I spent last night preparing a series of notebooks and sketchbooks for the coming year. Over the past couple of years, I have been exclusively using digital tools to capture notes, etc. I’m changing that in 2021.
Frankly, I miss the analog connection, the immediacy of grabbing my pen and scribbling down quick ideas. There is no doubt that digital note-taking is fast and provides a way to store information when I’m on a timeline or when I’m in a situation where it’s essential to gather a lot of data in a short amount of time.
Digital note-taking is also preferable when I want to store information for quick access. Metadata and search functionality make retrieving notes so much easier. I love the immediacy of it. Notes are quick to capture, quick to find.
It’s perfectly rational, digital methods are the most efficient way of capturing information, but there is just something, a certain tactility, that the digital note-taking process does not provide—it keeps you one layer removed.
There is science to back this idea as well. An NPR article from back in 2016 brought out that studies conducted at Princeton and UCLA showed that the way we take notes digitally vs. longhand (analog) is different. How we capture ideas and information changes between the two methods. We tend to attempt to capture notes verbatim when attached to our laptops or tablets, while we explore more conceptual note-taking processes when handwriting them.
“Mueller and Oppenheimer cited that note-taking can be categorized in two ways: generative and nongenerative. Generative note-taking pertains to “summarizing, paraphrasing, concept mapping,” while nongenerative note-taking involves copying something verbatim.”
Then there’s just the fun of grabbing a pen or pencil and jumping into a book to capture a series of notes or sketches. There is a joy associated with that feeling of texture as it travels from paper to pencil or pen and, ultimately, to your hand.
I also think there is a particular artistic, generative process lost by only using digital methods to take notes. It’s ultimately utilitarian rather than intensely creative. Austin Kleon talks about this A LOT, and it’s something that I feel I’ve lost touch with over time.
“Yes, I keep three notebooks. A notebook turducken.” ~Austin Kleon
I kept notebooks and diaries for years when I was younger but lost my way by planting ideas in my mind of what method was better than another. As a result, that fallacy has stolen a lot of creative, generative juice in my life.
So, it’s back to notebooks for my slow roll note-taking. Digital methods still make sense, but being flexible enough to use a variety of capture points allows me to infuse the utilitarian with the creative.