It’s just a notebook and it’s stupid

You may not know this about me. In fact, I’m almost certain you don’t because I don’t share it with many people meaning if you’re one of the 5 or 6 people that accidentally stumbled on my writing prior to this post then even you didn’t know it either.

Anyway, I want to be creative.

I work hard at it. I would not have considered myself creative just 5 years ago but once I graduated college I realized that, like most things, creativity was something that could be improved. So I read books, took a class, and gobbled down every article on creativity that came across my feeds. One thing became clear to me early on.

I needed a notebook.

All the creativity gurus and articles said you needed a place to store your ideas. Your mock ups (what the hell is this anyway?). Your designs. Your insights.

And while they didn’t explicitly say the brand of notebook you should buy, Moleskine was clearly the notebook of choice for many.

So I bought one. Well, four actually. Three Cahier journals and one large classic notebook.

I purchased these expecting that once a small one was in my pocket and the big one was in my bag there would be no stopping the flow of ideas.


It turns out that simply having a somewhat expensive notebook does not contribute to your creativity. It doesn’t give you fresh, interesting ideas. It’s kind of just a bunch of sheets of paper stuck into a binding.

In fact, I went an embarrassingly long time (months) trying to decide what I should write in the notebooks.

What should go in the big notebook?

Should I put ideas there or should they stay in the small notebooks?

Should I put my ideas in the small one and then move them to the big one?

Should I put ideas in a digital place too?

What about the backs of the pages, should they be used? Maybe for “lesser” ideas or sketches?

Should I write small to save pages?

Should I devote certain pages to ideas?

Should I devote certain pages to sketches?

What about journaling?

Should I develop a tagging system to mark notes into different categories?

What about sections?

After months of trying different things I came to a revelation.

It’s a friggin’ notebook and I can use it for whatever I feel like writing and most of it is going to be forgotten and useless anyway.

I don’t know when I got too snobby for a spiral bound notebook or a sturdy legal pad but that will be what I buy next. I know everyone uses notebooks differently, but I’ve reached the conclusion that notebooks should be one tool of many that help get thoughts and ideas out of the brain and into reality.

The absurdity of the nice notebook struck me when I read James Altucher’s post The Ultimate Guide to Becoming an Idea Machine. In this he talks about the importance of ideas, but a main thesis of the piece is to write ten ideas a day. And what does he recommend writing them on?

A waiters pad.


Well, mainly because they’re cheap, small and, most importantly for me, you won’t agonize over what the hell you’re going to write down.

I now write whatever I want in my notebooks. Like I should’ve months ago.

And my next notebook won’t cost $17.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset
Here’s a shot of me not using my expensive notebook because I hadn’t quite worked out whether or not my notes on vectors were worthy of it. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *