On a not too distant Pen Addict podcast Brad mentioned that he was surprised that a recent poll that he did was so one-sided. He asked if people wrote on both sides of a page. Much of the discussion was about journals, although I don’t remember if the poll was journal-specific. Brad was surprised that both sides was an overwhelming choice. (Myke thought the wording slanted the results.) But in any event, I was surprised by Brad’s surprise. Then I thought about my notebook usage. To jump to the end, I use both sides for economical and storage reasons but will use only one side if there’s a reason not to use both sides.
Both Sides – A Long-Ingrained Habit
Long ago, when I started in corporate America I would fill every sheet on both sides and paste printouts into the pages. They were my reference books and stacked in my office (or cubicle). At that time I was good at remembering when things happened and quickly finding the right place among the stack of notebooks. My goal was to reduce the number of notebooks I needed to store, so I wrote on both sides. The economics was just a bonus.
Over time, computer records overtook paper for anything other than temporary or personal notes. For the most part, these work notes had a limited lifespan for reference (usually measured in hours, or days at most), and anything long-term would be in a computer file related to the project. I would still use every available space on the notebook. My goal here was to save money. I was using Doane Flap Jotters (steno-sized and styled notebook) rather than the notebooks in the supply closet. Plus, the paper was resistant to show-through, especially with my thin nibs, so there was no downside to using two sides.
Article Drafts – The Exception
I do handwritten drafts of all Fountain Pen Quest articles before typing them up. It was about a year ago that I stopped using both sides of the page for these write-ups. In many situations, the ink, pen, and paper combo would often result in significant show-through. Since I need to read what I write to transcribe it into a post, the show-through can often slow me down when I have to adjust the light or viewing angle to figure out what I wrote. I tend to use inexpensive notebooks (currently a sub-$1 composition book) for these article drafts. Limiting my annoyance is worth more than the fifty cents that using both sides would save me. I don’t see the point of buying better notebooks since they’ll ultimately end up in the garbage. Besides, other than show-through, these notebooks handle fountain pens rather well. Even using only one side, it’s still more economical. If pen and ink happen to align and reduce show-through then I will use both sides of the page.
Journal – Wall of Words
I use a Seven Seas Writer as my journal. These have thin Tomoe River paper, but it does a good job resisting show-through if it isn’t held up to the light. A dark piece of paper under the page I’m writing on also reduces show-through. Show-through can still be a problem in some room lighting situations, but it’s minor. I rarely re-read my journal entries, and never with the pressure of having to accurately transcribe the page.
I continue to use both sides of the page when writing in my journal.I have to admit that I enjoy seeing a wall of words across both pages when I open my journal. That’s the primary reason I do it, not the economics.
For pocket notebooks, which I use for quick notes, I use both sides of the page. But unlike the other notebooks, I have a lot of blank space on the page. Show-through isn’t a problem since there’s very little to show through. I typically move to the next page when I have a new thought, reminder, or list to write down.
Since I’m in the both sides camp, with a few exceptions, I was surprised by Brad’s surprise. I’m used to not being in sync with stationery and pen trends, but using both sides just seems like the logical, default choice.