I carry a notebook everywhere with me. Sure, there’s a cloud-connected notebook on every digital device I have - I use Standard Notes to collect and connect more fleshed-out thoughts - but I also carry a physical notebook too.
The first notebook I remember using was a massive, 400-page (almost-a-pack-of-paper) wire-bound A4 one that I used throughout Sixth Form. During university I religiously used a mixture of pocket and cashier Moleskine notebooks, filled with library reference numbers, university deadlines, and shopping lists. My latter notebooks are filled with to-do lists, ideas for projects or products, poetry, and plans for the weekend.
Whilst digital devices rely on directories and subdirectories of different file types, categories, and their sizes, what I like about my notebooks is that they flow chronologically from start to end and are all encompassing. Facebook, eat your heart out; there’s no discrimination in the data these notebooks collect. Notebooks are the only place I'm yet to go fully paperless and I'm not prepared to make the jump any time soon. In every other aspect of my life, from bills to banking to train tickets and travel, I'm proudly paperless. I work in a (nearly) paperless office and continue to purge the things I don't need by scanning and recycling them.
To give you some kind of idea of just how much I use my notebooks, I go through about three plain paged, soft-cover, classic Moleskine notebooks per year. Some days I write nothing, some days I’ll fill out twenty pages with scribbles.
Using these notebooks works out dramatically more expensive than the montly subscription to increase my iCloud storage but it’s a price worth paying. I now buy these notebooks by the case. Handwritten notes in beaten up notebooks carry more value and are more easily read than their digital counterparts. I can tell how important something is by the way I’ve committed it to paper; is my writing frantic and scruffy? Is the note underlined or circled? What colour have I written it in? What notes and arrows and amount of page-stabbing have I done around it?
These notebooks continue to survive my minimalist purges because they’re the closest thing I have to a time-capsule. They detail what I was doing and when, why, and how I was feeling at the time. I store and label them in the same way Alan Rusbridger, past Editor in Chief of the Guardian does, in a big stack with dates written on the side in marker pen.
These records are imbued with past versions of myself – there's something incredibly special and sacred about the fact Adam in 2013 held and wrote in the notebook that Adam in 2019 is now reading. I find flipping through their pages to be the most powerful memory trigger I have.
I’ve just started notebook nineteen.