Why every creative should carry a pocket notebook


Early on in my creative career I landed a job working with one of the UK’s largest printing and embroidery companies.

Before I started I was told that I could choose whatever workstation and software setup that I wanted. My initial request was for an iMac. No dice – “it doesn’t work with our software”. Ok, in that case I will order a fully custom built PC with a HUGE expensive LCD display.

I start my job and a week passes by.

The guys in the design department decide that it would be a good idea to place an order online for us each to get a gas-powered BB gun.

The guns arrived and I was extremely pleased with mine. I decided to load it at my desk. I hadn’t quite figured out how to use the safety yet.


I managed to shoot a BB directly at my “HUGE expensive LCD display” at point-blank range.

It goes without saying that my boss was not happy!

“Pencil has never let me down. There’s nothing worse in the world than a laptop that needs recharging” - Aaron Draplin

“Pencil has never let me down. There’s nothing worse in the world than a laptop that needs recharging” – Aaron Draplin

You see, as much as we rely on technology as creatives – it can definitely let us down. There is nothing more reliable than a pencil or pen and paper.

If you are looking for something that successful creatives and big thinkers have in common – they carry pocket notebooks!

Carrying a pocket notebook is a habit that all creatives should develop. Here are some reasons why:

Inspiration can strike at any time

Rite in The Rain Pocket Notebook - Perfect for use in the hot tub!

Rite in The Rain Pocket Notebook – perfect for use in the hot tub!

You will know as well as I do that inspiration can strike at any time. In fact ideas often tend to form when our mind is focused on something else and our subconscious can make the connections to problem solve. This is why ideas can often come at night, early in the morning or whilst you are in the shower!

If you are carrying a pocket notebook with you at all times, you can quickly write down ideas as they come. You don’t need to rely on having your laptop open or battery in your smartphone!

Ideas are fleeting

Word Notebooks - another popular pocket notebook brand

Word Notebooks – another popular pocket notebook brand

When it comes to those “a-ha” moments, often the ideas can leave your mind as quickly as they arrive. To effectively capture those ideas having a pocket notebook always at the ready is a must! It depresses me to think about all of the great ideas I have had in my life that have left my mind because I didn’t manage to write them down in time. I am determined to not lose any ideas now – my pocket notebook is always at the ready!

Ideas develop beautifully on paper

Field Notes Pocket Notebook at breakfast time!

Field Notes Pocket Notebook at breakfast time!

No app could ever truly give you the flexibility and tactile expression that you can achieve with pen/pencil and paper. Writing notes and ideas on paper is a beautiful way to process thoughts. I try to start every project with notes and sketches on paper. It allows so much freedom and creativity that it really is a great start to each project. Then if you want to digitise those notes for safe keeping, or to integrate them into your project, you can. Whether it’s by scanning your pages into Evernote or using a pen that digitises your notes.

Notebooks are distraction-free

Using the "Bullet Journal" technique for my daily tasks

Using the “Bullet Journal” technique for my daily tasks

Whenever I try to get something done on my laptop or smartphone, distraction is only a notification away. Plus – in my web browser I always have millions of tabs open (will I ever be able to train myself to just use one tab at a time?)!

With a notebook, it’s just you and the paper. A moment of distraction free solitude. To write your thoughts, plan your projects and truly express yourself.

Writing things down solidifies them in your mind

“I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now” - Field Notes Slogan

“I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now” – Field Notes Slogan

The act of physically writing things down actually helps you to retain them. So if you are trying to remember something, whether it be an idea, a task or an inspirational quote – writing it down can help your brain to retain the information better. This has got to be a huge benefit to using a pocket notebook and writing more information down.

Paper is great for reflection

Field Notes Pocket Notebooks and Coffee - two of my favourite things!

Field Notes Pocket Notebooks and Coffee – two of my favourite things!

I personally really struggle to take time to reflect. My life is hectic and often my “thinking time” is cut short. This is something that I am very much trying to change in my life and having a pocket notebook to hand helps with that.

Whatever I am reflecting on, whether it’s a current project, life goals, or just the meaning of life – there is nothing more satisfying than just getting lost in my notebook. I could spend hours just making notes and pouring out my feelings or ideas. It’s definitely a very effective way to reflect and have a moment with your thoughts.

Pocket notebooks are sexy

Write Notepads Pocket Ledger – beautiful letterpress cover!

Write Notepads Pocket Ledger – beautiful letterpress cover!

Ok. So this might seem like a very vain thing, but pocket notebooks do look great! I take a lot of pride in the items that I carry on my person, so having a nice looking pocket notebook and pen or pencil adds to the look.

On a more practical level though, the kind of notebook and pen you carry can give off a certain vibe. When I have meetings with clients I often get questions or compliments about my pocket notebooks. This can really give you an opportunity to show some personality and of course some taste and style.

In Summary

Writing in your notebook is a great way to process your thoughts. It also helps you to solidify concepts in your mind. I like to take a moment at the beginning of my week to look over my notes from the past week. There are often ideas that I want to action and reminders that I need to get done. If you are going to digitise your notes by, for example, scanning them into Evernote, this is the perfect moment to do so.

You should organise your notebook in the way that you want to – after all it’s something very personal. I personally like to use my own take on the Bullet Journal system in my pocket notebooks. It helps me to keep my tasks, notes and thoughts organised in a way that previously I never thought would be possible on paper. If you are new to using a pocket notebook, Bullet Journaling could be a great starting point for you.

I truly believe that every creative should carry a pocket notebook, whatever you specialise in professionally.

If you don’t carry a pocket notebook – perhaps it’s something that you will now be willing to consider.

If you do carry a pocket notebook, I’d love to know what kind of pocket notebook you carry and also what you most love about carrying a notebook – let me know in the comments below!

James Brooks

Based in the UK, James specialises in branding and online growth for start-ups. You can read more of his articles on Medium.



    I use a Surface Pro with OneNote, I can write directly into OneNote, use the App on my Phone, or just takes notes anywhere (usually on an old newspaper with a Sharpie) and then scan it into OneNote.
    I don’t need to carry a notebook, just a Sharpie and my phone….

    Thanks for sharing, Tony – sounds like you have a great setup that works well for you!

    I have to agree completely with you! I have had a pocket notebook with me at all times since early 2013 and I’m never going back. This is a fantastic read man!

    Awesome! Thanks so much, Justin.

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