Kistaro Windrider, Reptillian Situation Assessor (kistaro) wrote,
Kistaro Windrider, Reptillian Situation Assessor

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The important thing about a notebook

I have been slowly learning what is important in a daily-use random-debris small highly-portable physical notebook to me. While I'm more than a little obsessed with everyday note-taking and thought-recording (my blog backlog is stupidly long), this is actually my first foray into paper notebooks, because I'd been obsessed with the goal of digital archiving- this fear that I'll lose anything that isn't in the computer. and as such, need to use only devices that support easy archiving. That's either an electronic notetaker of some form, or recently trying to use a little tiny notebook for the Livescribe Pulse for the purpose. Needless to say, all these approaches have had deficiencies. As bad as my handwriting is, the specific act of writing notes by hand is important to me. I don't know why that is, but handwriting has this very strong appeal to me; maybe I picked it up from my mother, and the pages of notes, memos, and handwritten letters she'd generate in any given day.

I can now confidently say with some degree of certainty that absolutely no digital note taking solution works anywhere near as well as a little tiny notebook. I bought a pack of Field Notes, and I've just about finished my first notebook today.

In the end, these aren't notes I have to worry about archiving in perpetuity. They are four grocery lists, six or seven to-do lists, three restaurant orders, and eight blog topics. Those I could, of course, archive, as I perpetually do; I note a subject I want to write about, write a summary, archive it, and then forget it, and never write on it. Better is the inherently transitory nature of a paper notebook; eventually I will no longer carry it when it is full and the to-do lists are to-done, and that sets a time limit. Blog subjects sit forever in my permanent electronic notes; if a 48-page paper notebook lasts me two weeks, then that is a time limit for how long a subject can sit before I must post it or accept that I never will. This is my first experiment with notes that are so inherently transitory, and until now, that transitory nature had never seemed like as much of a benefit as it is proving to be.

There's one very important trait of these notebooks, though, and it is that I want to write in them. I now have a small pile of little paper notebooks to use (next up: a Writersblok, similar form factor to the Field Notes, but more pages, thinner paper, dot grid instead of line grid, and, most importantly, much lower price), and I'd like to use them, and starting a new one when I'm not out of paper yet is wasteful, and filling notebook pages just to fill them is just stupid- if I'm going to fill them with no content, I at least want to doodle! (Which is a perfectly good use of a notebook page.) The blog for Field Notes called out that a small grid paper notebook isn't so functionally different from a portable laptop computer with no internet connection and no boot time- it's even got its own selection of games, after all.

Wanting to write for the sake of writing is good for me. Entertaining myself with pen and paper is a good habit to be in, is a useful way to get thoughts out of my head so I don't have to waste time obsessing or worrying about them, leads to more blog posts, and leads to the sort of more-considered, more analyzed thoughts that makes me look more intelligent than I actually am, which is always fun.

Digital notetakers haven't worked for me as a portable solution. When working, and at a computer, nothing beats the OneNote/Evernote combo: OneNote for what I'm doing, Evernote for what I'm researching that I want to archive. But pulling out my phone and typing a text note on a little keyboard just doesn't work out, nor does it capture the real texture of my notes- which are covered with diagrams, arrows, boxes, and other scrawled little text marks that mean a lot more to me than flat text ever did. OneNote, for its part, actually does let me do that. Larger devices, like a netbook, iPad, or iPad-with-keyboard (what I'm using for this post, actually), simply fail the portability test; it is rare that I'm inclined to just whip out my netbook and type something up on it. It is quite common that I'm inclined to grab a little paper notebook and write something.

For everything I thought I needed about digital notes for everything I do, it turns out the most important attribute of a notebook for me is that it makes me what to write in it. In the end, that's why I'm willing to pay a premium for a good notebook and good pens; they are critically important tools to me, and if anything's worthy of my respect, my thoughts and ideas are, and a decent notebook makes some emotional statement about that respect to me.

I suspect this is more generalizable. I am in favor of decent-to-good pens (I prefer Pilot G-Tec 0.4mm Gel Rollerball) and decent-to-good notebooks (Field Notes are beautiful to my aesthetic, but Writersblok has its own distinct elegance) for everybody who is even thinking about it. While possibly expensive by commodity standards of paper and pen, it seems more likely to be incredibly cheap for its psychological value.

I've migrated to DreamWidth. The original post is at View comment count unavailable comments at; go ahead and use OpenID to post your own, or you can comment here.
Tags: writing

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