Making Writing a Routine

Originally published on Extratextuals

There is something special about writing in a notebook — but as a major proponent of all things digital, it took me a good while to realize this.

In my younger years, I traded in my pen and paper for a screen and keyboard as soon as I possibly could. In high school I was the lone student taking notes on a MacBook (very strange at the time) and spending spare minutes on my Sidekick (stranger still). As I started college, I vividly remember the looks I got while reading on my iPhone when physical books were still the norm. I embraced the digital world head on, and it wasn’t to play games or browse the web, I really wanted to get something done.

I felt that I achieved more with my computer than I ever could have with a spiral-bound notebook. I could type faster than I could write. I could search for something in Evernote that I would have immediately lost had I just written it down. It all felt like a revelation, and it was — but I’ve grown to see that all of the power comes with a major obstacle: Distraction.

The digital world has grown crowded, and all of the noise is quite tempting. Opening a prompt to write on my iPad comes with dozens of opportunities to not write — and I all too often take them. That’s why a notebook is so beautiful: I open it, and there’s nothing to do but start.

A notebook creates an inviting blank canvas for my thoughts without allowing for distraction, and I’m thankful for the simplicity of it all.

It took me awhile to learn this, because one of the major challenges in creating a rhythm of writing in my life was finding the right tools in which to write. To create a routine for me meant I had to make the experience a joy, so the pen and paper in which I was using became important to me for the first time in years.

I’ve always loved the way rollerball pens feel, and the way in which ink flows so smoothly onto the page. I first used a Lamy Swift before unfortunately losing it, at which point I realized that I would have much better luck with a pen that primarily lived in my pocket. At that point, I switched to a highly-pocketable brass pen made by Machine Era, which I enjoy greatly and have held on to for some time now. I never want to run out of ink, so I’ve made sure that any pen I purchase can take refills from the ever-ubiquitous Pilot G2.

For my notebook, I initially used a thick Moleskin until I realized that this large hardback often got left behind — and even when it didn’t, the notebook just felt too permanent for my thoughts. This may sound silly, but I felt like I needed a notebook which could be ripped up a bit, with a page or two missing without inducing guilt. The Moleskin, with all its heft, isn’t great for that. With this criteria in mind, I bought a set of Muji notebooks, and they changed the way I viewed writing. It felt great to have different notebooks in different places, with the ability to simply open it up to any page and start writing. Recently, I’ve been considering moving back in the more permanent direction, and purchased a Baron Fig Confidant. It seems to strike a great balance between my other two experiences, with a hard cover that doesn’t add too much weight. This is the first entry written in the journal, and we’ll see how it fares.

Sometimes it’s the simplest obstacles that keep us from accomplishing what we set out to do. For me, I learned that I needed a writing process that fit my life. If there’s something you’re aspiring to do but haven’t yet quite figured it out, determine what it is that might be stopping you, and take steps to move forward. It’s worth the try.