Analogue Journey — Part 2: Re-Educating Myself

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This is the second article in my series about exploring a more analogue existence. If you're interested you may want to check out part 1 before continuing.

The second part of this tale starts a very long time ago. My relationship with notes and note-taking is one fraught with missteps, mistrust and frustration. I had always been a decent student. Mainly, I would later learn, because I had a pretty good memory -- particularly for things that I hear. Up until I was about 15 this served me well and I got good grades without a ton of effort. Then something changed.

In my memory this is a sudden change, but much like the loss of my wiry teenage physique it was probably gradual, and I'm probably the only one that didn't really notice until it was too late. My grades began to suffer and I realized that I didn't really know how to study properly. Compounding this were absolutely atrocious notes in a pitiful scrawl that I tried to pass off as my handwriting.

I pushed myself through the end of high school without too much grief. I comforted myself with the fact that I could make a fresh start in college and somehow it would be different.

It wasn't, of course.

In some of my courses there were handout notes and I could focus on what the instructor was saying in class and rely on the printed pages for study and reference. This worked the best. Other courses required us to use our note-taking skills, honed through years of study and practice to achieve the same result. My skills, as we've established, were not up to the task.

But I muddled through. Eventually I began to take a laptop to class and type my notes. This was a great improvement as I could now read what I had learned and with enough repetition I remembered it. I continued to use this strategy through the tail end of my schooling and for the first 15 years of my career.

There was some back and forth with tools. As I've established I'm a bit of an app/tool/system fetishist. I love me some productivity tools. But generally speaking I always took my notes on a laptop and used a computer to track my work. I had notebooks, of course, but due to lack of use or general mistreatment I would lose them or use them for scrap paper or otherwise abuse them. There are probably a bunch of half-used notebooks hiding somewhere in my office or a drawer somewhere wondering if they'll ever see the light of day again.

I had heard the oft-cited notion that you remember more of what you write down by hand than what you type. This wisdom offered most frequently, it seemed, by some luddite far older than I who just didn't "get it." After all, it's 2017, paper is dead. Right?

Apparently not.

In May of this year I decided to try something that would have been unthinkable to my technologically-inclined brain. I would start relying on a paper notebook and some kind of writing stick to get me through meetings. This would be the note-taking system of record. If something needed to be preserved at that point it could be re-typed into a document for filing and distribution. But there would be no more futzing about with technology during meetings.

Almost immediately I thought about going to the store and treating myself to some new stationery as a reward for devising this brilliant new strategy. After all, if I was going to take to pen and paper I might as well do it with some style.

But something stopped me. It was the "year of less."

My year of less isn't exactly as described... but it's close enough.

I had perfectly good pens at home and at work that I had accumulated over the years. Why buy more? Besides what if I didn't stick to it? The new stuff would just die a slow death in the drawer of tears beside all the other forgotten office supplies that had come before. No. If I wanted new things I would have to earn them. I wouldn't let myself buy a new notebook until I had successfully managed to fill one up. A feat which heretofore I had never accomplished. Little did I know at the time that this would be the entrance to a very deep rabbit hole of stationery and a far more analogue existence.

I found pretty early on that I enjoyed taking notes on paper. Even though my note-taking skills were still severely under-developed, once I started relying on them the quality and volume of the material increased and after a couple of weeks I didn't miss the laptop.

Something that I needed to get over in my mind was the seeming permanence of ink on paper. Learning to use the materials and not treat them as precious items that may somehow be ruined by a stray ink mark was a major hurdle. But it came with time and as the days turned into weeks, the book began to fill up and soon I realized I would be out of space in my first notebook in just a few weeks. It was finally time to buy a new one.

Nearly four months since the beginning of this journey I've dived deep into the world of pens and stationery. The more I continue to use these new, yet very old, tools the more I appreciate what they can do and how they make me feel.

Four months into this experiment and I find myself more organized, less stressed over lost work or notes and just a bit more on top of my life than I was at this time last year.