Flamingo Notebooks and Polka Dot Pens: My Office Products Obsession

I write this in a self-described “seasonal, locally-sourced Brooklyn cafe” surrounded by notebooks, pens and two almost-empty mason jars. I already took a photo of my workspace and posted it to Instagram, with the hashtag #freelancelife. I’m three weeks out of leaving my full-time, salaried, 9-to-5 job to freelance, and I’m spending way too much money on the writing tools I think a full-time blogger should have.

Passion Planner, recommended to me by several people in the Femsplain writing class: $35.98, including shipping

Fancy, polka-dot pens from Spoonbill & Sugartown in Williamsburg: $10.88

Iced matcha latte so I can use this café’s Wi-Fi and also feel Instagram-worthy and on-trend: $5.00

I could go on.

Why do I do this? I’m not a lifestyle blogger; I have less than 300 followers on Instagram. My handwriting is horrendous: I take plenty of notes in my pretty notebooks, but I can barely read them afterwards. There is absolutely no reason for me to buy fancy, expensive notebooks, pens, tote bags, and such. They’re not useful at all—or at least, not any more useful than a notebook from the Target dollar section and a pen taken from bar trivia would be.

Except they’re not here to be useful. In a way, they’re weapons. I’m not talking about “the pen is mightier than the sword”; I’m talking about “fake it til you make it.” My fancy pens are weapons against imposter syndrome. If my writing materials look like they belong to a professional writer, then I must be a professional writer, right? Right?

This vice didn’t originate with my career move, but going freelance increased it. I’ve always had a slight weakness for cute stationary, but I used to buy one or two fancy notebooks a year, to be used exclusively for journaling, plus one Moleskine planner in the after-Christmas sales. Everyday to-do lists and outlines could go on whatever half-empty notebook was lying around the office. That’s no longer true, because now I need a cute notebook for everything.

For me, buying a cute notebook is just like getting dressed up for a phone interview or “working from home” in a café instead of working from home in bed. If I feel more professional, I act more professional. If I look like a writer, I’m more confident that I actually am.

The notebook I’m currently using most often is a “Notebook Bestie” from Etsy seller Ashley Shelley. It’s white with yellow flamingos printed across it, and there’s a pink label on the front. It’s sickeningly adorable—but inside it, my chicken-scratch scrawl is documenting some seriously exciting stories in the works.

Plus, one of my editors complimented it last week.


This story is part of a series examining our financial vices.

Erika W. Smith is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn. You can follow her on Twitter at @erikawynn.

Photo: See Ming Lee



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