For many years, I carried a writing notebook with me everywhere I went. That’s what all serious writers do, I’ve always heard. But in truth, it’s a terrible idea.
- First, when you write in a notebook, your notes are locked in rigid sequential order. If you tend to think of things randomly (and who doesn’t?), you’ll spend a lot of time flipping back and forth through your pages to find something.
- Second, it’s difficult and time-consuming to transcribe your notes from your notebook into the files for each project. I suppose if you’re the sort of person who only works on one story, ever, then this isn’t such a big deal. But I’m always working on a huge list of projects.
- Third, notebooks get gnarly quickly. They get creased, folded, bent, ink-stained… It’s not pretty.
The Un-Notebook Solution
The secret is deceptively simple:
Little 3 x 5 rectangles of pure creative opportunity. You can carry a stack of them around with you everywhere you go, and they’re always fresh.
You can rearrange your notes in any order. Pin them up on a corkboard. Move them around. Add more in the middle.
When you’re done, you can file them away, put them in boxes, or just toss them in the recycle bin.
It’s no exaggeration to say that once I switched from notebooks to index cards, my organization and productivity soared.
For Serious Writers: the Perfect Pocket Briefcase
So how do you carry your index cards around?
You can simply rubber-band a stack of cards together and stick them in your pocket, but it gets a little awkward.
A couple of years ago, I snipped the corner off of a plastic folder and created a cheap sleeve for my index cards. It worked okay.
This year, for Valentine’s Day, my lovely wife got me the perfect solution: a “pocket briefcase” from Levenger. It’s a beautifully crafted leather wallet made just for 3 x 5 index cards.
It has two outside pockets and a center pocket, all lined with cloth. The stitching is impeccable.
But the finest feature on the whole thing is the clipboard. Instead of using a metal clip, it uses tiny leather pockets to grab onto the ends of the card and hold it in place. Ingenious.
You wouldn’t think so, but the pocket briefcase also makes a perfect writing surface. It’s rigid enough to act as a clipboard, while the leather surface gives you the feel of writing on a luxurious leather desk blotter.
In other words, it’s absolutely the perfect tool for any writer on the go. And if you know a writer, it makes the perfect gift.
(In case you’re wondering, I have no affiliate connection to Levenger — I’m just an immensely satisfied customer.)
Something to Write With?
By the way, if you’re looking for the perfect go-anywhere, write-anything pen, I heartily recommend the bullet-style Fisher Space Pen. It’s durable, compact, and easy to slip into any pocket.
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I’ve been using a pocket index card holder for at least 10 years now. My original one is now tattered and falling apart. Finding a replacement was a real journey. Only Levenger carried the “Index Card Portfolios”, as they call them. I’ve since found another company who carries something similar but not nearly the quality of the Levenger portfolio.
Instead of Index Cards I have recycled paper from the copier rejects. I cut them into slightly larger sizes than an index card. Record my notes on them. Transfer those notes to my Daily Planner and throw the original notes away afterwards. The pockets on the portfolio allow me to collect several days of notes and receipts before clearing them out and recording them in my permanent planner.
Love the recycled paper idea. Not only handy, but Earth-friendly too!