On Longhand, Note-Taking, Paper &c

The unsung love for writing on paper seems to have burst the seams of the Field Notes Love and Process thread! Let’s talk all things note-taking, notebooks, pens, paper, journalling, etc.

As an expansion of a post that you’ll find below (apologies for the perhaps … impressionistic bricolage of the first several posts), I do a lot of my mathematical thinking with pen and paper. I notice that I’m the freest and sketchiest on unlined paper to the detriment of returning and making sense of what’s going on, and usually quite stifled by graph paper. I quite like Code&Quill’s dot grid + lines on facing pages layout. The notes I take from lectures often involve both words and pictures, and having the separate pages for them helps keeps me neat. I’m not a purist, though.


I love notebooks (I’d always take sketch books away on holiday as a kid).

Unfortunately I now use mine a lot more for work than for the more whimsical and fun uses of my youth

Finding decent notebooks can be really difficult (could be to do with being left handed), and I’ve been through loads (including the Field Notes brand which I didn’t like). I’ve been settled on these for a while:

My favourite for work (by a country mile) for use as a daily journal/planner is the Leuchtturm1917 B5 planner with dotted pages: https://www.leuchtturm1917.us/notebook-composition-b5-softcover-121-numbered-pages-7-x-10-in.html

General Use at Home:
The Rollbahn notebooks are great quality, and the lively colours mean they don’t get lost. .https://twentytwentyone.com/product/rollbahn-notebook-delfonics


Ah fair enough and apologies for veering off course!

I just didn’t take to them myself (they also aren’t that cheap in the UK), but I think notebooks are a very personal thing (I guess just the act of committing something to paper is a lot more personal than typing notes on a computer/phone) so that’s nothing at all against the brand

For a nice Field Notes checkout the Leuchtturm1917 A6 pocket book (it has nice tapered corners and a flexible cover so can be shoved in back pockets etc). I’ve used them for a few years now (for simple ToDo lists and shopping lists etc.).

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Big fan of Leuchtturm, I use their music manuscript pads these days.

I’m an enormous fan of Rhodia’s DotGrid format: https://rhodiapads.com/collections_dot_everything.php

Since multiple makers are already coming up, maybe the thread might make more sense as a general notebooks thread rather than being Field Notes specific? IANAModerator, so just a thought :slight_smile:

Edit: sorry, just saw the part of the thread where you explicitly said you want to focus on Field Notes brand. Carry on!


If we can’t be functional about our notepads at least we don’t need to be dysfunctional in solitude :laughing:

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i use a 1917. one thing that got me writing more were some bullet journal techniques (though i’m not rigid about the form). mostly the decision to write everything and be less precious about what belongs in there (which weirdly made the notebook more precious?)

biggest breakthrough was making an index. ie being able to have a music list, nature log, code ideas, all mixed up and just find them in the index… instead of considering maybe these things should be different notebooks.

also the heavy emphasis on time and to some degree, linearity. just use the next page, and index it if needed. there’s a really positive consciousness of things that happened before, and make me think intentionally/consciously about what will/might happen in the future.


wow, I had never considered indexing a notebook, I just make horrendously fragmented “hard drives” and revisit them too infrequently. that’s a great idea!

I’d never heard of Field Notes. In an effort to be mildly on-topic I’ll note that It’s interesting how much the presence or absence of structure to the paper alters how I interact with it.


Can you break this down a bit more? I am interested, as the downside of notebooks for me is knowing I wrote something important down but having not the foggiest idea about where I did it.

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I had this same idea in école primaire around 1989/1990 where I could not understand how boring students maintained one notebook for each discrete topic. I just maintained one single notebook with drawings, collages, bits of maths, literature, biology, whatever was being taught.

One day we actually had to hand in our notebooks which was horrifying to me. My teacher, after some reflection, held mine up and said “whose dog’s breakfast is this?”

I think I was ahead of my time but man did it take some therapy to manage my unique note-taking style…


Number every page in your notebook. Save the first four pages of your notebook, label them “index”. Set up a two column table:

page # description

Every time you write on a new page, give the page an illustrative title (e.g. “VCO schematic rev 2”).

