Denver-based Make My Notebook crafts beautiful, locally made notebooks that just may inspire you to find a better balance in your life.
I’ve always been a writer, and I mean that in the most basic sense. I’ve always needed to put pen to paper. I’ve always been a list-maker, a note-taker, a jotter-down of words, a cataloguer of ideas. I don’t just have to-do lists…I have some-day lists, bright idea lists, meal plan lists, random funny things my kids said lists, gift ideas, places I want to visit, books I want to read, inspirational quotes, random thoughts and notions, and full-on brain dumps.
Though some of this is saved on my phone or in Evernote, much more of it is scrawled in countless notebooks, journals and planners. Writing by hand has always been the best way for me to organize my thoughts and calm my inner anxiety, and I find blank notebook pages to be incredibly enticing. It’s how I sort out my world, both emotionally and logistically.
Yet I sometimes also forget how essential writing is to my own sanity. I can go months writing little more than lists and work communication. I get caught up in the daily, mundane tasks, and fill my notebooks with more bulleted lists than complete thoughts. Yet when I make time again for actual writing, I find my perspective always clarifies and my stress is more easily released.
And, while I can settle for the standard boring school supply notebook, I’ll admit I feel much more inspired to write when a pretty little notebook is just waiting to be filled up.
Some years ago at a pop-up Denver marketplace, I came across the locally made Make My Notebook, with their brightly colored graphics and thought-provoking covers. I recently rediscovered these notebooks and sought out creator Sara Blette to learn more about their origins.
I met Sara and her company manager, Rachelle Dodge, at the charming Make My Notebook studio one gray morning where we had a lovely chat about the writing process, work-life balance, working mamas, current politics, and, of course, how Make My Notebook came to be.
The company itself has been through growth and transition since launching in 2009, first starting in Sara’s basement in the Denver Highlands neighborhood, then moving to a combined studio and storefront space in Edgewater, and most recently settling into the airy studio space of her Wheat Ridge home, a fitting location for a busy working mom of two.
Although perhaps “busy” doesn’t quite cover it. Sara is also an interior designer for commercial and high-end residential spaces, currently working on the Oskar Blues location in Denver, and has helped to activate Savor the Success, the women’s entrepreneurial network that has partnered with Make My Notebook on a number of projects and events. And she’s a mother of two. Yet, there’s a serenity to Sara that doesn’t belie the certain madness that comes from juggling multiple jobs and projects, not to mention kids. She credits her writing practice for that zen-like attitude.
“Writing is grounding,” Sara says. “It’s habit and ritual.”
She explains that when she founded Make My Notebook, she had struggled to find notebooks on the market with recycled paper and cool designs. As a lifelong writer herself, she recognized that a quality notebook is essential to the practice of writing. She also knew from personal experience that writing helps people to stay balanced.
“We get so consumed, so plugged into screens, that we forget to pause. When we take time to pause, it helps to get us through, to make sense of our lives.”
Clearly Sara is my people. And, I’m obviously not the only one who feels that way, as Make My Notebook has gained a large customer base and social media following in recent years. This may be due to the raw honesty and authenticity of the messaging, frequently drawn from Sara’s own life, that resonates with customers:
Be authentic. Be vulnerable. Be yourself. Own your story.
Inspiration without action is bullshit.
It may not be easy but it will be worth it.
Write every day.
Sara explains how so many of the notebook concepts come directly from her own life experiences. “Every notebook tells a very personal story for me, whether I was building up the courage to leave my day job or [facing] another life transition.”
Take having a baby. Sara conceived the idea of the Baby Love and Memories notebook in 2010 while doing Stroller Strides in the Highlands. The book offers a lovely keepsake for new moms to jot down their sleep-deprived thoughts and observations without worrying about filling in all the usual blank spaces. (Did you ever remember to fill in the date of that first tooth? Me neither.)
“It’s a lot less pressure than a traditional baby book,” says Rachelle. And new moms must agree because it’s become one of their best sellers.
Another one of their customer favorites? The Never F*cking Settle notebook, inspired by a situation in which Sara felt she needed to remind herself of this very thing. As anyone who spends time on reflective writing can tell you, it’s not all bright and cheery to delve so deep. Described on their website as “To the recently divorced, laid off, unemployed, disenchanted, angry, let down, self loathing, poor me, it’s not fair, not good enough moments out there. YOU need to write more than anyone.” Indeed.
Oh, and I love this ABC Fill-in-the-Blank notebook for instilling the love of creating in early writers too. (And, it could make a really sweet keepsake in your kiddo’s memory box.) I didn’t ask, but I can only imagine this was inspired by Sara’s own young kids.
The designs don’t just come from Sara and her staff, though. Make My Notebook has partnered with local artists, too. They also work with a local fabricator and printer.
Most recently the company has shifted focus a bit. “In 2015 it became more about writing rituals.” The journals became about “a place to contain creativity and a place of process,” says Sara.
“Sara is huge in journaling and in coming up with journaling rituals,” Rachelle adds.
The company blog offers inspiration and advice for those looking to get started.
Make My Notebook has also been creating a lot of small-batch, branded notebooks for entrepreneurs and companies, meeting a need for small entrepreneurs that no one else seems able to fill.
And, they’re very excited about their recent Smart Girls Notebook collaboration with Melissa Camilleri of Shop Compliment, designed to inspire young girls to embrace their own intelligence, and with 5 percent of each sale going to the Smart Girl Scholarship Fund for girls seeking higher education. Sara very thoughtfully reflects on her own experiences with this growing up, and even as an adult.
Browsing the colorful notebooks in the Make My Notebook studio, I felt a bit like a kid in a candy shop…each one more tempting than the last. But, hearing the origins of so many of these notebooks, I see now that they’re more than pretty notebooks for me to scrawl. There’s a deeper layer here. These notebooks represent so many of the shared human experiences we all have, especially as women…the work-life juggling, the not always being taken seriously, the mulling of major life decisions. It’s inspiring to use a notebook that not only hosts my inner thoughts and tasks on the inside, but is wrapped in the shared experiences of so many of my peers. And, who couldn’t use an extra little inspirational boost?
You can order customized and ready-made notebooks, journals and journaling products at www.makemynotebook.com. You can also purchase Make My Notebook products locally at I Heart Denver Store (Downtown: Denver Pavilions 2nd Level, 500 16th Street #264, Denver; Littleton: Southwest Plaza, 8501 W. Bowles Avenue), Reverie Living (Cherry Creek: 2910 E. Third Avenue, Denver), Two Hands Paperie (Boulder: 803 Pearl Street), Willow: An Artisan’s Market (Littleton: 2400 W. Main Street) and Denver Art Museum (Downtown: 100 W. 14th Avenue Parkway, Denver.
All photos courtesy of Make My Notebook.