It’s January and like most people this time of year, I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to do differently this time around the sun. I’ve got no shortage of things I’d like to do in 2020, but there are just two that I’m making a commitment to.

First, I’m going to start carrying a notebook and pen as part of my everyday carry. Not too many years ago it would have been unthinkable to leave the house without them, but then smartphones came along and I fell out of the habit.

But while I thought using my phone to take notes would be more useful, the opposite turned out to be the case. Sure I’d take notes, but if I didn’t get distracted by one of the candy-colored apps or one of a hundred dozen notifications constantly barraging my phone, I’d forget that I’d even made a note by the time I closed the app.

It’s a lot harder to get distracted when you’re staring at a pad of graph paper.

Logging the days

My second resolution for 2020 is to start journaling again. I say again, but it’s probably been a good decade since I last did so reliably.

My reasons for journaling, however, aren’t what you might think. Unlike Ernest Shackleton, I’m not trying to preserve a record of my life — it’s just not that exciting on the day-to-day. Instead, I’m exploring journaling as something of a ritual.

I see it as an opportunity to clear my head; to chronicle the days good and bad; to write without expectation or deadline.

Life is hectic enough, and I hope that journaling can be a way for me to take a little bit of control back from the chaos. I guess what I’m saying is every day, I write with a purpose, I craft a narrative, put reports into perspective, journaling is an opportunity to write freely. What I write about isn’t so important as taking the time to reflect at the end of each day and confront my feelings.

My notebooks of choice

Taking note — My 2020 New Years resolution

As a newspaper reporter and avid writer, you can imagine I’ve used all kinds of notebooks: reporters notebooks, steno pads, Moleskine journals and cahiers, even a pack of 4×6 index cards held together with a binder clip. My favorite so far have been from a company called Field Notes.

For the past few week’s I’ve been carting around Field Notes’ memo books. These small style notebooks are the perfect size to slip into a back pocket and are available in a wide range of paper types and special editions.

However, the company’s Expedition notebooks are my favorite by far. They’re constructed using waterproof and tear-resistant Yupo synthetic papers, these notebooks are designed to withstand the harshest climates and unforgiving conditions.

As someone who finds themselves hiking and camping on a pretty regular basis, having a notebook that won’t fall apart on me is pretty important. No more butt-sweat soaked notebooks for me! Too graphic? Sorry, but the struggle is real.

Choosing a journal

For a journal, I’m less picky; however, my preference is for softcover journals and cahiers.

I find hardcover journals and notebooks tend to work best for handheld notes, but are inferior for writing at a desk. Cahiers tend to be fairly slim, so you may need to pick up a handful of them to get you through the year.

I ended up picking up a Field Notes’ ever so creatively named Note Book, but I could have picked a three-pack of Moleskine’s cahiers and been just as happy. One thing I do appreciate about Field Note’s notebooks is most can be had with ruled, graph or dot-graph paper. Since I have a hard time reading between the lines, let alone writing between them this is a real bonus for me.

Picking a pen

As for the pen, I’m still figuring that one out. When it comes to pens and pencils I’m particularly picky. Right now I’m using one of my favorites: Fisher’s Space Pen Bullet. Aside from working in extreme cold and even underwater, the pen’s compact size makes it an ideal everyday carry.

My last space pen survived about two dozen trips through the washer and dryer and kept working right up until the day I misplaced it.

While I like the space pen, for extended writing sessions, I’m still looking. The Zebra F-701 is an inexpensive favorite, but I’m also attracted to the idea of a refillable fountain pen. Let’s add this to my New Year’s resolution: find a friggin pen.

Where to buy:

In no particular order. Here are the links to where to get some of my favorite notebooks and pens for casual notetaking and journaling.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below:

  • What is your new year’s resolution?
  • What’s in your pockets? A notebook perhaps?
  • Do you journal? How did you start and what kept you doing it?
  • For those experienced note takers or journalers do you have any tips for someone picking up again?

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