A Problem with Notebooks

I cleared a shelf out this week, and rediscovered eight different books, all different shapes and sizes. Some date back seven or eight years, others are more modern. None of them are full, none are recent. Each one contains approximately a dozen pages of notes.

I think I have a problem that needs solving, maybe.

I love a good notebook. I’m not a book snob though. I know some brands that prolific writers will use above all others. They have great paper stock, the right spine, a luxurious cover, and elastic that snaps over the cover on command. Most of mine are basically freebies from conferences.

I’m not an obsessive journal writer, obviously. Other than in school, I never got into writing as a kid. I never had a diary/journal, and wasn’t very artistic. As soon as computers came along I took to typing and never really looked back.

Over the years, at busy conferences or company sprints where it’s not convenient to have my laptop out, I’d carry a notebook. Some of them still contain crucial details of meetings I had back in the Ubuntu Phone days, or follow-up details for people I met at MWC one year.

But soon after, the notebook goes back on a shelf, and I’m back to typing again, never to pick the book up again. The cycle repeats at another conference, a year or more later. This time, a new book, fresh start, let’s get writing! But no, a week after the event, it’s consigned to the dusty shelf of forgotten memories.

Like a new pair of shoes, I love the smell and feel of a brand new notebook. I like writing some metadata in the front page, and enjoy stashing conference stickers in the back pocket after the last page. I also quite like writing in them. But clearly I don’t like that quite enough to fill a book.

While I said I quite like writing in notebooks, I also don’t like writing in notebooks. The second you write in them, they’re ruined! Like buying a 1979 Luke Skywalker toy and actually take it out of the package to play with it. You want to, that’s what it’s for, but the second you do, instant regret.

I mentioned notebooks to my daughter recently as we walked around a book shop. Her face lit up, and she gushed about the feeling of a new notebook. I recognised this, it’s how I feel when I think about having a fresh clean page to write on, a new pen or pencil.

Grid lined paper is my favourite. At school I recall drawing 8-bit pixel graphics on graph paper we sneaked from the maths room. Sometimes just doodling, other times designing levels or screens for some imaginary game or app I’d never write. Actually finishing the project didn’t matter, it was fun to fill the page with doodles.

I’d like to get that feeling back, but I don’t want to buy another notebook and have it take up home in Journal Cemetary a month later. I have been considering perhaps getting an electronic writing device instead. Of course I have. I am looking for something I can pick up and write or draw on, save my work, and know in the back of my mind that I will still have that scribble saved somewhere electronically if I want it.

The astute of you will be observing “Hey, Alan, you’ll be paying a ton of money for an electronic device which will join the analog ones on the shelf, surely‽”. Perhaps. Maybe if I get something expensive and electronic I’ll be more likely to use it than I would a free conference notebook I’m not financially liable for. That’s certainly one justification my brain might think is okay, yes. Let’s go with that. An electronic device can always be pristine too, so I don’t have to worry about my silly Skywalker hangup.

So thanks to my research, my YouTube recommendations is now full of epaper device reviews. I’ve especially enjoyed experiencing these devices vicariously through delightful creators such as Morning Coach and My Deep Guide.

I’m leaning towards the Remarkable 2. It’s a tremendously expensive device, but all the reviewers seem to think it’s the bees knees. Yes, I know I could buy like 30 paper notebooks for that price and still have money left over for a Montblanc pen or two, probably. But we now know I won’t use them! See above.

So I think that’s it, I’ve convinced myself, yes I have a problem, no it’s not actually a problem, and I can solve this problem by buying more technology. Well done brain! Good work.