Keeping Your Creative Ideas in a Separate Notebook?

Suw Charman-Anderson has an interesting article at about the best ways to use a notebook for creative endeavors. She refers to another series of blog posts called The Entrepreneur’s Notebook, which brings up a controversial approach:

I’ve always used my notebooks for everything, whether that was notes from a meeting I was in, to do list items, shopping lists, ideas, random notes, doodles, the whole nine yards. What Masukomi [author of The Entrepreneur’s Notebook] points out is that you need to keep your notebook pure, just for ideas and maybe doodles:
“Doodling doesn’t affect the quality of the content in your notebook because it doesn’t contain information your brain needs to parse, but things like grocery lists contain information that’s irrelevant to your projects and become random noise that pollutes an otherwise useful resource.”

Always a great debate: one notebook, or many? Should you separate your notebooks according to their purpose, keeping mundane lists in one and creative ideas in another, or even further sub-dividing specific projects into separate notebooks? Or should you just dump everything into one notebook that you have with you at all times? Or keep two or more notebooks with you at all times?
Lately, I’ve been using the one-notebook-for-everything approach, pretty much. But I do have separate sketchbooks, and I’ve been wondering if I should be carrying one at all times to encourage me to draw more. I do sometimes draw in my main notebook, but not as much as I’d like. And for some reason, I don’t doodle in it all that much– I doodle a lot in meetings at work, but that usually ends up on work papers and a larger notebook that I use for note-taking at meetings. I sometimes wonder if I should bring my small notebook to meetings so I can capture my doodles separately there, and keep my work papers looking more professional!

Suw found that she didn’t really want to carry two notebooks, so she came up with a good compromise:

I started carrying round a new notebook just before I went on holiday to Malta and whilst I was away I jotted down a load of really cool ideas…

But I still needed somewhere to jot down to do items and grocery list stuff, and I didn’t fancy carrying round two notebooks. This turned out to be an easy problem to solve: In the back of the book I stuck a few sticky notes and anything that doesn’t belong in the notebook gets put on a sticky note, then transferred to my writing slope once I get home to my office. This separation of church and state is really important because it means that when you open your notebook, your focus is undiluted by reminders to do this or that later on. It’s all about the ideas, nothing else.

What’s your method?

Read the full articles referenced at:
The Author’s Notebook – Forbes.
The Entrepreneur’s Notebook Part 1
The Entrepreneur’s Notebook Part 2 – Tips for more productive note-taking
The Entrepreneur’s Notebook Part 3 – Searchability, Notebook choices, and backups

10 thoughts on “Keeping Your Creative Ideas in a Separate Notebook?”

  1. I always have at least two notebooks with me, all the time. I have a planner for work and a planner for my personal life, and then there’s a notebook for lists, and a notebook for doodles alone. I’m a little cuckoo when it comes to organizing things; I don’t like all my thoughts put into one place. 🙂

  2. I use two multiple notebooks that I always have in my bag. A book journal (Moleskine Passions Journal,) my research notebook (Leuchtturm1917 medium,) and a pocket notebook (Moleskine Cahier 3.5 x 5.5) I use the pocket notebook for my lists and random notes.

  3. I use lots of different notebooks for different things.
    I have a Moleskine page a day diary for things that have happened each day, I have a Slytherin notebook for quotes/pictures/ponderences, I have a little Smythsons one that was a gift for private thoughts, a few compostition books for story ideas and a Book Passions Journal.
    I always flit between them depending on my mood and put different ones in my handbag each day to take with me.
    Love your blog! It’ s amazing!

  4. I’m an everything-in-one-notebook-until-it’s-full kind of guy. I have my notebooks sticky noted and tabbed with important thoughts and parts to remember easily flippable. I like seeing them beat up and used and brimming with life and thoughts and ideas and doodles and sketches and scripts.

    Sometimes I color code, so stories are in one color, scripts in another, thoughts and plottings in another; however, when I’m out and about, I don’t usually have that many pens on me, so it’s a fallible method.

    Nevertheless, I know I have everything I need right there on me. And I don’t have to carry around dozens of other things. Besides. I know that if I spread out through multiple notebooks, I’d never fill up one, and a half-filled notebook is sad to me.

  5. I have usually used separate notebooks for different purposes: one as a journal, one for writing poetry, one for writing drafts of blog posts, one as a commonplace book, one as a sketchbook, one as an art journal, and so on. Lately, however, I have found that my energy simply feels too scattered, with everything spread out over so many different notebooks. I love the simplicity and the portability of having everything in one place and, while I still have multiple notebooks on the go, I’m beginning to retire some of the old ones as they fill up and amalgamate some of the others. In the future, I would love to have everything in one notebook, but perhaps use different colours or sections to keep things separate within that notebook.

  6. I think this is perhaps the most agonizing question for anybody who has many notebooks. I go through phases where I attempt to use only one notebook at a time then I find a reason to start a new one, and soon I have several, etc. I have found that seperating your thoughts among different notebooks can cause creative fatigue much more often than if you are only using one notebook. Its also more important that you follow through with developing your ideas than where exactly you put them. And often if we idealize are ideas too much they never get done like grocery lists etc.

  7. I have a half-sized moleskine (or similar, hardbacked with elastic) notebook for “proper” journaling and lists or things I need to have on hand for a long time, and then a pocket-sized moleskine (or similar!) for daily notation- to do lists and scraps of thought and the like. This system has worked pretty well for me for a few years, but after reading this post I really like the idea of having a little notebook (it would have to be a little one!) that is pure ideas. To accomplish this, I’m considering adding to my arsenal a pocket-sized cahier, that I can easily clip to one of my other notebooks, to keep my to dos and what not in.

    I’m considering switching to color-coded journaling as well, since for a few years my notebooks have been pure stream-of-consciousness–basically a mess! Making changes to my notebook routine is so tough, though! I’m a little afraid to, haha, in case it doesn’t work out, and then I have things in all these different places…. Half-filled notebooks: a true horror! 😉

  8. I have my “main” notebook which almost everything goes in- journaling, stories, sketches, photos- whatever.
    I also have 2 little pocket notebooks (cuz I can usually one find one of ’em at a time lol) for temporary things like directions, or shopping lists. The little ones fit in a pocket I made in the main notebook.
    I can’t handle having several different notebooks for various purposes tho.. it tends to make me feel kinda scattered >.>

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