Tools of the Trade

Way back in high school, when I started writing seriously, I began carrying a notebook and pen with me everywhere I went. I would jot down random ideas as they came to me, recording story ideas, character sketches and odd musings so I could use them later. You’d be amazed how often a thought would strike you from out of the blue — one that you really need to record before it’s gone (poof!) right out of your head.

I used to call these “idea emergencies.”

I still have all of my old notebooks. One of the story fragments I recorded back in the late 80’s became an integral part of my first recent novel, Drop House, so I’m glad I adopted the practice back then. I started carrying these “tools of the trade” again about a year and a half ago, and have since gone through three different notebooks.

Here’s the one I’m carrying right now:

Writer's Notebook and Pen

It’s essentially a miniature version of one of those marble-covered “composition books” we used to use back in school. The reason I use this particular type of book is because the pages are actually stitched into the cover, so the book is less likely to come apart.

You’ll notice that I’ve covered the cardboard cover with duct tape to help keep it from wearing out from too much use. Also, the book has taken on a distinctive “butt shape” because I’ve been carrying it in my left rear pants pocket.

My pen is a Fisher Space Pen. Let me just tell you — if you need to carry a pen with you for any reason, you need to get one of these babies. They’re the perfect tool for all of your “idea emergencies.” There are a few reasons for this:

  • The compact metal design means they fit nicely in your pocket. If you try to carry a plastic ballpoint in your front pocket, it’s likely to break and leak ink all over your pants and leg when you sit down. This has actually happened to me.
  • Since the Space Pen has a pressurized cartridge, it won’t leak ink out if and when you forget to take the pen out of your pocket when your pants go through the laundry. This has actually happened to me.
  • The “ink” a Space Pen uses is actually some kind of tarry stuff that was invented to stay viscous in space, underwater, and in various other environments. Because of this, it won’t wash or run in water. This means that your notes in your notebook will still be readable if your notebook goes through the laundry (after you forget to take it out of your pants). This has actually happened to me.

I really need to get better at remembering stuff. But in the meantime, I rely on my notebook and Space Pen to save my bacon and keep my notes safe.

My Writer's Notebook

I use paper clips to divide the pages into sections so I can separate notes for various projects from each other. As you can see, I make no effort to ensure that the notes are readable by anyone by myself.

Having my pen and notebook means I have to carefully segregate everything I carry every day by pocket:

  • Front, right pocket: Keys, pen, change, KA-BAR folding knife (on pocket clip)
  • Front, left pocket: Cell phone
  • Back, right pocket: Wallet
  • Back, left pocket: Duct-tape-enhanced notebook


In addition, I usually have my nine-millimeter compact pistol and a spare magazine. But that’s for a completely different type of “emergency.”

Posted in Personal, Writing
2 comments on “Tools of the Trade
  1. Richard says:

    I thought I was the only one…I’m not a writer and haven’t been recording my ideas since high school but I have been doing it for several years. I have a bunch of notes I keep electronically. Which has it’s crashed hard drive complications.

    Not as old fashioned or “rustic” as your duct tape notebook, which in and of itself might be a good marketing idea.

    I’ve looked at some of my old notes and have commented that they were/are indeed good ideas. Others have engendered the response “What was I smoking?”

    You have been a passionate, thought-provoking, person throughout my life and I appreciate you for that.

    I look forward to your novel.

  2. Doran Barton says:

    Wish I could put a story together.