Then go to your index pages, add a line with “pg. 17, VCO Schematic rev 2”. Eventually you will be able to look through your index and figure out where everything is!

page # description
17 patch notes, “Bloom”
18 VCO Schematic, rev 2

If you have the same “types” of pages coming up a lot, e.g. schematics, daily journalling, patch notes, etc., you might also set up an area in your index that is organized by “type” rather than page - e.g. “Schematics: 17, 34, 52, 63” and “Daily Journals: 42, 43, 47, 49” and “patch notes: 32, 33, 35-39” etc. Leave yourself plenty of space for each type, so you can keep adding page numbers.

Type Pages
patch notes 32, 33, 35-39
schematics 17, 34, 52, 63
daily journals 42,43,47,49

This is so simple, obvious, and brilliant. Thank you!

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I’ve had my eye on those Blackwing notebook/pencil sets for a while, but I’ve yet to buy one because of my annoying tendency to buy a new notebook/sketchbook, use it for a bit, and then abandon it with other unused supplies, only to be embarrassed and discouraged by it years down the line if and when I find it and try to reuse it.

This topic is rather close to my heart. I used to be an assiduous note-taker, which came with the territory, being a writer. With fiction, I took the genre name seriously: unlike many of my colleagues, I like to construct a story that’s, for the most part, indeed a fiction.

I’d generally start off with a vague premise, a thought or a description, and from there I’d carry a notebook around with me everywhere, within reach when ever the odd vagrant idea occurred to me. There was no editing. Anything remotely that struck my fancy, I’d jot down, a rather magical early phase of the process because nothing was wrong at that point, before the story was written. These jottings and ideas more than anything represented untrammeled possibility.

After 7 pages (14 panels), I’d type them up and from out of the murk, a short story usually emerged. Not in perfect order certainly, but mixed in like a puzzle amidst the flotsam and jetsam. Somewhere, in the background, while I was going about the rest of my schedule, my brain must have been assembling it on its own. Or maybe it’s about relaxing and letting the story come to me.

I try not to dissect it too much. It’s been the launchpad, so to speak, for my first book, a collection of short stories. Then, my second book, too, a collection of 3 novellas–really all my fiction.

My recent output has been non-fiction, though, and the pad seems like an old friend during that exercise: somehow not essential to the process, perhaps because I’m not fabricating the piece out of air. Who knows? Pads are simply a great, a chance to record an idea even if it’s not yet a coherent thought.


Forgive the tangent, but if you enjoy Philosophy of Mind, Clark and Chalmers make a pretty good argument for the idea that, if you are dependent enough on it, a notebook is actually part of your mind. The idea has always fascinated me.

End tangent!


I have got worse at taking notes in recent years. This makes me feel bad. But anyway:

I have discovered I love living out of Muji B5 Notebooks. I find tiny notebooks too small to write in - I need space for my hand. These are a lovely size, but they are thin, which means if I ever lose one, I’m not losing too much content. I lost a full Moleskine once, and that was disastrous.

Also: they take fountain pens delightfully. (Kaweco Sport, in my case).


Adding another +1 to the Leuchtturm 1917 Punktkariert, though I favor the hardcover version.

For everywhere carry, I’m a big fan of the muji passport notebooks

They’re cheap, and fit well in a back pocket, so they’re easy to carry around even if you aren’t bringing a bag.

Pens are a different topic to me, but these are a good standard issue

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Meta alert

I mean… I guess having a Field Notes thread is like having a Make Noise thread or a Cold Mac thread, but on what’s ostensibly a music forum having separate topics for individual brands of notebooks seems much. Do we need “Field Notes” and “general paper writing” and then what if someone wants to create a thread for their favourite brand… Chaos I tell you!

Sometimes a thread finds its topic retrospectively, and I think this is the one for it. The will of the people sometimes defeats original intent.

Respectfully request retconning this thread rather than creating more. (But happily acquiesce to two threads if it means I can start talking about my 20+ years as a brand agnostic note-taker.)


I hear you—the clamor for note-taking of all kinds feels loud. But @studiodc has been more than respectful and clear in their wishes, and there’s plenty of space on the forum. Please do tell us about your years in the trenches of note-taking!


Baron Fig Plus size dot grid Confidant notebooks

Pigma Micron 02 Black Pens