The Spare Notebook In My Drawer

by Randy Murray on April 30, 2012

I try and run a lean operation, but I always keep a new, unopened Moleskine notebook in my left desk drawer. I like the large, squared, hardback version and I’ve used many over the years.

It’s comforting to know that at any moment I can reach into the drawer, peel off the shrink wrap, write my name inside the front cover, and then on the first page and in bold block letters, write the title of a new project or subject. The next step is always this: buy a new notebook and put it in the drawer.

When I start with a new notebook, I typically look for the midpoint of the book and use a PostIt note or flag to mark its place. From there on in the notebook on I can write any notes, typically business related. Those notes I transcribe or use shortly after making them, but by making my project notebook also my working notebook, I find that I am more likely to have it with me when ideas strike. The front half is for the new project itself and it remains that for the course of the project.

And I never (No never. What, never? Well, hardly ever) tear a page from my notebooks. That’s something that I learned when working at Bell Labs. When I worked there I was but a lowly technical writer and training developer, but I had access to “The Cage” where you could request materials. I discovered that I could show up at the window and ask for a blue hardcover lab notebook and the clerk would promptly hand one (or a stack) over to me. I loved those things. The scientists who worked there required hardbound notebooks, never loose-leaf, and would shudder at the thought of tearing out a page. A missing page from a lab notebook indicated something covered up. Mistakes were OK as long as they were recorded. But a removed page invalidated the entire notebook.

I’ve taken that to heart. I can write down anything in my notebooks. I’m not committed to a project just because I write an idea down. The notebook is for capture and thinking. The notebook is not a contract.

The notebook is simply this: possibility.

And that is why I always keep a fresh spare notebook, waiting in my desk drawer.

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