Note-Taking and Notebooks: Preserving the Content

Welcome back to the Wndsn series on effective note-taking. By now you have decided on the purpose of your notebook, organized the pages, and have developed a system for labels to keep you organized. You’ve already done the hard work, now it’s time to actually write stuff down. How are you going to do it?

Preserving Content

  • Don't remove content, instead mark as deleted, making data recoverable.

Maybe it’s a self-esteem issue. Often we hear that people cringe to look back on their old work. That it seemed juvenile or misguided in retrospect. Maybe, maybe that note was not your best work. Or, you’ll find out it was important and served to move you forward but you didn’t realize it at the time. Or you’ll find out that it was crucial information and you disregarded it without consideration. It is thus important to just run a line through it and add a small date to the line so that all data is preserved. All data is equal at first, but some data might become the foundation for important development and you often aren’t going to know what that is at the time you think its dumb or unimportant.

  • Write in permanent ink.

If you are a pen addict like us, this is the fun part. And for a pen addict, also the controversial part.

Tragedies happen in life, great and small. Your home may be flooded; your notebook may fall out of your bag in the kayak you were piloting where you forgot to close your wet bag properly. Your grasp could have trembled while you took a sip of water while working on some notes. Maybe that beaker wasn’t set down with care or the intern got crazy with a pipette. Your kid knocks over the juice. Stuff happens. And often, the last thing that is important at that moment is your notebook. You can’t protect it from all things but having permanent ink goes a long way to making sure your data and possible legacy is preserved.

Thus, the use case for using permanent ink is quite solid. However, most fountain pen users do not run their treasured pens with permanent ink because the properties of said ink further clogs up the fine machine and requires additional care. It’s a job!

Also there are far fewer permanent ink brands out there than water soluble ink brands and one has to be purposeful in finding a permanent ink that is suitable for one’s pen, paper, and writing style. But if you are a fountain pen devotee, this is where everything gets fun so run with it. Go look at your favorite store and get to ink swabbing. Noodler’sDe Atramentis, Rohrer and Klingner, and the ever-favorite Platinum Carbon Black are all trustworthy options. Indulge in the good paper. In house, we have a pen solution that works for us, one that takes gorgeous permanent ink for an unbeatable price.

Not a fountain pen fan? Then there are no concerns here. A fine tip sharpie, document pen, or pigment fineliner will more than suffice.

We hope you have enjoyed this deep dive into the process of note taking. Life is all process, all refinement of method. There is no final, platonic ideal to be reached. Deceptively simple, note taking ends up being a tell all of your cognition, perceptions, strengths, and weaknesses. It’s just writing on paper after all. But in this world where writing is now optional, it can become a distillation of how you attend to what you must attend to. By developing a consistent practice of note-taking you are deepening your engagement with your life, good, bad, and boring. And all it takes is pen and paper.


Writing! It’s important!

Develops critical thinking capacity, causes us to slow down and be more aware and mindful of our thoughts so that whatever we do is not haphazard or half assed, with loose ends and random pulls. And when you slow down, you get clarity and can step back and see the bigger picture, themes, etc.

This presents a conundrum on the outset. On one hand, it is not necessary to get too navel-gazing about the actuality of writing things down, because that can become a recursive time sink where nothing gets furthered. On the other hand, if we cannot be disciplined and aware of our own most basic habits and unconscious doings, then whatever we do is less optimal, and what was well intentioned becomes haphazard, inconsequential, and ultimately, a waste of time. If you are called to the writing life, if something whispers to you that you are missing something, possibly something important, developing a discipline of writing as praxis can be crucial to the development of your own ideas, innovations, and to coalesce learning.

And then that leaves the individual. Maybe it’s a to-do list, a journal, information to leave something for future generations, or maybe it is an inner longing to get away from apps on a phone. If this is you, we ask that before you begin that you take a step back and watch how you do what you do. Are you a “scribble a note on the back of a receipt and stick it in your bag person”? Do you write something down and never look at it again? Are you more likely to stick a note in your phone? Or do you just do a hail mary pass and hope to remember it later? We must be honest with ourselves; there is no point developing a system that is against our grain. Watch yourself for a few days and see how you behave.

You could make notes for “Idea” or “Brain Dump” or any manner of things you want to write down. Just pair a symbol to the concept and stick with it. Alternatively, you can use a consistent hashtag like you would on a digital file.

The picture shows a page from the Wndsn XPD Explorer’s Notebook inside the Papa Wallet by Thousand Yard Studio.