one of our recurring posts: 7 Ways Creatives are Using Code&Quill Notebooks. We add 7 new examples and update the post every couple of months—and we have that ability because y'all keep posting cool shit. It's one of our more popular blog posts, but even if it weren't, we'd keep doing it because we continue to be surprised and delighted by what we see (and get to share).  

 

If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram.

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We say this a lot... but we really do love our customers. (And not just because y'all pay us money, though that's a plus.)

Y'all gave us life, almost literally, by building the company's foundation on Kickstarter. (Not to mention expanding it with another Kickstarter.)

Y'all rode it out with us when we started running (and therefore understanding) sales for the first time in brand history. (That was barely a year ago!)

Y'all gave us your opinion when we asked—and in so doing, y'all practically told us how to execute our first product redesign.

Y'all shared—and kept sharing—all of the colorful, ingenious, intricate, imaginative, and crafty things you've collectively written in these notebooks. 

Again, thanks for the monies... it gives us something to work for (very literally). But we understand something now, and it's personal: a huge part of the satisfaction of running a business is actually liking your customers and getting to talk to them and learn from them.    

So we came to this conclusion: when it comes to our blog and social media, the best thing we can show you is yourselves.

 

* * * * *

 

This week, we're creating one way of doing that more directly.

Caroline's exposé here on Ampersand is the first of (hopefully) many. We bet you'll get some ideas, some good questions — and maybe even some inspirations! — from her example in particular.

But we also hope you'll get some sense for what we, as the everyday pilots of this ship, already understand: that the creative people in the Code&Quill family are some of the brightest to ever put pen to paper.

 

* * * * *

 

Here's how we found Caroline:

When we asked if she'd like to volunteer as one of our first exposés, she cheerfully obliged.

The following questions and answers have been gently edited for clarity.

 

1. What is your notebook philosophy?

"I like to have different notebooks for different things. I’ve tried a lot of different kinds, but none are ever 'the one perfect thing' I’m looking for. I have unstarted notebooks waiting for a purpose, and many unfinished ones because they serve a particular ongoing purpose.

I own... A lot of notebooks. Took this while writing something up for @codeandquill.

A post shared by Caroline Amaba (@clineamb) on


"The paper and lines in the notebook will typically dictate to me what it will be used for.
If I find a bigger-gridded one with lots of pages, I think: “Oh, this could be for making dungeon maps.” Or if it’s smaller, I might think “This could be for wireframing digital ideas.” If a notebook has blank pages, it becomes a sketchbook. I usually don’t do ruled paper anymore. 

"I hate spiral-bound notebooks. Yeah, they’re pretty convenient for turning the page back on itself so it lies flat—but sometimes I wanna see both pages and that spiral in the middle is so annoying. And if I have many other things in the bag with it, it’s easy for the spiral to get caught and damaged (which ruins the notebook)."

2. What's your "creative weapon" of choice?

"I typically use pens, even when sketching. Any kind of pen will do, but ballpoint is what I usually can get my hands on. I tend to match the quality of pen to the quality of the paper (nicer pens for nicer paper).

"When it comes to pencils, mechanical is my go-to because they can have such a precise tip. (Also, because no one needs to waste their time using a pencil sharpener anymore… who even still has one?)

"Those are my defaults for writing, but I create in other kinds of media too. I’ve also painted, digitally drawn, lined, and colored."

3. What does being a creative mean to you?

"When I’m being creative it’s just letting my mind loose, writing or drawing whatever needs to come out.

"It’s fine if it’s a mess—often, artistry and creativity happen when you’re just giving something form. I don’t think creativity equates to quality of artistry, either. I’m a software engineer by day and I use creativity all the time when I’m coding; finding novel solutions to problems is a form of creativity that doesn’t necessarily have a visible form aside from its outcome.

"Creativity is pushing to the edges of what you know is possible and crossing the threshold into something new and exciting."

4. What do you do?

This doesn't have to mean your profession!
Do you design, create, build, dance, help, organize...?

"By day, I’m a software engineer at BuzzFeed. I love programming. Computers and technology have always interested me, and sometimes in my off-time I code personal projects. I also have some digital-art projects on deck just waiting for me to dive in. (Oh, and I've written on the BuzzFeed Tech blog about women in Tech and moving from agency work to product work.)

