” . . . the tools we use to write, read, and otherwise manipulate information work on our minds even as our minds work with them . . .”
— Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

Inexpensive spiral bound notebooks -- I write in one nearly every day.

Inexpensive spiral bound notebooks — I write in one nearly every day.

“I believe I write to analyze, clarify, understand and perceive life.  I write in order to see more clearly. . . . It is my lens through which to see myself and the world.”
— Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Against Wind and Tide:  Letters and Journals 1947 – 1986

“Writing is thinking.  It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.”
— Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Locked Rooms and Open Doors

I write in one of my cheap, spiral notebooks almost every day.  I call my notebooks “commonplace books” rather than journals or diaries because I rarely write out my own personal thoughts or reflections in them.  So my notebooks are not places to practice creative writing.  Rather, I use the notebooks to capture and collect passages from books that I read.  Writing out interesting quotes longhand slows down my reading so that I can spend a little time reflecting on themes that are important to me — travel, art, creativity, aging, death, nature, walking, silence and solitude, healthy eating, handwork, etc.

I can think best with a pen or pencil in my hand.  I like the tactile feel of a pen held in my fingers; I like the calligraphic thin black line of my personal handwriting; I like the smooth surface of the paper.  I do compose and write my blog posts directly on a computer, but why give up the pleasures of writing by hand for my personal notebooks?  They are just for me, and I don’t need to be efficient or tech savvy in this part of my life.  My pen and notebooks are tools to help me think.

“Wanting to write not with the idea necessarily of becoming an author — not necessarily with the idea of becoming even a teacher of writing — but with the idea of living a meaningful, reflective life:  that is a very superior motivation.”
— Carol Bly, Beyond the Writer’s Workshop: New Ways to Write Creative Non-Fiction




A stack of spiral notebooks -- my daybooks/journals

A stack of spiral notebooks — my daybooks/journals

“Each thought that is welcomed and recorded is a nest egg, by the side of which more will be laid. Thoughts accidentally thrown together become a frame in which more may be developed and exhibited.  Perhaps this is the main value of a habit of writing, of keeping a journal — that so we remember our best hours and stimulate ourselves. My thoughts are my company.”
— Henry David Thoreau, January 22, 1852, from the Heart of Thoreau’s Journals, edited by Odell Shepard

“We live in a wonderful world, and the wonders of the world without us are matched and more than matched by the wonders of the world within us.  This interior world has its natural history also, and to observe and record any of its facts and incidents, or trace any of its natural processes, is well worthy of our best moments.”
— John Burroughs, from Under the Apple-Trees, 1916

What’s in My Journal
by William Stafford

Old things, like a button drawer.  Mean
Things, fishhooks, barbs in your hand.
But marbles too.  A genius for being agreeable.
Junkyard crucifixes, voluptuous
discards.  Space for knickknacks, and for
Alaska.  Evidence to hang me, or to beatify.
Clues that lead to nowhere, that never connected
anyway.  Deliberate obfuscation, the kind
that takes genius.  Chasms in character.
Loud omissions.  Mornings that yawn above
a new grave.  Pages you know exist
but you can’t find them.  Someone’s terribly
inevitable life story, maybe mine.