On Writing and Notebooks

Episode 23 of Back to Work is officially my favorite episode so far. There are a lot of great messages in the entire episode, but I was interested in Merlin Mann’s discussion of notebooks and writing.

I think there’s something important about your writing notebook: namely, it doesn’t matter what you’re writing in. You don’t need a twenty dollar Moleskine. You don’t need a leather-lined, gold paper edges, artisan paper journal. There’s something liberating about Natalie Goldberg, who writes in Snoopy-illustrated spiral bound notebooks.


I write in a cheap Moleskine knockoff I picked up at Target, and a softback grid-lined notepad that I picked up from somewhere. These two are my favorite notepads, and there isn’t anything that doesn’t go into these. It might be notes from a 5by5 episode, a single thought jotted down on a single page, mind maps, several pages of a thought I’m trying to work through, or even writing exercises. My notebooks come with me everywhere, either tossed into a pocket in my backpack, my back pants pocket, or at nerdier moments (my wife always threatens to buy me one of these) in my shirt pocket. I like Field Notes, but there are cheaper alternatives that I’ve opted to turn to instead.

To paraphrase Merlin: If you’ve got a notebook and you’re writing in it, you’ve got the right notebook. If you’ve got a notebook and you’re not writing in it, a new notebook isn’t going to help you.

UPDATE: The pen pictured is a needle point Tul I picked up from Office Depot. At the moment it’s my favorite pen.

12 July 2011 · @jaheppler