So, I read this excellent piece over at Medium about keeping a notebook for memory and inspiration, and I couldn’t agree more with the notion of carrying a notebook with you everywhere you go.
Last year, I touched on why taking notes by hand still beats doing it digitally. It’s just a better process for most of us, especially if you are in the least bit creative. And, as Stephanie at Rhodia Drive brought up recently, the time to commit a thought to paper is in the instant in which you have it.
Thus, the need for a notebook ever to hand.
And the best notebooks for carrying around when you’re away from the comforts of desk and chair? Plain old reporter’s notebooks. Can’t recommend ‘em highly enough.
My personal process is this: I have reporter’s notebooks everywhere. Stacked around my apartment, in my car, and in my pockets. Whenever I get a story idea, an address, a phone number, a factoid, a grocery need, it goes in whatever notebook I’m carrying that day.
When I get home, I dump the notebook. Story ideas and factoids go into Microsoft OneNote, phone numbers into my contacts file, things to do into my Google to-do list, and personal reflections, etc. go into a journal. When I get to the last page of a notebook, it goes on a stack and I start on the next one.
Once every few years, I go through those stacks to make sure all the important pieces have been mined. Then the notebooks go in the trash. Obviously, I don’t place a lot of long-term value on my everyday carry notebooks.
Now I know there are all sorts of highly recommended notebooks on the market. Rhodia, Moleskine, Field Notes, and so on. I just don’t think of them as everyday carry notebooks as much as for journaling, for storing the thoughts and ideas that you want to preserve for a lifetime.
Reporter’s notebooks, on the other hand, are just right for using and tossing.
First, these things are cheap, maybe a couple of bucks apiece. There’s no need to spend more than that on something you are going to use for what amounts to temporary data collection.
And second, they are designed perfectly for exactly one thing: Holding in one hand and writing with the other while you’re standing, sitting or moving.
Reporter’s notebooks are simply constructed. They consist of a wire coil, two pieces of cardboard and lined writing paper. Just wide enough to fit into the palm of one hand while in use, and into a back or side pocket when not.
(Wire side up when in the back pocket. Otherwise, you sit on it, it smashes and the pages won’t flip anymore.)
The narrow size helps emphasize short, fast writing, mostly fragments and phrases, although, in a pinch, I’ve composed entire news articles in them.
The paper’s not high quality, but it doesn’t need to be. It will take some abuse, including getting wet. The pages are perforated so you can rip one out to give to someone else, or if you need to remove a damaged page.
The wire binders are usually wide enough that you can slide a pen into them. And most of them have space on the covers for you to write dates and other details to help you keep your notes sorted.
Tops brand tends to be more common, and less expensive, but their back cardboard piece is too flexible for me. Portage makes a reporter’s notebook with much stiffer front and back covers, providing a more stable writing surface when the book is flipped open. Still, if you like to fold your notebooks, Tops and Ampad are best for that.
They also have some other helpful uses…smacking bugs that get too close, shielding your head from rain, doubling as a coaster (cover closed, of course).
The bottom line is, they’ve all served me well for 15+ years, and if you’re looking to make a change, I’d definitely suggest trying out some reporter’s notebooks.