Mike's Moleskine Hacks

by Mike Shea on 7 December 2004

Updated 9 May 2012. It's been eight years since I wrote this so I decided to go back and add some updates. I kept the original text but added some insights from eight years later.

43 Folders, an organizational website and blog, had a great set of Moleskine Hacks. I loved some of those ideas and decided to come up with my own Moleskine hacks, so here they are:

Hack 1, Wear Cargo Pants

I wear cargo pants almost exclusively now even if they don't quite meet up to the social pressures of my job. I carry a copy of Strunk and White and a thin paperback book (like Stephen King says, always carry a book with you) in one pocket. Right now its H.P. Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness". In the other cargo pocket I carry one or two Moleskine plain pocket-sized notebooks. I carry my Waterman Expert 2 loaded with G2 .7mm black ink refills, a Pentel click eraser (white art-style eraser in a little plastic pen-sized tube), and a Rotring 600 .7mm mechanical pencil or Faber Castell 1.2mm E-Motion pencil. The cargo pants (my favorite are Eddie Bauer ultimate cargo pants), also hold my cell phone and iPod, my wallet, and keys. Since becoming a Moleskinner, these pants do the job very well.

9 May 2012 update: Man, what a dork I was eight years ago. Who cares what pants you wear and who really carries that much crap on them all the time? Now I stick to comfortable microfiber dockers, a Moleskine Plain Pocket notebook, and a Sakura Pigma Micron #01 pen. No pencil, no fancy Waterman pen, no novel, no copy of Strunk and White (how pretentious was that??), none of the rest of that crap.

Hack 2, Use Waterman pens with Pilot G2 ink

I use Pilot G2 .7mm rollerball refills exclusively now. I performed some experiments on Moleskine paper and G2 ink and while I spare you the details, I will say that G2 ink on a Moleskine page will last as long as the page holds together. G2 ink is cheap (about a buck a pen) and available almost everywhere in the US including major office supply stores, grocery stores, and drug stores. Every Waterman rollerball pen I have tried can hold a G2 refill. Right now I use a Waterman Expert 2 with a G2 refill for all of my writing. It's expensive but cheaper than a Palm Pilot. If you don't want to spend a lot on a fancy snobby pen, get a Pilot Dr. Grip Gel. It runs about $5 and for the money its the best pen in the US.

9 May 2012 Update: I've given up on gel pens (and fountain pens for that matter) and stuck to the awesome Sakura Pigma Micron #01 art pen. You can read more about it in my article Sakura Pigma Micron Review, My New Favorite Pen.

Hack 3, Number your pages

In each corner of every page I draw a small rectangle with enough room for the page number of the Moleskine and the page number of the story I am working on. This way, if I ever happen to start a new story before finishing another, I can keep track of which pages go with which stories. I keep an index of all of the stories in each Moleskine on the first page of the notebook with page number references. Five hundred or a thousand years from now can dig up my old stories and publish them in some giant tome. I don't do this for my normal walking-around journal which is usually piled up with work notes and drawings of swords and vampires.

9 May 2012 Update: I only number my pages when I'm writing short stories. Otherwise, I just use my Moleskine GTD system which is simple and works very well.

Hack 4: Include Writer's Tips

Print out my Writer's Tips PDF and keep a copy in each Moleskine. I wrote a Writer's Tips PDF with useful writing tips on one side and a page from Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi's calligraphy book, La Operina printed in 1522. The PDF pages are meant to be printed to two sides of a single piece of paper and then cut in half. Folding each half twice should allow it to fit into the back pocket of a pocket Moleskine. The sheet includes tips from Orwell, Strunk and White, Heinlein, and Edward Tufte along with a list of overused metaphors I collect in my travels. The page from the Operina matches the writing style I choose to follow these days, a writing style of Chancery Italics both legible and easy to write.

9 May 2012 Update: All those books and tips are still the shit, but not if you don't ever use them. Worry less about carrying around tips in your Moleskine and more about making things and making them awesome. Stop trying to solve creative problems with technical solutions.

Hack 5, Use the Plain Pocket Moleskine Notebook

The plain pocket notebook allows you to have any sort of notebook you want. Without any lines at all you are free to work it into an address book, a phone book, a journal, a schedule, a scrap book, a sketch book, or just about anything else. No lines means freedom to do whatever you want. The size of the Moleskine pocket notebook means you can carry it wherever you go. It fits in purses or pockets easily and allows you to jot down that brilliant thought whether you are at the office, on a plane, or waiting in line at a grocery store.

9 May 2012 Update: No update here. After eight years, the Moleskine plain pocket notebook is still my favorite.

Hack 6, Use Moleskine Hyperlinks

By numbering every page in your Moleskine you can add a "continued from page 53" or "continued on page 92". These Moleskine hyperlinks help you keep track of multiple threads of thought happening all at once. They also help others understand your thoughts when they dig up your priceless Moleskine in a thousand years.

9 May 2012 Update: I don't bother to do this anymore, but my Moleskine GTD system helps index your information by breaking notes up into weekly chunks. I recently dug back six months earlier to find a single line of text I had written down and couldn't find by searching email. The search couldn't find it, but I found it easily in my Moleskine.

Eight years later

Eight years later I find that nearly all of my changes to my Moleskine system have been to refine or simplify. I don't carry nearly as much as I used to. I write with a simpler (and uglier) pen. I don't tweak constantly. All of the real Moleskine hacking I do these days is with my Moleskine GTD system and it's a great improvement.

If you enjoyed this article, consider picking up a Moleskine Plain Pocket notebook or a copy of Strunk and White or a copy of Stephen King's On Writing.