Why I Use Notebooks Instead of Notes Apps
Despite the irrefutable advantages of electronics versus their less advanced counterparts, there are certain positives to so-called ‘lower tech’ tools versus their silicon-laden cousins. We all know that moving parts have more of an opportunity to break, but they’re often easier to fix. There’s something almost indescribably satisfying about a well designed hardware product or an elegant mechanical system that is difficult to replicate on a screen. Sometimes tactile beats out bleeding edge technology.
One such category that I’ve recently come to appreciate is everyday and at-the-ready notetaking and journaling. Once you get over your disinterest in picking up a pen and paper and finish marveling at the time it’s been since you last wrote something other than the details of a receipt to a restaurant, the slower pace of the paper and pen will be jarring. It’ll be disinteresting. It’ll take you four times as long to write something with spelling errors abound as it would if you were writing in on your red squiggly lined computer. It’ll be frustrating and nearly pointless.
But, if you stick with it, you’ll start to write more. There’s a freedom to being unconcerned with spellcheck. An artistry and meaning when you cross out a word and replace it with another. Once you get through the hand pain it’ll start to feel more natural.
Soon you’ll start writing things that you never would have thought to write about. You’ll write your ideas and your to-do list, sure, but you’ll also write your thoughts and your plans. Your feelings about the state of the world around you.
And when you stop to think about it, how much have you actually written in your computer on your text editor of choice that doesn’t serve a single, particular purpose. How much of what you’ve written is simply musings to satisfy the desire of the now? I’d assume it’s not very much.
How much of what you’ve written is simply musings to satisfy the desire of the now?
On a more practical note, how many times have you needed to save something as a note in your phone, only to get sidetracked on your way to the notes app before you actually save what it is that you need to do? It happens to me constantly. To have a notebook available to more quickly jot down that idea or that reminder I’ve found to be extraordinarily useful.
And, happily, the trendy nature of journaling has introduced a whole host of players onto the notebook-making scene. Which brings us back to the tactile beauty of taking notes with pen and paper. Replacing a broad selection of fonts and beautifully designed user interfaces that you’ll find on any computer is a physical bound book where you can see with your own eyes the progress of written work you’ve developed. It’s a satisfaction that only comes when you close yourself from the trauma of younger years in bound notebooks and open yourself to a more mature version of personal notetaking; notetaking for oneself.
Writing with pen and paper takes away some of the convenience of electronic notetaking. The ease of use of voice notes and notes on a phone make it so much easier to quickly record thoughts. But writing on paper is intentional. It takes longer and therefore involves more thought than rapidly writing down a thought electronically, never to be read again. A physical notebook exists as a manifestation of nebulous ideas that exist purely as thoughts or inclinations of the mind into written communication to be digested by others.
Writing on paper is intentional.
I consider myself to be a huge advocate for bleeding edge technology and I’m someone who enjoys new technology a great deal. In most cases, I’m strongly in favor of consolidating into a digital format. But there’s something to physical notetaking. After trying hard to develop a digital workflow for journaling and ideation, it became clear that it wouldn’t feel right. There’s something about the thought that goes into gesturing characters into existence on a piece of paper rather than doing so with a keyboard that simply doesn’t feel like it can be replaced any time soon.
After a long period of attempting to incorporate physical notetaking into my life, it wasn’t until I removed all restrictions from the entries that I would record that I truly felt the power of analog writing. There is a freedom to a blank piece of paper that has, to this point, not been possible with technology.
It’s more than possible that I’m romanticizing analogue notetaking, but try it for yourself. You might find yourself thinking in different ways.