Writing Tips: The Moleskine Method, Part 3

This part of the series describes a way of setting up your new Moleskine for writing, keeping it organized as you write, and preparing it for future reference after it’s been filled.

There’s not much to setting up your Moleskine.

  1. Inscribe your name on the inside front cover. For good measure, do the same on the inside back cover. Include contact information to be used in case you lose this treasure.
  2. Number the pages from 1 to 120 in the bottom outside corner of each page.
  3. Leave the front cover blank.
  4. Brainstorm a list of subjects you’re likely to write about in your Moleskine.
  5. Write this list of subjects on a large-form, ruled Post-It, and stick the Post-It in the front or back cover for easy reference. (Add new items to this list as you write in your Moleskine.)

Consider using the same Moleskine for all your Moleskine jottings. Even if you have several writing projects underway, it can make sense to use one Moleskine, writing in it until it’s full before beginning a new one. At any given time you’ll need only one Moleskine to write on whatever topic. You can create as many topics as you like without needing to locate a project-specific Moleskine cahier.

Keeing it organized:

  1. Date each entry.
  2. Note your location when making the entry, being as specific as you like (e.g., “in front of a fire at a mountain lodge”; “poolside at home”; “under my favorite oak tree in the city park”; “under the outdoor canopy of my favorite cafe”; “under my bed with a flashlight”).
  3. Enter a simple label for your topic. This could be the name of a well-defined writing project, a general subject, or whatever. Use a label that can be used consistently for related entries throughout your Moleskine.
  4. Write your entry.
  5. For a new entry, draw a horizontal line below the most recent entry, or begin a fresh page.
  6. Cross-reference related entries using page numbers you’ve written in the bottom corners.
  7. Save the last few pages for a simple index of the contents of your Moleskine.

Closing the book on your Moleskine:

  1. On the “index” pages you’ve saved at the end of your Moleskine, list in alphabetical order all the topical labels you’ve used for the entries throughout your Moleskine.
  2. For each label in your index, enter the page numbers of your Moleskine where you have related entries.
  3. Note the start and end dates of your Moleskine somewhere on the cover. For me this is a matter of aesthetics. I like to keep the front and back covers in their original condition. So I favor the inside of the cover. But this does make it mildly less convenient to determine the date range of a completed Moleskine.
  4. Place your completed Moleskine with the others you’ve completed, arranging it with the other in chronological order.

Other options:

  1. Enter each new subject title on a small slip of paper and keep all of these slips in the pocket of the inside back cover. When the Moleskine is full, take out the slips and arrange them in alphabetical order. Now you can create your page index in alphabetical order. If you keep these slips in alphabetical order while writing in your Moleskine, you can also find them easily and write page numbers from your Moleskine as you go. Composing your index will then be maximally simplified. Just pull out the slips of paper and enter each topic and its corresponding page numbers on a separate line of the index page or pages of your completed Moleskine.
  2. Use a “bankers box” to store your completed Moleskines alongside books you have on your shelves. These are also called “magazine holders.” There are inexpensive cardboard and plastic varieties, and acrylic or wood options. There are lots of colors to choose from. They vary in strength and general quality. They also vary in price. These boxes stand vertically on a flat surface—a bookshelf or desk. Most will hold a dozen or more Moleskines. So one box or enclosure could set you up for several years, depending on your writing practices. A box that looks especially good to me is a clear acrylic one available at Amazon here.
  3. Write the range of dates for your completed Moleskine on the top edge of a small Post-It. Stick the bottom, adhesive edge of this Post-It on the inside back cover at the top of your Moleskine so that the dated portion on the Post-It is visible above the top of the Moleskine when viewing the front cover. You won’t have to open the Moleskine to determine the date range. From the binder edge of the Moleskine, the Post-It will look like a simple bookmark.

Previously in this series:

Note: For value, I suggest purchasing the Moleskine from Amazon. I’ve linked here to the version of Moleskine I use for writing. This is the “ruled cahier journal x-large” (black). Three journals are included in one set.

Related articles Doug has written:

About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

7 Responses to Writing Tips: The Moleskine Method, Part 3

  1. Doug Geivett says:

    This is a good suggestion, Christopher. It does take considerable time numbering all pages in a Moleskine. What do you mean by referring to quadrants?


  2. Christopher Weuve says:

    Why number each page? Numbering only every other page (I prefer the upper right corner of odd pages) is just as handy (especially if you refer to quadrants when referring to pages) and significantly less work.


  3. Mike Austin says:

    I’m following in your footsteps with the black, XL cahier. Just started jotting down some thoughts on a book I’d like to write tentatively entitled “For the Least of These: Social Justice as a Spiritual Discipline.” I must say I do enjoy the act of writing, and I notice that the experience and perhaps the product are different, sometimes in subtle ways, and sometimes in not-so-subtle ways.


  4. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Mike,

    What version of the Moleskine are you using?


  5. Mike Austin says:

    Hi Doug!
    Just started using a Moleskine today for a writing project. I’m interested to see how it changes my writing, and/or me, by using this method for initial thoughts and drafts. One advantage I can see of a more pragmatic nature is that I tend to jot ideas down all over the place, and then lose the slips of paper.


  6. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Ben!

    Great to hear from you. I may be posting more tips for using the Moleskine.



  7. Ben Dyer says:

    Hi Doug!

    I have discovered about myself that my thinking benefits from slowing down the movement from mind to hands to keyboard. (My hands outpace my head it seems.) I actually picked up the ruled journal moleskine and organized it with page numbers, etc. So far it’s being quite helpful! It’s become a kind of laboratory apparatus for me. I have a lot of unordered thoughts when I start, and a couple sharp questions when I’m done. I’m still early in this process, so I might have other things to report when I’m further along. However, at the moment this was a helpful tip!


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