"I’ve recently taking up climbing as an athletic hobby, and I’ve been enjoying it thoroughly. The sport has renewed some of my creative juices. There was a span of time when I wasn’t drawing or painting as much, but now I’m back at those (my most recent “completed” project was paint-penning my climbing helmet).

 

"I also play Dungeons & Dragons. I’m currently a Dungeon Master for two groups: one uses a pre-made module and the other is a homebrew campaign (i.e. a world, setting, and plot of my own creation). The latter is still on hiatus for a bit, but I’ve still been working on the world content because I mean to use the setting for other projects (like a video game, possibly!).

"I also have run a couple of other, not-D&D tabletop RPGs, so my acting and improv skills have gotten some thorough work."

5. What do you do with your notebooks once they're full?

"I don’t think I’ve ever filled a notebook because of the way I use them for different functions, as I mentioned before.

"I’ve filled a number of sketchbooks, but I think those are a bit different from notebooks. I constantly skip pages in sketchbooks because of whatever medium I used on surrounding pages.

"I think I might have completed one notebook, but I keep them all. Maybe not on display like my sketchbooks—but they’re tucked away for later reference in case there's a gem I remember suddenly." 

6. What would you lose if you lost your Code&Quill notebook?

"I haven’t been running with Code & Quill too long just yet, but I’d be pretty upset. They’re great notebooks.

"Also, I'd need to somehow remember everything that happened in my last D&D session, since my Origin notebook is currently being used for my Curse of Strahd campaign (that's the pre-made module)."

See one of Caroline's D&D Twitch sessions here!

7. Why Code&Quill?

(And how'd you hear about us?)

"To be perfectly honest, a friend got served an ad and showed me the link to a notebook which had a grid on one side and a lined-but-notched page on the other.

"I clicked through and immediately thought, 'These would be sweet for D&D.' Then I read that they lie flat, which is HUGE when I’m at the table and I have three or four other books open to cross-reference things.  

"I picked up the Origin for one campaign to use as a session journal. I also got the Monolith, but I haven’t broken into that one quite yet. The Monolith will be used for the homebrew campaign's maps and central notes and not as a session journal."

8. Last Things About Caroline

First of all, here's a whalephant.

Secondly... here's how to hear more from Caroline! Take a look at her Instagram and Twitter profile at the links and follow along once you're there. =]

 

Caroline's (first) favorite notebook was the Origin.
Want to grab one for yourself? Check out our store!

 

Stay tuned for more Code&Quill exposés in the coming weeks!
For now...

If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram.

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Trust us, we're serious people.

Maybe not about little petty stuff—who has the time or energy?—but certainly about our work, who we are, and why we're here. 

We're not sultans or kings just yet, but we've come a long way. One bit of advice we'd offer may not sound the part: play more games with your life.

Sure, we like flashing pixels and we grew up shooting our friends online, but this isn't about videogaming, that joyous pastime... for which we no longer have time.

This is about perception: that people are often too fixated on little details because they're not trying (enough) to have fun with daily life.

So even though we're hardly gamers anymore, we find it helpful to see the world and its grand opportunities as a gigantic role-playing game (RPG) — and in the following ways, we invite you to do the same.

1. Figure out your “character build” so you can play accordingly.

In most every RPG, how a given character plays is largely a function of their “build” — in short, how their combination of strengths adds up. Each game defines the available attributes differently, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s use the SPECIAL scale from the Fallout series.

Strength — how much stuff you can carry, how hard you hit
Perception — your ability to detect environmental stimuli or important details
Endurance — how quickly you get tired or “lose your edge"
Charisma — your ability to persuade and win others over, for whatever purpose
Intelligence — your understanding of advanced skills and new subjects
Agility — how swiftly you can move between targets
Luck — your “X factor” that affects nothing directly, but has some effect on everything else

When starting Fallout, players can “spend” their starting points on those 7 attributes in whatever proportions they choose. But you only get so many points! You could max something out at 10 points right from the start, but you’d have very few left to spread among the other attributes. Most times, players favor one or two attributes, but still spread the other points around (no 1s or 10s).

People are assembled much the same way, we’d think. Two stereotypical examples:

  • A computer nerd will have a ton of points in Intelligence, but very few in Strength or Charisma.
  • A linebacker will have tons of Strength and Endurance, but probably not much Intelligence or Agility (anyone’s guess whether he could catch a runaway computer nerd).

