If you find yourself dependent on notebooks, even if much of your work is online, you are part of a growing number of people who are finding paper journals an important part of their workflow.
I know it's certainly the case for me. (Last week I spent a half and hour organizing my old journals from the past 3 years. I label what's inside on a Post-it on the inside cover for quick reference so I can find specific notes if I need them again in the future.) I use notebooks for both organizing work projects and also jotting down inspiring quotes, ideas and as my personal journal, so I fill them up pretty quickly, and I find them incredibly important to my life — even though I work online all day.
But that's maybe why I feel I "need" the notebooks so much — precisely because so much of what I write isn't physical.
As NPR reports, famous notebook maker Moleskine has been enjoying double-digit growth over the last few years, even as more and more people go online and use apps to organize their lives. In fact, the company even found that they had higher sales of notebooks in locations that were close to Apple stores, which suggests that paper journals are seen by many as a necessary accompaniment to their digital lives.
But why the paper love? Why aren't we using our phones, tablets or other devices to record the information that's going in our journals? I thought about it and here are the reasons this trend makes sense to me:
It's not going 'poof'! Writing on paper still feels more permanent and trusted. I know I'm always afraid of running out of power or getting my devices wet — or for one reason or another, it being inappropriate to have them out. And then there's the constant threat of plain-old data loss. But I can write in a notebook pretty much anywhere, and if it gets wet, I know I can just put it in the sunshine and the worst effect will be wrinkled paper. Unless you burn them up, writing on paper is forever — or at least will last a lifetime.
It's more private. Yes, of course someone could flat-out steal your notebook, but barring that possibility (and who steals notebooks anyway?), no hacker is going to get the personal info you store in your journal. There's certain information I just don't want online — ever — because you never know where your data will end up. Paper feels safer.
It helps you think. I always felt like I could explore my feelings, and think through new ideas, better on paper, but it turns out there's science to back up my feeling. You actually use a different part of your brain when you are typing versus handwriting — and the latter goes deeper and is a more complex operation, stimulating different parts of your neurological system.
A 2014 study shows people who write down notes — as opposed to typing notes on a laptop — retain more information too. "The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can't write as fast as you can type," study author Pam Mueller told NPR. "And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them."
You can see your process. Writing on paper — and then editing or reworking that writing or idea — allows you to see the steps you took, as well as earlier work. "Pen and paper is always to hand," novelist Jon McGregor told The Guardian. "An idea or phrase can be grabbed and worked at while it's fresh. Writing on the page stays on the page, with its scribbles and rewrites and long arrows suggesting a sentence or paragraph be moved, and can be looked over and reconsidered. Writing on the screen is far more ephemeral – a sentence deleted can't be reconsidered. Also, you know, the internet."
It makes you smarter. OK, writing in a journal doesn't boost IQ points, but taking notes by hand has been proven to result in better understanding of the material you're learning. According to a study on the subject, wonderfully titled, "The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard," Princeton psychologist Pam Mueller writes, "In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning."
Whatever the reason, notebooks really work for me. I love them so much, I even make my own from recycled materials. If you are thinking of picking up a new journal, head down to your local independent bookstore. I have yet to meet a local bookseller who doesn't carry them.
If you have a journal you love, leave its link in the comments. I'm always looking for fab new ones!
Happy journaling, and if you want to more about what your handwriting says about you, check out this quiz.