Field Notes’ longstanding tagline is “I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.” The line comes from co-founder Jim Coudal’s grandfather who was “an avid notetaker.”
I recently began thinking about my longstanding hobby of collecting and using Field Notes journals. I started using them back in college when I first learned about Field Notes’ other co-founder Aaron Draplin. I was obsessed with his work and loved his design portfolio. I never got into graphic design myself but I did learn a lot from Draplin through osmosis and watching his talks and tutorials over the years.
For whatever reason I decided to learn more about why Field Notes chose their tagline and I stumbled upon some really cool videos I wanted to share with you.
The first being from YouTube user Ekpap called “The Importance of Field Notes.” This was a video I thought surmised the essence of a Field Notes journal perfectly and what the tagline is all about. He then goes into generative note-taking and non-generative note-taking from a study from the University of California and University of Princeton called “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking.” If you want to read the paper itself you can do so here. They were also on NPR in 2016 explaining their paper as well.
I know this is a lot to throw at you but I promise that the video stands on its own two feet and is worth the 3 minutes to watch. That said, the paper itself is also fascinating to read.
The second video I wanted to share is from Stephen Hackett of 512 Pixels. He is a podcaster, YouTuber, and blogger and he explained in his own video why he still uses paper notebooks over a digital notes app. He also saves all of his notebooks both physically and digitally by scanning them into his computer for safekeeping. It is very delightful to learn about his reasonings to keep a notebook on hand and use day-to-day as a tech-nerd like myself.
After watching both videos again I realized that the tagline is as close to perfect as you can get for them as a company. They aren’t making commemorative notebooks you need to be careful with, it is meant to be used every single day for every single thing that needs to be written down no matter what.
When I filled my first Field Notes journal I took out a brand new one of the same color and compared them side-by-side. The used one could barely stay closed because the papers had been manhandled so much that they would push on the covers. I also noticed that the old one was significantly dirtier. It was as if someone decided to throw a journal into a muddy puddle and then dried it with a hair-dryer. For some reason when I made these observations I made it my goal to make every notebook I finish look like a shell of its former self.
One big thing that I had trouble with when I used a medium-sized Moleskine journal for my note-taking was that I felt that I needed to have something witty or mind-blowing to say when I wrote in them. With my Field Notes I make the conscious choice that nothing is too important nor too insignificant to write down. I have things from ideas for my blog and podcasts in there as well as quick math problems I try and solve when working out my finances. Nothing about these notebooks are special and I fill every single page with something before I decide not to use it anymore.
In fact, I have given a number of my new Field Notes journals away to friends and colleagues and I always say to them my one rule: you fill them with your thoughts and ideas. It might be a little corny but I genuinely want them to use their new journal as much as possible. I want them to never have an idea that doesn’t get written down, even if it is a bad one.
So, if you haven’t already guessed, I want you to start thinking about getting yourself a pocket-sized journal to write down your thoughts and ideas because I think there is some real merit to the claims and discoveries mentioned in the articles and videos above. This isn’t sponsored by Field Notes in any way, nor would I allow this to be a crappy article saying to buy only Field Notes. I honestly don’t care if you buy Field Notes or a drug-store memo pad, I just want you to write things down, not to remember it later, but to remember it now.