So I thought I’d create a thread for those of us who love our Field Notes notebooks of all varieties. How do you use your Field Notes for music, art, organization, daily life, etc? Are you hyper-organized and developed your own indexing system or are you totally spur-of-the-moment and never return to a book once it’s been filled up? Photos, discussions, tricks/tips, techniques, or simply heartfelt poetry to these humble pocket notebooks are all welcome.
I’ll start with a little glamour shot of my two larger format notebooks I use for code brainstorms/mental notes and wood project diagrams. With the exception of a daily “whatever” book, I tend to concentrate each notebook on a specific subject, so I’ve got a book for physical projects (mostly wood and fabric but I’ve also got dimensional layouts of my apartment and other useful diagrams and visual layouts), a book for music stuff (includes MIDI patches, music software ideas/concepts, synth patch layouts, etc.), a book - two books by now - for my French lessons, etc. My aloe plant is saying hi too (had to bring the houseplant angle into this!).
As a fellow lefty, I’m surprised you don’t take to the Field Notes personally. For me, one of the big benefits there is that they open nearly completely flat - they’re thin, and have no square binding or spiral to get in the way of writing on the “correct” (heh) side of the page. I can’t stand spiral bound books of any kind, and I detest perfect bound notebooks - they can’t be put in a back pocket and sat on comfortably and it usually lessens the lifespan of the book considerably as well.
One of the things that’s loved about Field Notes is that their normal format can be easily shoved in a back pocket and forgotten about until needed.
Note relating to the thread split: while I’m happy to let this thread meander to other brands a little bit, I’d specifically like to at least keep it relevant to these very small, flexible, pocketable notebooks and their immediate larger family (who are also bound in the same format and made of the same materials) . Not least because of the various special editions which a lot of Field Notes fans use for organization as much as for decor/enjoyment.
Oh Field Notes … let me count the ways I love you …
I’ve been using them for years.
Quadrille / graph paper and blank paper - I never fell for the lined versions.
I’m not a big fan of special editions but I got the wood covered edition (!) and gave them away as gifts.
My preferred carry is two of them tucked into a Gfeller Caseworks leather cover, with notes on the right (quad) and a journal on the left (blank). I tend to run through journals and notebooks at different rates so this works for me.
I have a ridiculous thing with notebooks where I’m reluctant to use them for fear of spoiling them. I’ve got at least half a dozen as yet unused Field Notes pads (I have used some other ones!) but I need to find a productive musical use for them - and I will (possibly thanks to this thread).
Agreed on the Quadrille/graph love. I, too, don’t use the lined versions for anything except grocery lists.
Love those Gfeller covers - I sprung for the Bellroy x Field Notes collab cover for mine, I’m considering ways to get it to replace my wallet, since it can hold nearly all the cards I need to carry on a given day and I’m not big on cash (well, I am a huge fan of it, but I seem to spend it more readily and thus despite really disliking digital currency, I use it almost exclusively). But it also fits nicely in my back pocket, with a Caran d’Ache neon orange pen in my wallet pocket.
But it’s either the folio in the back pocket or a bare Field Notes (cf. grocery lists). I also carry at least one in my work bag which holds random daily notes, people’s contact info, etc. and comes out for personal ideas that I don’t want to get my working time involved with.
I’ve got a Snowblind edition I use for my synth patches since it’s super easy to find amidst the black and red of my synths and bags.
Oh gods, I have an entire box full of unused ones (mostly special editions), but because I have so many I feel really free to give them away or just grab a new one for a new project or subject matter! I always keep one unopened 3-pack from the subscription set aside for “later”, and immediately open the other, so that I actually do use them and don’t keep them as curio items.
I really kind of just wanted to share the love on Field Notes with others, honestly. Since they do so many beautiful special editions and all, and nobody else really does this level of variation and format. But hey, if you guys want to just run away with it, I can’t stop ya…
Edit: Also, Field Notes does a dot grid… and a plus grid, and a few other variations. And each edition uses slightly different inks, colours, and backing papers. Huge variety to choose from to suit your personal predilections. That’s part of why they’re special.
No no, you do your thread again, I hadn’t zero’d in on the place where you said you specifically wanted to focus on Field Notes brand or at least that format. I have my own reasons why Field Notes don’t work for me, but that’s not constructive in a thread about a specific brand.
I’ve bought far too many Field Notes, I’ll get a picture when I’m around the collection. I will say that I enjoy the Front Page Reporter’s more than I thought I would, great for lists or rambling ideas. Still fits in pocket but sticks out a bit. I’ve gotten a few of the different editions but I’m mostly working my way through the 10 State Fair editions that I bought the first time. I have grown fond of the graph layout for most things.
I keep a regular size for journaling music things, CT5 settings, drawing out new signal paths for the interface. I did try to use them at work for a bit but my work is often very un-creative and it didn’t feel right. So for work I just whatever notebook we get from the latest conference or just VSCode with a .md doc.
I like Field Notes. A job I had a while back got me a year subscription as a gift once, so I ended up with a pile of notebooks. If I bought them myself I think I’d be overly precious with them and worry about taking not good enough notes. Because they were a gift, and I have a bunch, I use them as my back pocket notebook…meaning…lots of random stuff goes in there. I enjoy the designs a bunch, however - as much as I enjoy their experimentation with paper types, I’m also a fountain pen nerd…fountain pens really dislike certain kinds of paper…so many of my field notes go in the “not for fountain pens” pile.
