I’ve been thinking about notebooks a lot lately.
It’s kind of a weird ting to think much about, really, but I’ve always enjoyed a good notebook…briefly. I have a tendency to use a notebook only a few times before kind of losing track of it. Six months or a year later, I’ll get a new notebook and repeat the process.
There are a couple reasons for this. For one thing, I have this weird tendency to feel like a nice notebook should only be used for things I’ve deemed worthy of such a quality piece of hardware, which is, without a doubt, among the dumber things I’ve found myself thinking. Still, it tends to prevent me from making use of notebooks for very long. Or, I carry around an empty notebook, waiting for an “appropriate” thing to start using it for. Or, I’ll have a couple of notebooks in rotation. Because see, this one is for ideas, and this one is for journaling, and this one is for random notes and whatnot, and this one—it’s absurd. I know it’s absurd, but that doesn’t stop me from doing it. The problem is that I like structure and consistency: I want to be able to find information from the past where I expect to find it, and have it organized in some way. A notebook is most useful to me when I just jot into it whatever I need to at any given time, but then I continue using digital tools because this is where I journal, and this is where I manage my todo lists, and this is where I note the books I’ve read, and so on and so forth. Everything has it’s own place, and when I try to impose that kind of structure on a notebook, I just don’t bother using it at all.
Another factor is my terrible handwriting. If I don’t make a concerted effort to write slowly, I can’t even read it myself. This means it takes a lot longer to write things down than it does to type them out, and thanks to years of constant typing, my wrists will only tolerate so much writing.
The bigger factor, though, is that notebooks are not searchable. They are not backed up. I mentioned this in my post about Day One yesterday: those are two big reasons why I like using Day One for journaling, because that’s something I definitely don’t want to lose, and I like being able to find old entries easily.
But, there are a lot of things to like about notebooks. I love flipping through my old ones and seeing notes about what I was feeling or doing at the time, alongside diagrams for ideas I had (one project I never got around to: turn signals for bikes). I love the fact that I can flip through; this really isn’t an option (or at least, not in the same way) when using something like Day One. I like the emotion that comes through in the way it’s written, the way thoughts stop abruptly when I decide to go a different direction; when typing it up, I would go back and edit something like that, and it’s lost forever. I love the weird connection they give me to the past, because I’m one of those people that gets sentimental about weird stuff, and a notebook is far from the weirdest thing I’ve been sentimental about even just this week (can you believe I’ve been using this keychain for over three years?! I was a totally different person when I got this!)
So I want to take another crack at using actual, physical notebooks, but even as I say that, I find myself thinking: I need to find the right one. Because obviously, I can’t just pick up where I left off halfway through the last Moleskine. That notebook has a bunch of old stuff in it, and this is a fresh start! It’s ridiculous, but this is how my mind works. I need to break this weird sanctification of notebooks the same way I did with regular books. I used to hate breaking the spine or making notes in books. These days, by the time I’m done with a book, it looks like I’ve been living in it for a week. That’s exactly the kind of approach that would actually make notebooks useful to me, yet somehow I can’t get there.
This is weird, right? This is so weird.
Anyway, it just occurred to me to go look and see if I’d written about this before, and perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn that I wrote basically this exact same post six years ago.