Jeffrey Jerome Cohen on writing and nonelectronic notebooks

Some thoughts at In the Middle. A couple of excerpts

Sometimes when I have a lecture or essay to compose I sit at my computer, open a word processing program, and write. The words flow because I’ve done enough thinking in advance that I’m ready to go. More typically, though, I open multiple windows of electronic notes on the e-desktop while surrounding my laptop with a collection of printed outlines and drafts (usually blue with my inked annotations) as well as physical notebook thick with ideas, odd sentences, and even full paragraphs…

Although a technophile, I’ve never found a satisfying electronic platform for capturing thoughts and keeping notes. I’ve tried everything from simple and easily searchable text documents to various programs that look and feel like physical notebooks to workflow software (most recently, this one — but, meh).

As I’ve said before, I increasingly use Evernote as my main notebook. This is on my desktop, laptop, Blackberry and iPad, so I can access things wherever I am. I like the way I can email stuff to this – so I forward a lot of stuff there as a way of filing it; you can clip a webpage directly to it; and I have ‘to do’ lists; lists of books I want; lists of books I’ve ordered so I can make sure I actually get them – especially useful when I order books in recompense for review work that haven’t been published, and I order a lot of books; lists of books I’ve read; things to get from the library; etc. You can set up ‘notebooks’ and drop individual notes into them, or even automate this when you email stuff. I have notebooks for most papers or books I’m working on, and other things. I keep working notes for Society and Space in here, instead of the old paper notebook – as we have a collaborative working practice, I need to keep a note of which co-editors have commented on a new paper, or one back from referees, or something else, and it’s really handy for this. I’m sure there is loads more you can do with it.

I do take notes on paper, but usually type them up fairly soon afterwards. And I have notebooks that I take to conferences, workshops or meetings where typing looks like you are doing something else… But eventually most things find their way into an electronic file. Of course, if Dropbox or Evernote went bust, I might be in trouble…

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4 Responses to Jeffrey Jerome Cohen on writing and nonelectronic notebooks

  1. Oliver says:

    Long live Evernote!

  2. Thanks so much for this post: I clearly need to give Evernote another try!

  3. Pingback: Taking stock « geographical imaginations

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