I have given away numerous Field Notes pads to my children - which is fine and I’m more than happy to do (even though they don’t remotely appreciate how marvelous they are or know who Draplin is) - but defiling them myself is utterly unacceptable for some reason!
This! This is the exact issue that I’m hamstrung by!
This right here kept me from using mine for so long. They’re (relatively, especially if you’re a subscriber) inexpensive little things, but they’re so cute and well done you want to treat them as artistically as they are. I got over that when I told myself “Ok, I’ll use the brown ones first” and then I found some nice uses / topics for the other ones, and then poof I was just reaching for one that fit the need after that. But I think also, the real thing is that their origin is in utterly unmemorable little books that were mostly advertisements and whatnot - they’re intended for the ephemeral, the meaningful-only-in-this-exact-setting sort of notes as much as, if not more than, any more grandiose type. The catchphrase I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now is really golden - they’re there to help your brain take a load off. When you think of them this way, they become much easier to just enjoy and fill up with whatever you need. My daily grab book is alternating with to-do lists, grocery lists, random thoughts, etc. and I sort of “distill” anything that has longer-term value out of it when I get home and relax from the day (well, I do when I’m in my best habits, at least!). And since I like the feel and paper of some of the special editions, they’ve also found their way into my daily grind. Of course, I save all my full notebooks too, because I do like the covers, the paper, etc. And sometimes just flipping back through them I remember a time that I’d otherwise have not a single reminder of. And that’s a “good enough note” for me!
Edit: And yep, fountain pens. These are “not fancy” notebooks. They’re for ballpoints, maybe gels (except the waterproof/coated papers, which are thankfully rare). I’d be very interested in which ones you found suitable and not suitable for fountain pens (and which fountain pen ink you’re using to test them, inks themselves have widely varying compatiblities).
I mostly gave up on using the fountain pen on them…Rhodia notepads are my consistent fountain pen papers. I’ve used a handful of doodler’s inks, but have been using Pilot Iroshizuku Shin Kai (dark blue) consistently for the last…year or so?
I found keeping a music journal was a great way to use them. I almost always learn something new when I’m playing so it’s good to keep a little notebook around to note a cool patch or setting, and then have it tucked away for reference. Now if I could find anytime to play music, I could work on fillilng these things up…
Yea honestly, I used it to note guitar riffs, pedal settings, as well as noting pedal configurations almost like a second personal manual for the pedal. I always used to forget what the colors meant on the Dry FX button for the POG2 and so I noted it, not having to relearn the thing when I sit down to use it added to the immediacy of the whole thing, which is important to me, otherwise I will feel bad and have a lie down.
Here’s a tip about dedicating a notebook to a subject, I tend to work both front-to-back and back-to-front. Front inside first few pages have references or diagrams or important details I’m constantly wanting to look up. More custom / evolving notes go a few blank pages in from there forwards.
From the back you have a few options: specific presets, setlists, or other related-but-different data sets, or a second machine/instrument, or personal notes/thoughts that correspond with the more technical/reference-able data in the front. I often turn this upside down so that it’s easy to figure out when I’ve crossed sections when flipping through.
I think it’s great to see so many posts on Field Notes and note taking in general.
Everyone at my work thinks I’m a bit archaic still taking notes by hand
Bullet journaling and always listing the date has helped me greatly keep track of everything that I’ve written.
What I realised about notebooks (both for home and for work) is that if they hold some value to me (both financial and emotional), I’m much less inclined to constantly lose pads and grab another one (which kind of defeats the purpose of a notebook).
I think this is why things like field notes (or the rollbahn I use) are great; they hold a bit more value and personal attachment than just being something you get given for free, or can grab from the stationary cupboard at work.
Note-taking is a habit you often need to train. I still occasionally pull out my phone to jot something down - a leftover habit from a time when I was heading in the opposite direction I am now. This means that for some people, it’s difficult. Finding what mental blocks you have for it, the why you didn’t reach for your notebook that time, or the what that makes you leave it at home instead of having it at the ready, and then considering whether those reflect your values or not, can often help more than just your note-taking. In fact, realizations of that type are perfect for jotting down in a … notebook!
As others have mentioned, bullet journaling, GTD based practices, or other self-organization techniques are great ways to often begin addressing several issues at once: personal coherency and rhythm, enhancing mental focus and presence, efficiently organizing your time and effort intentionally towards your goals (or figuring out your goals from your values, if you’re not at that stage yet - which is entirely valid too), and of course just the value in having one place to put some of the chaos so your brain can let go.
One of the things I learned early on about note-taking in any form is that if I don’t write it down, the to-do and don’t-forget lists in my head get significant and I go around always with a heavy mind, clouded and cluttered and anxious that I’ve forgotten something. The more I transfer out of my brain and into organization systems around me (and then build habits to utilize those systems!) the clearer and more peaceful my mind becomes, and that helps it do more useful work like deeper thinking, handling difficult situations with more grace and reserve, or just being free to play and dream and imagine without feeling tired and weighed down. Field Notes for me are almost perfect. I still need to be able to effectively utilize a paper planner - the automatic reminders built into my phone are a gods-send for me right now - but that’s not an urgent transition. It’s one I’m sure will come with time and a more personally structured lifestyle, the organization and creation of which are my main goals right now.