I’ve never met a gadget I didn’t like. I own more computers than I care to think about, an Android phone, an Android tablet, multiple ebook readers and an Alphasmart Dana. I’ve always been this way– I’ve owned an Amstrad NC-200 (wonderful machine in its day), various Psion organisers, assorted Palm PDA’s. Basically any little device that promises to increase my productivity even in the slightest only has to sidle up to me sideways and wink and I will hand over my money, no thought required and no questions asked. I’m the same with software– God alone only knows how much cash I have ponied up over the years for word processors, writer’s software, clipping software, archiving software, To Do software. I shudder to think about it.
And yet in the midst of all this rampant tech addiction one tool stands out for its utility; a pen and a small notebook. I carry at least one, and sometimes more, with me wherever I go these days. They are handy for making notes, plotting, and shopping lists. The battery never goes flat and it’s very easy to see when they need to be replaced. If I write down a To Do list, I get to put a line through an item when it’s done in the most satisfying way.
These days I can even transfer the contents of my notebook to my computer quickly and easily using speech recognition software if I need to. Or I can scan the pages in and transfer them to Evernote.
Pens and pencils don’t exacerbate my RSI the way keyboards do either. I can tear out pages if I need to write down something for someone else. I can doodle and draw maps in notebooks as well. This is more useful to a fantasy writer than you might think. They are cheap and I don’t have to worry too much about one being lost and stolen. They are not exactly tempting targets for snatch thieves.
As a storage medium paper never goes out of date. Notebooks never lose data unless you destroy them or leave them in your trouser pocket when they go into the wash. I still have a small notebook I took on a trip to South East Asia with me 15 years ago. I can open it up and read the details of the Full Moon party on Koh Phangan. I can note that in those days the beach resembled the set of a Mad Max movie. I can see the names of the people who I sat in beachfront cafe and watched the sunset with. (Hi Stuart, Claire, Helen and Mike if you, by some strange chance, should happen to be reading this!)I don’t need to switch anything on or transfer files from some out-moded storage device or file format.
The most important thing is that a notebook can fit into a pocket and it is a very natural thing to take it out and write down an idea when it hits. If I don’t do this at the time, I will usually forget it. I have lost count of the number of brilliant ideas I have had (so brilliant that I could not possibly forget them) that have faded from my mind over the course of a couple of hours never to return, no matter how much skullwork I put in trying to recall them. There’s a school of thought that says they could not have been that outstanding because I did manage to forget them, but I have no truck with such cynicism.
I have even, very occasionally, written fiction in my notebook, scraps of scenes, bits of dialogue, once even the whole chapter of a story. I don’t actually like to do this since it’s much slower than typing for me, and I am going to have to transfer the whole thing to a computer in the end anyway. It can be done though.
Of course there is a downside. My handwriting can be dreadful, which means I spend more time than I need to puzzling out what I have written sometimes. In general though, carrying a notebook and pen is something I would recommend any writer get into the habit of.