Somewhere in the middle, you’ve got the quarterback. Notice that a good quarterback isn’t stacked with any ONE attribute. He’s probably got some Strength to throw long passes, but he needs Agility just as much to avoid getting tackled. A good quarterback also needs Perception to read the field, Intelligence to execute the playbook, and Charisma to rally the team.

How you'll adapt this kind of “personality assessment” for your life varies. But ask yourself, in short: am I a computer nerd, a linebacker, or a quarterback? Then ask yourself one more important question: whatever I am, do I find myself playing a winning game or a losing game?

 

2. Think of every challenge as a game—even if it’s serious business.

When you’re growing up, school is work. But unlike work, everyone is paid equally (i.e. nothing)—and everyone is assessed in some kind of numerical fashion.

In other words, they keep score at school—even if they try very, very hard not to call it that.

They try not to call it “keeping score” because they don’t want students to compete against each other, which inevitably happens when you keep score. And true, students should always focus on the education more than beating the other students. Having said all that, it’s useful to think of important challenges as games with rules, points, and scores—because in the end, that helps you compete with yourself.

Treating education (for example) as a game doesn’t make it any less serious. It just makes it easier to see how to do well.

If your “objective” (how you win) is making a certain GPA, you will automatically know some “moves” are more valuable than others. For example: it’s finals time and you’re struggling with two classes. In one of them, you have to ace the final to change your grade for the better—but in the other, you only need “medium” effort to bump yourself up. Both finals are tomorrow… which do you study for? The second one, of course.

Is that ideal? No. But it’s the smart move (or “play”) for that moment in time. Like the bad round you could have in any game, sometimes making “the smart play” is the best you can do—and gamers realize this faster.

 

3. Take inventory of your equipment.

Once again: in games, this is much more literal. The entirety of your (game) possessions can be shown in a single list—and usually, a game’s total assortment of objects is way smaller than the variety actually available to you on Earth. But “game inventory” still has some useful carryovers to your stuff in real life.

For one thing: if you tried hard enough (or just didn't have much stuff), you could make a single list of everything you own—and that would be (quite literally) your personal inventory. 

For another: pretty much every RPG limits how much you can carry, sometimes severely. In such games, you think frequently about the relative value of things—and you love opportunities to throw away useless crap.

For another thing: in real life, as in RPGs, we use a core group of items all the time and another group of items occasionally... but the rest is probably expendable. (Anyone who’s moved recently can attest to both of these points.)

It’s a useful exercise, therefore, to pretend you’re packing your life into a backpack (or otherwise taking only what you can carry). What would you take? How can you bring yourself to full usefulness with a minimum of tools? How can you condense, simplify, or otherwise make yourself “road-ready” all the time—even if you don’t have to?

One exciting part of simplifying your stuff is that every item you do keep has that much more value to you when it’s one of few things. And functionally speaking, with the whole “life as a game” thing in mind, it makes you feel like you’re more experienced and more prepared for your form of play.

 

4. Make the map, whatever form it takes for you.

If you think about it, nearly every game involves a map of SOME kind. Tons of sports teams will plan plays with an overhead model of the field; most any 3D game requiring navigation has a map screen. Even board games are basically just colorful maps printed on cardboard. Tic-tac-toe is the world’s simplest map game. And so on.

Whatever you game-ify, it needs a map—even if it’s not a literal map.

To show you what we mean, let’s go back to the school example. Your goal is something like a target GPA, or a certain grade on that upcoming test. The first two points on the map are therefore YOU (in one corner) and YOUR GOAL (in the opposite corner). To “draw” the rest of the map, you just need one or more paths from A to B, and then all the obstacles you encounter along the way.

Your main map might be a calendar. You can plot all of your (for instance) assignments and exams on it, then have a full view of the challenges ahead. Point A will always be “Today” and the ultimate Point B will be a big milestone, like the end of the semester—but now, you’ve got your obstacles mapped and you can think backwards from every single one.

Your main map might be something more abstract-seeming, like a journal. In this case, the act of writing down daily entries and keeping notes all together is part of the point for you — and maybe Point B isn’t so well-defined, but you know that each page of progress gets you closer to doing, finishing, or understanding something important to you. Still counts for helping you make progress!

 

We'll be back to expand this list soon! For now...

If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram.

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