Taking Note

Lately I’ve been thinking about ways to keep track of the tendrils of thoughts and ideas that come to the surface when I’m trying to do something else. These snippets seem to arise alongside, despite of and as a consequence of what I am writing, reading and listening to at the time.

Not all of these are recorded and rightly so. They are tenuous at best when I look over them at a later date, and sometimes I wonder what I was thinking when the need to record the essence of whatever it was took hold. These days we are subject to an increasing tide of information and stimulation. It can sometimes feel like grabbing handfuls of sand whilst being tossed on a thundering incoming wave. Recording snippets helps me to feel a modicum of control, as well as providing prompts and ideas for future writing.

I wish I could write that I have perfected the art of keeping track of these moments, but that would be a fib. I scribble bits and pieces in an A5 lined notebook. The pages include motley collections of lists including things I want to do when I have time (optimist!), musicians that I’ve heard and want to explore further, the name of a subject matter expert that a friend mentioned, a word that I hadn’t come across before (senescence, if you must know) and other miscellany.

Other pages contain prose relating to a short story where I was working on an ending, and some paragraphs where I was playing with a character’s viewpoint. There are to-do items along with song titles or lyric lines that have captured my attention for future use as writing prompts or just because I like them. There are a myriad of apps that also help with capturing the flotsam and jetsam. I like to use Evernote because I can group thoughts and images and links into journals, but I’m sure there are lots of other options out there.

This consideration of the compulsion to take notes was inspired by an article written by Joan Didion called ‘On Keeping a Notebook’. I’m quite sure this was referred to by Annabel Crabb or Leigh Sales in one of the early Chat 10, Looks 3 podcasts. There is a link to the article here. I found it encouraging to read that someone else feels the need capture these moments, such as they are. Didion writes about the necessity to record things, the mix of truth and fiction, the snatches of conversation, the need to capture how something felt.

How do you keep track of the flotsam and jetsam in your life?

[Photo: View from Mt Tomah Botanical Gardens]

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6 thoughts on “Taking Note

  1. I love the term “Flotsam and Jetsam” and I am an avid keeper of notebooks, which has led to my attempts at Art Journalling. Perhaps you could take some time to check out #Pinterest, ‘Art Journalling’ to see how others have found a way to keep the most mundane random thoughts in a beautiful and artistic way, using handmade notebooks, paints, crayons, and all sorts of other bits and pieces. This year my “Unplanner” is where my random thoughts and other flotsam and jetsam are being stored. I am a little bit addicted to notebooks, journals, beautiful paper, stationery, envelopes, so for me it is only natural to keep track of the ‘small stuff’. I recently purchased some Midori Travellers Notebooks to add to my collection, just the feel of them makes me happy.

    • Thanks for the tips, Barbara, and I’ll check out the sites you mentioned. You are right about it being worth it to have good quality materials to work with. My current scribbling notebook is a soft-backed Clairefontaine and the paper is silky smooth and a delight to use. And I love that your ‘Unplanner’ keeps all the small stuff together for you. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I write ideas everywhere, from scraps of paper to notebooks to Evernote. Rarely do I read them, but the act of writing them enables me to commit many ideas to memory. I take notes because I dread the thought of letting words go. Material things and certain people I’m fine to let go of, but words I have too much respect for.

    • Thanks, Gail, and I know what you mean about the process of writing something down resulting in the information being more embedded than if it was left unwritten, even if you never need to refer to the note again. I admire your respect for words, and they are a constant source of joy in my life.

  3. Good post and one which reminds me to round up and sift through all my notebooks, diaries that are part diaries and part notebooks so I can’t tell what really happened when. I find pencil and paper easier than using my phone for voice memos etc as I am good at obliterating what I’ve just done and can never quite get rid of the thought that ‘someone else has access to my stuff’ in the techy ether.

    • Thanks for sharing and I prefer to write bits down where I can too. I can usually remember the context better, and it is also more reinforcing than tapping more characters onto a phone. Things just seem more real to me on paper.

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