Why, in this digital age, do I persist in writing longhand in a paper notebook?
The paper notebook is lightweight, portable, needs no batteries or electricity, and even the most expensive acid-free archival quality paper is much cheaper than a computer.
In the paper notebook (bound, quadrille ruled) I can write text, charts, postage stamps, graphs, mind maps, lists, and anything else that fits without loading new applications or trying to learn new features or odd commands.
If I think of something out of place on line it gets deleted or filed away somewhere I can’t find it again. If I think of something out of place on paper it can go into the margin where it’s waiting to be discovered later.
My paper records go back ten years, but my online records have been wiped out by successive waves of job changes and account purges. If I want to keep something of my own with me it needs to be commited to ink.
I can easily doodle in the margins. Try to do that online without a lot of fancy typesetting. Who needs to typeset just to doodle a bit?
When I take the paper notebook to the coffee shop it doesn’t intrude upon the rest of the space. I don’t worry too much that I’ll ruin an expensive machine with a spill or a drip.
I can open up my notebook to a random page and find something interesting in a context that makes sense. When I open up the computer I get a blank screen or a web page or something distracting.
I took a notebook on vacation with me (ah, vacation, I highly recommend it) and was able to write out longhand some things that would never havebeen workable had I lugged a computer and all of its baggage along with me. Some day when I get a proper way to transfer things to the screen (color scanner? digital camera?) I’ll share them. But for the moment they are safe between bound covers not likely to be arbitrarily deleted.
Those are reasons enough. Some writers have manual typewriters to serve as their muses. Other folks take their Palm Pilots outside in the dark where there are crickets to be heard and write by backlit glow. I have a notebook with me whenever I want to create.
I first wrote this in 1999. It’s still mostly true. But I only found it because it was posted online to my Vacuum mailing list, so in some odd way it’s not true.
I love reading through my notebooks, and get a lot of insights from looking at them. But they are difficult as communications tools for anyone except messages back to myself.