Field Notes are Good for Field Notes

February 3, 2012

Late in 2011, I started doing something I hadn’t done for at least seven years. I started keeping an analog journal.

I’ve always been an erratic journaler, more streaky than the tears of a clown. I have seasons of daily scribbles, followed by months of silence. But one thing was consistent for the last seven years … all that journaling was hacked into a keyboard for digital capture by an asortment of different programs.

(Day One, which I started using last year, is my favorite journaling app. The only lament I have about what I’m telling you now is that I don’t get to use it in the same way. I journaled more last year than any of the previous seven years thanks to Day One.)

I have long tucked a pocket notebook in my back pocket each morning, probably for most of those seven years. But it was never a journal of any kind as much as it was a backup capture — in case my digital techniques failed me — or as place to scrawl out a crude website layout. These notebooks took me so long to fill that the covers disintegrated long before the last pages were filled.

Things changed in early November. I was listening to the MacPowerUsers 61: Workflows with Michael Lopp while driving back from some meetings in Dallas. He described how fastidious he was about writing things down, writing lots of things down. And an idea that was always romantic to me became reasonable.

Shortly after, I started using Field Notes notebooks for my field notes — for writing thoughts about life. I became deliberate about physically writing things down. I don’t journal as many words, but I check-in more often. The right pages are for prose, where I capture a page or two of random thoughts each morning, and sometimes again later in the day. These few minutes help me pay attention to what is really on my mind. Down the left side, I capture small details from my life: books I’m reading, movies I watched, people I met with, or friends I bumped into.

So far, I’ve filled two. There is a material and satisying sense of accomplishment as I complete a book and add it to the stack, if I can count two as a stack. At this rate, maybe that Colors subscription is also moving from the realm of romantic to reasonable. (Anybody in Austin want to split a subscription?!)

Latest Posts