Why I spend £84.20 per year on notebooks

I discovered Field Notes a few years ago and fell in love instantly. They’re just the coolest looking notebooks, hands down. Look at them!

My latest shipment of Field Notes: Summer 2015, Workshop Companion

My latest shipment of Field Notes:Summer 2015, Workshop Companion

Then I discovered Colors, their annual subscription service where you get four deliveries each year, one per season, of limited edition notebooks.

Being the stationery nerd that I am, I wanted it. Duh. But $97 (+ $36 shipping) on notebooks? Really? It seems a little excessive. (Whatever you do, don’t tell my mother that I do this. She’d be appalled.)

So I stalled for months. And swooned every time a Field Notes email arrived detailing the latest edition.

Until, one day in 2012, I caved in. I did it. If you’re wondering what kind of idiot spends £84.20 every year on notebooks, you’re looking at him.

Tom told me that drawing what you see, as opposed to taking a photo, aids your memory. I gave it a try. (I’m sorry.)

Tomtold me that drawing what you see, as opposed to taking a photo, aids your memory. I gave it a try. (I’m sorry.)


What pushed me over the edge?

  • I try to take my creative exploits seriously. Writing songs, journalling, taking notes on books, making lists, attempting to improve myself — all of this stuff requires effort. It’s hard to do. And it’s a lot easier if you a) have a sweet notebook to write in, and b) know that you’re going to have thirty of the damn things arriving over the year. It’s a motivator to fill them up, a race against time. And filling up notebooks with words is a good thing. Yes, £84.20 is a lot of money to spend each year on notebooks. But it works out at £7 per month, and it encourages me to write more. Do I value my creative pursuits to the tune of £7 per month? Yes, I do.
  • Field Notes are small. Some would say too small. At times, that’s definitely true. They’re great for writing quick lists and scribbling notes, but probably not the best size for committing long ramblings about your hopes and dreams. But that’s a good thing. Because the feeling of starting a new notebook is nothing short of ecstasy. And the feeling of using one when you’re a few pages in and have already made a tonne of mistakes and your handwriting has got really crap is not as good. It doesn’t take long to fill these things up — so you get that new notebook feeling way more often. Plus you can take them anywhere. They’re just so small! And if you take them more places, you write in them more. And, remember: that’s what we’re trying to do.


  • Another thing the size is good for: you can dedicate different Field Notes to different projects. And giving a project an entire notebook gives it a sense of gravitas, and encourages you to start the damn project. I’d feel nervous about buying a £10 notebook (I’m looking at you, Moleskine) for a project and then watching it gather dust on a shelf. But with my Field Notes (remember: I have thirty of these things pouring through my letterbox every year), I don’t get so damn precious about it. Right now I have different Field Notes dedicated to:

✍ rough notes

✍ journalling / quotes

✍ song ideas for my new record (shh, don’t tell)

✍ song ideas for a different musical project (again, shh)

✍ song ideas for another musical project (…)

✍ various other forgotten projects

  • Yes, some of them get abandoned after one page. But the very fact that a project has its own notebook makes me way more motivated to get on with the thing. And more often than not, it encourages me to see a project through to completion.
  • Field Notes are awesome. Every seasonal limited edition notebook is crafted with so much attention to detail that I’m always, always, always painfully excited about receiving a new shipment. So much thought goes into why each edition looks the way it does, the colour of its paper, the paper type (lined, blank, checked, dotted), the copy on the inside back cover related to that edition (this delights the copywriter in me), the accompanying product video. And Draplin, the designer, is a total badass.
I have no idea what that number’s for. Also, I tried to buy a boat.

I have no idea what that number’s for. Also, I tried to buy a boat.

If you’re trying to write more — whether it’s a journal, notes for a book, songs, lists, ideas for changing the world, doodles — buy a good notebook. Or many. Field Notes work for me, but something different might work for you. The tools aren’t important — what’s important is that you take your craft, your creativity, your calling, seriously.

I love what Ryan Holiday says at the end of his reading newsletter emails: “treat your education like the job that it is.” In the same way, if you have a creative gift — and I’d argue that all of us do — nurture it, work with it, use it. Take it seriously.

My current crop of active Field Notes.

My current crop of active Field Notes.