by Amy J.V. Atwell

writer's notebooksAs a writer, I feel somewhat helpless and vulnerable without a notebook and a pen.

If I am having a meeting of any kind, I always arrive with a notebook. At events and conferences, I might alternate between taking notes and tweeting. Actually, more often than not, I take notes and then tweet using my notebook as a reference.

Clients and colleagues might be surprised to learn how often I write what they say as direct quotes. Journalism training dies hard, I guess.

I left a meeting yesterday feeling perturbed because I hadn’t brought the right kind of pen. Oh, I had a pen. I always have at least two pens in my purse – a blue one and a red one. Always. However, the blue pen I had yesterday was a ballpoint. Ugh. No brilliant note-taking can happen with a standard-issue ballpoint pen. No, only a fine point rollerball or a superfine felt-tip sharpie will do. In blue. Or red.

I know what you’re thinking: “This chick is cuckoo.” Yet, all the writers among you are nodding your heads in agreement. Am I right?

Oh, sure, in this age of technology, I could use Evernote or some other app to help me take notes. I do have a note-taking app on my phone, and it is incredibly useful for capturing those brilliant (I hope) brainstorms that happen in the grocery store or when I am out to dinner. (Don’t worry, I sneak off to the ladies room to type my notes in the latter case, dinner companions none the wiser.) Yes, I use and embrace technology, but there is something about the act of writing in my own messy hand – with a good pen. It helps me remember the conversation. Re-reading those notes later can take me back to the time and place where that discussion occurred.

This blog’s photo depicts my professional notebooks from the past three or four years. I could open a page in any of them and tell you which project and which colleagues were associated with it.

That’s why Ben Casnocha’s blog, posted on LinkedIn earlier this month, hit home for me. That note-taking is attached to learning is a given for me. I was flabbergasted to read that only two people in the audience at an event were taking notes. I suppose I am too busy taking notes at these things to notice that others aren’t.

What are your personal note-taking and note-keeping quirks?

Amy J.V. Atwell is a Denver-based freelance writer and editor. She works with businesses to grow their brands through high-quality copy and content. Read more at


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