Why You Need to Keep a Notebook

Mike Rohde's Custom Moleskine Planner.I am the keeper of many notebooks. I have one that stays in my purse. It isn’t a Moleskine, but it does the trick. I have notebooks beside my laptop. I have another in my living room, and it’s reserved for poetry. I then usually have one or two on my nightstand; I never know when an idea might visit, and I’ll need to record it.

I could, of course, use an application such as Evernote. I use the application occasionally, but I’ve never grown accustomed to it. I find something more permanent in writing the words on a physical page. I become accountable to an idea found in a notebook in a way I am not to an idea recorded in Evernote.

Why all these notebooks? I suppose I hinted at the reasons in the previous paragraphs. One, I never know when I might stumble across an idea. I need to be able to record it. Two, I need to be able to organize those ideas, hence the different notebooks. Ideas for poems rarely intrude upon ideas for Write Right. The ideas are kept in their own notebooks, which makes them – probably more so me – happy. Three, writing the words by hand has a solidity to it. The idea begins to take shape once actual words are on the page. The words become reminders of an idea for a blog post, a book, or another project. They become the items I must be able to cross off my list at some point.

The notebooks themselves vary in size. I have the small notebook for travel purposes, but I usually prefer one-subject notebooks with college-ruled paper. I don’t feel a hesitation to write in them as I sometimes do with an expensive journal. The expensive ones often are so pretty that I don’t want to record anything in them, or I only use them for a specific purpose or project. Not so with a notebook I purchased for ten cents; I will write and write and write in those.

The point, though, is that I’m recording my ideas. I’m ensuring I follow through with them. It doesn’t matter what notebook or device is used as long as I’m doing that.

Do you use a notebook or note-taking application?

Image: Mike Rohde (CC BY NC 2.0)


  1. Totally with you, Erin. There’s something magical about writing things down. I’ve got a notebook on my desk to capture my to-do list. I’ve tried apps, but it works so much better for me to cross something off of a written list!
    And, totally agree about Evernote. I just can’t seem to get into it.

    • lauraclick There’s just something about crossing through a thing rather than deleting keystrokes. One of my favorite quotes is from Richard Hugo. It’s in relation to editing, but it works for lists, too. He says to cross through things violently and never with slow consideration if you can help it.

  2. I.love.notebooks! Cheers! Kaarina

  3. I have notebooks everywhere too! The other day my co-worker was suggesting a book and I said ‘o wait, let me write this down’ and pulled out my notebook. She was laughing at the fact that I use an actual notebook but pen instead of Evernote or something like that.

    • C_Pappas I even struggle to live tweet at meetings. I can do it during a webinar but a live event? Forget about it. I can take notes, but I have this weird sense of being rude if I’m on my phone. I guess I want the notes, too, more so than tweets I’m going to have to search for later.

  4. I have a few notebooks. But clearly not as many as you do! I scribble a lot and it makes perfect sense to me. In fact, on birthdays, people buy me fancy notebooks!

    • Hajra  My method probably is mad, but it works for me. 🙂
      Notebooks seem to be common gifts for people who write or draw, which can or cannot be a good thing. I like notebooks that don’t mind becoming tattered. The ones that do just sit there on the shelf…

  5. I always have one or two notebooks with me, and I go through them like there is no tomorrow!  Hope you are doing well!

    • geoffliving I’m almost to the end of my current poetry notebook. I’m looking forward to starting a new one.
      Well enough. I’ve been trying to meet people (local) and have been exploring best ways to reach out to companies and/or people (everywhere). Are you enjoying the lighter travel schedule?

  6. Good subject! I think I need to invest in some upscale notebooks — my Office Depot spiral-bound thingies don’t get enough respect. (From me, that is…) I used to like the composition notebooks with the black’n’white marble covers. It would be nice to find some with a square binding, so you can write on the edge that faces outward from the shelf. 
    Now… are we a bunch of Luddites, or what?

    • barrettrossie I think that’s why I like the spiral-bound ones. They don’t get miffed when the pages get crinkled. 🙂 The composition ones are nice, but I never could get them to stay open, which irritated me.
      No, I don’t think so. I didn’t tell you to destroy Evernote, did I? I think of it this way: we have processes and rituals that help us to write. We need to know them so that we can get to the business of writing or drawing or whatever it is that we do. I’ve mentioned Richard Hugo in the comments already, but he talks about using the tools that bring the most sensual satisfaction in his book The Triggering Town. He then adds the caveat that he writes with number 2 pencils because they help him to write. He doesn’t mean everyone should write with number 2 pencils (although I do when I’m writing poetry, nothing else).

  7. Yes, notebooks are great to have everywhere because you never know when an idea will hit you. Mine are usually in the shower so I should have one in the bathroom. I’d add pens or pencils with it too 🙂

    • lisabuben290 I think that’s a great idea! You might have to figure out a way to keep the pages from becoming limp with moisture. Maybe a recorder? I haven’t tried that option.

  8. evelynalauer says:

    Great post. So true! I totally agreed with the part about fancy notebooks and not wanting to write in them. I’m about to launch a new blog, FIRST PAGE LAST, about my 30 years of journaling. I’ll post a link when it’s ready.

    • evelynalauer Very cool! Yes, do let me know. I may be able to help promote it on the networks I use at the very least. Will you be self-hosting the blog?

  9. I feel better now–thought I was weird b/c I currently have 6 notebooks started. Thanks.

  10. andrewstark says:

    The written word is very powerful, and at least with a paper copy you can usually find it when you want to… I find that digital information can get put in folders which get lost somewhere in cyberspace never to be seen again!
    I also like the feeling you get if you write out a “to do list” and are able to score out the jobs as they get completed.


    • andrewstark No matter how well I organize my digital files, I still seem to be able to find my handwritten notes faster. Weird? Perhaps, but it works. I, too, like crossing through completed tasks. It’s the icing on the cake or something like that.
      Thanks for stopping by Write Right. It seems we have Tim Bonner and Craig McBreen as mutual acquaintances.

  11. Canadian88 says:

    I have a stack of 10 cent notebooks that I picked up at Back-To-School time.  Each one has it’s own subject!!  That way I can add to my thoughts about a specific idea without confusion.  I was just thinking about starting or reorganizing my notebooks, based on new projects I have started in 2013, this week.
    As for Evernote, I have tried it, but like you I like pen & paper (I love good quality pens and fountain pens) for recording my ideas.

    • Canadian88 I’m with you my fellow Canadian:) I actually keep a separate journal/notebook, picked especially for each of the clients I work with, to keep all my notes/ scribbles/ mindmaps/ reminders and sketches (yes, I do doodle and sketch out ideas as well) in one place. It’s easy for me to pack my briefcase for the day with each journal: everything in one place. And of course, I love equally to pick a favourite pen(s) to write with. Birds of a feather:) Cheers! Kaarina

    • Canadian88 You and I must buy the same notebooks! I’m with you about the pens. My preferred one right now is some sort of Pilot pen. I had to hide the one I have from my brother. He liked the pen, too.
      I periodically comb through an in-use notebook to better organize it. Then I get all excited when I see the ideas I haven’t yet addressed, which leads to writing down more notes…It’s a bit of a case of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.


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