Me, Myself and Notebooks

I have a secret to share but please don’t tell anyone. A bad person might want to test it and I will suffer. Okay? Here’s the secret. I don’t think I can live without at least one notebook in close proximity. I have a suspicion I might be addicted to notebooks and notepads just a little bit. And they’re not just a fiction writer’s necessity. No, I write everything down because, well, another suspicion I’ve been having is that I think better when I write than when I speak.

It’s a work thing. If you speak for a living you’d be at least as good at expressing your thoughts in speech as in writing. But I write for a living and I also “talk” to friends on Skype in writing for the most part, so I’ve come to a point where I think through writing. So I write everything down. Daily schedules, shopping lists — not that these require a lot of thinking generally but sometimes, my friends, I just don’t know what we should have for dinner on Thursday, so some thought is involved.

I know it’s been scientifically proven writing things down helps us remember them better and, more interestingly, understand them better. Here’s an article on the topic though it doesn’t explain how exactly it all works. I’d speculate writing involves more of the brain — or different parts of the brain — than typing but I may be wrong. Anyway, whatever the reason, my notebook is my best friend. Of course, what I mean is my notebooks are my best friends. I can’t seem to be able to stop at one.

Let me see now. I’ve got the notebook for blog post ideas (third from the top in the picture). I’ve got the story idea one (the fat green one on top) and I also keep the ones that I’ve filled with words of varying degrees of importance and sometimes even a bit of beauty (the one in the middle has the last notes on The Lamiastriga). The one at the bottom contains the germ of an epistolary novella about an incubus I still plan on writing out. Some day. Definitely. It’s a good story. I think.

If I was the organised person I sometimes dream myself to be, I would stick to their single purpose but since I’m not the organised person I sometimes dream myself to be, I’ve got more than blog post ideas and story notes in there as well and that’s because when I need to think I need to write. Oh, I forgot my Danish notebook. That sits on my desk at an arm’s length, waiting for me to open it after months of ignoring my latest language-learning attempt. And I will. I promise.

But notebooks, I find, are not enough. I also write on all the stray pieces of paper I can get my hands on in an emergency, which is any situation when I’m out and I need to write something down but have no notebook on me. The reason I usually don’t have a notebook on me is I hate bags so I only carry one when I absolutely need to. Yeah, I can see the inconsistency there but I can’t do anything about it except utility pants.

Besides helping my memory and strengthening my learning capacity, keeping notebooks, notepads and old calendar sheets just has a different feel than the note-making/reminder/to-do-er function of my phone.

It’s pretty much the same as the difference between a paperback and an e-book. The latter’s a lot more convenient since it doesn’t take up any space, you don’t risk losing the words by spilling coffee or beer on it (or do you?), and it has no back to break. But the paperback is a real book and I’ve found it’s much easier for me to quit an e-book halfway through because I’m bored than a paperback. Go figure but it must have something to do with the format and feel of the thing.

Perhaps it’s just a lifelong habit. I grew up in the pre-digital era, when we all took notes by hand, planned essays by hand, and drafted presentations by hand. It’s nice to have scientists tell you it’s better than typing your notes but even if there was no relation between manner of note-taking and memory/learning, I’d still stick to my notebooks. An empty page is so much more tempting than an empty Word doc. I’ve no idea why but it is. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go buy a notepad. I haven’t had a notepad in years. How ridiculous is this?


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