Let Me Check My Notes


by Raymond M. Coulombe

The humble old fashioned paper notebook is often overlooked by today’s writers. That’s a mistake. Paper and pen are not just for Luddites, Hipsters, and old people. There are some huge benefits to using a simple paper notebook.

I’m comfortable with the digital age. In recent years I’ve read a lot more books on a screen than on dead trees. My typing speed is much faster than my pen and ink speed. One would think that going back to old fashioned notebooks would be last thing I’d want to do. In spite of the many advantages computers have brought writers, there are still reasons to go old school.

Writing with a pen activates different regions of the brain than typing. Studies have shown that people remember things better when they write it down rather than type. That definitely is true in my case.

If suffering from dreaded writer’s block, I take out a cheap notebook and start scribbling away. Before long I usually have the bones of a story. Then I’ll power up the laptop and flesh it out. Maybe it’s the free flowing nature of writing in a notebook? Don’t stay withing the lines. Write big, bold, tiny, doodle, sketch characters, and draw maps. It might look like a mess, but it’s a creative mess.

Usually there is little notebook and pen in my shirt pocket. When an idea hits it only takes a few seconds to jot it down. Good ideas can be fleeting so you need to be able to catch them at a moment’s notice. Big cheap spiral bound notebooks are great for stream of consciousness writing, with circles and lines all over the page. My favorites are those medium sized quality notebooks with nice leather covers. Writing in them feels a little decadent.

Then there was time all my electronics were destroyed in a shipwreck. Trust me, those water resistant cases have their limits. Turns out two days in fifteen feet of salt water exceeds those limits. When the wreck was recovered, one of the things still on board was a very water logged notebook. However, once it dried out, none of my notes were lost. During a time when so much of my stuff was lost, being able to recover those ideas jotted down on paper was a gift from the universe.

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