Field Notes: How I Use My Pocket Notebooks

My bin of used and unused Field Notes
(as well as three used Moleskine Pocket Notebooks)

I don’t journal a lot these days. Instead, there is comfort in quickly scribbled words in a tiny pocket notebook. 

I’ve been using many from my Field Notes stockpiles, going through about one book per month. At the same time, I’m also using a Moleskine-styled pocket notebook with a sky blue cover that’s dedicated to school notes. I’ve been jotting down my thoughts that way. 

Just quick words about what’s going on in my brain. What I observed, and the media I consumed. That sort of quick brain dump really shouldn’t replace regular journaling. But they have fewer filler words because I’m not concerned with making them coherent.

Anyway, Field Notes are good for taking quick notes while I’m around the house, watching TV, or browsing the internet. My attention span is so short these days I can do all three at once.

I’m training myself to take notes while watching a film, to get myself more actively engaged with the material.

Anything interesting I learned or thought of. I’ve been sporadically watching Dark Matter and The 100, and taking notes helps with the boring parts. Something about the 2010s television amuses me so much, all that teen cringe rushes right back. It’s tons of fun.

I took five or six pages of notes while watching Alien (1979) a few nights ago. The thoughts that run through my head when watching a horror film cast making stupid decisions? I jot those down. A quick observation about nice background music, cool set designs, and oh, that opening title sequence is beautifully designed.

An important part of my workflow is the archiving process. I always save the first page of the pocket notebook for indexing. After I finish a notebook, I writing down the contents for ease of reference later. I don’t keep track of page numbers, only the subjects. 

Then, I go through the entire book, page by page, and transfer the most notable information to my digital note-taking app. 

I use the Bear app (not affiliated), and have been using it for three years. It’s becoming my digital commonplace book. The digital advantage of being searchable is essential, which is why around 10% of each pocket notebook goes into Bear. 

During the transferring process, I type and expand. My handwritten story starters only have a few sentences, and I write it into a full tale while typing it down. Two lines of hastily written poetry became a full-length poem in digital form. This is a method that combines analog creativity and digital usefulness. The best of both worlds.

I only write down things future me would consider interesting to find out. Which is a lot of things, as I learned from re-reading some of the old notes I took a few years back.

Field Notes are pretty good. Their paper isn’t the best quality but it’s great for general writing. Their quarterly limited edition provides good variation. Each three-pack is different, sometimes made with special printing techniques and such to keep things exciting.

I don’t own every single edition, only a few I actually like. No doubt there are crazy collectors out there spending hundreds on a tiny notebook. They are well-made products that generates enough hype to keep people coming back.

Carrying a pocket notebook isn’t as life-changing as some people describes. It’s simply fun, which is why I do it.

As I organize my notebook collection, I find out gladly that most of them are well used and filled to the brim. It made me infinitely pleased that I’m not a hoarder of new and shiny things.

I only ever collected blank notebooks as a kid. Cheap, colorful ones from the neighborhood stationery store. I never used all those. I wasn’t planning to.

Now I make it a mission to use every last one of the notebooks I purchase. When, is the question. Eventually, is the answer.

I prefer to use things, and it makes me happy to find a dusty old notebook with crinkled papers filled with words. It’s so much more interesting than a pristine, factory white one.

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