I’m setting up a new Macbook Air (always a joy, this process, though I’ve only been through the “new laptop” phase a few times) and transferring bits of data from one computer to the next. Along the way, I’m logging into old apps or sifting through old folders, stumbling over all sorts of long-lost files of writing. Lots of this stuff is just note-taking, pure ephemera, and while I have no problem quickly deleting the whole of it and moving on, it’s fun to pause for a minute and read through clips of my voice ca. 2013 or so.

What’s striking is how little the form of this work has changed. I tend to think the writing itself has only gotten better, and this much I can tell from the snippets of poetry or odd novelistic sentences that I’m finding. There’s a sense in this old business of mine that I was reaching for something beyond my grasp, reaching for a voice that hadn’t yet been chiseled into life. It’s nice to read what I wrote years ago, the forgotten words of a restless younger writer. It’s nice to know, too, that I’ve improved (maybe).

The bulk of this writing, however, is the classic list-making that I still do, and that’s where the similarities really shine. What I was tracking and noting and reminding myself back in 2013 is, in many ways, the same sort of thing I’m observing in myself now. These are largely my stray thoughts on meditation, alcohol, diet, music, travel, journalism, etc.: goals, on some level, but also merely fleeting notions about how to approach certain parts of my day-to-day existence.

Even now, in 2022, I’m dialing in my approach to casual note-taking. I use a hardcover 5×8.25 Moleskine (dotted) for most of my needs, although I’m switching to an A5 LEUCHTTURM1917 with this next notebook (also dotted). The LEUCHTTURM is a bit larger, but the paper stock seems commensurately stronger. It came recommended by none other than Neil Giaman.

For day-tight compartments, I like a simple legal pad. The day’s list of tasks comes and goes. Better to keep it to a throwaway-type medium.

I use digital stuff, too, mostly the Notes app on my iPhone or emails to myself. The email thing is clunky but efficient for more immediate reminders. The Notes app is nice for tracking certain trends over a longer period (books I’m reading in a given year, repeatable grocery lists, etc.). I suppose that’s largely what this website is, too.

Of course, this is all subject to change. I found some of my old notes in Evernote, which I may bring back into my routine now that I’m in set-up-the-new-laptop mode.


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