In Defense of the Pocket Notebook

By Tom Scarcella

tumblr_mqhhxwW2vQ1rsieauo1_500Pocket notebooks seem to be going the way of the CD — they’re not totally outdated, but they’re becoming quite a rarity in the digital age. We all have them, but how often do we really use them? Nowadays, when we want to jot something down, we go straight for our phones and tablets. For sure, that might be a convenient and environmentally friendly choice — and admittedly sometimes the better option — but should we completely forego the classic mini-Moleskine and its kin? As someone who always keeps his back-pocket notebook by his side (or backside, rather), I would say certainly not.

We’ve all watched Blues Clues, so we know just how “handy-dandy” a little notebook can be. Regardless of any comparison to our modern day gadgets, the pocket notebook by itself is essentially a perfected technology. Find the right size and style, and you’re good to go. You can carry it around wherever you go, pull it out in a flash, and never encounter technical difficulties. See something funny on your way to work that you want to remember? Have a brilliant idea in the middle of the night? Friend recommending you some band you’ll never listen to? Pull out your notebook and pen, and bam. Write it down. Simple as that. Of course, you can do the same in your Notes app, so why bother with paper?

As with most things, it depends on the context. I wouldn’t say to abandon electronic note-taking, but the trusty pocket notebook has a host of unique benefits that make it worth keeping as a steady companion.

For one, in a professional setting, having a physical notebook is invaluable. If someone is giving you some important information at work, your first reaction should probably be “Oh shit, let me take this down.” In these situations, it looks much better to whip out a notebook than a phone, as it makes you seem more eager, erudite and classy. Plus, there’s no risk of looking like you’re just getting distracted by a text. Make no mistake: when you’re on your phone during a meeting, it doesn’t matter if you’re feverishly recording minutes or just playing Flappy Bird, because there’s a good chance it looks like the latter. With a real notebook, you could be doodling or writing poetry for all anybody knows, but it at least looks more professional. Certainly, the pocket notebook is the clear winner when it comes to the workplace.

Not only does it look better to have a physical notebook, but recent research has suggested that you’re more likely to remember things and better grasp concepts when you write by hand. And unscientifically speaking, I think we ascribe greater importance to things we take the time out to do so. We send countless frivolous texts throughout the whole day, but when we physically write something, we’re subconsciously ascribing greater importance to it. Anything can be typed and lost in the cyber ether, but putting pen to paper shows yourself and others that whatever you’re writing is really worth time and effort.

Besides the pragmatic benefits, the pocket notebook also has a certain romantic appeal. It’s your handwriting, so it’s more uniquely you. The blank page leaves more room for uninhibited self-expression, unencumbered by the limitations and uniform coldness of computer programming. And if you’re the sentimental type, then merely typing can’t convey quite the same nostalgia than what your own hand has produced. And in many ways, actual writing is more flexible than the digital screen: you can easily jot notes on the side, add little pictures and diagrams, and generally mold things to exactly your liking. Moreover, you never know what unexpected things the pocket notebook could come in handy for. I once met a famous rapper at a Staten Island diner (Ghostface Killah, to be exact), so of course I wanted his autograph. Had I not had my faithful Moleskine by side, I would not have been able to secure “One love- Ghostface” in immortalized, irreplaceable ink in my very own notebook. You just never know when pen and paper might come in handy.

Plus, having a back-pocket notebook just looks way cool (at least in a nerdy kind of way).

Again, I’m not saying that electronic note-taking is a bad thing. On the contrary, it can be quite useful for things that really need to be backed up, to help save paper, to have emojis, and for countless other reasons. But there are plenty of eco-friendly notebooks out there, and the unique benefits of the physical book make it a timeless and peerless sidekick. Portable, personal, and practical — the pocket notebook should be up there with your keys, wallet, and phone for things you never leave the house without.

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