On Keeping a Notebooks | Questions and Answers V.1  // Trina O’Gorman

On Keeping a Notebooks | Questions and Answers V.1 // Trina O’Gorman

I’m not sure what my life would be like if I did not keep a notebook and write almost daily. Personal writing is my superpower. It is how I process my thoughts and feelings. How I pin them down, so I can examine them and make some sense of them. How I try to tame them, so they are not so wild and fleeting, but not tame them so much so that I mash out all of the joy and spontaneity and zaniness of life out of them. Just enough, so I can appreciate them and learn from them. Just enough.

I’ve been fortunate enough, through sharing my love of writing, to amass a small group of followers on Instagram, who either love notebooks or love the idea of personal writing or who are curious about and mostly wishing me well on my life journey. What I share are mostly my own observations and ponderings. I am thankful for the space to do that. But I was curious about what questions my followers might have that I wasn’t answering, and so I asked. The questions I received are amazingly and widely varied. So much so, that it will take me two or three posts to answer them all, some questions being quite complex.

I’ll begin, though, with a few of the easier ones.

Do you use prompts, or do you just see where your pen will take you?

I have never really used actual writing prompts, as I am “prompted” to write by the many things that I observe, experience, read, hear, imagine, fear, triumph over, and encounter throughout the course of my days. I find that life itself is full of writing prompts. I question and wonder about things all day long. I look for meaning and lessons in all that I do and see others doing.

Do you ever use anything other than a standard traveler’s notebook?
Over the years, I have used all types of journals and notebooks. For many years, I wrote exclusively in black Moleskine notebooks. I then discovered Leuchtturm1917 notebooks and found that I much preferred the quality of their paper. I write with a fountain pen, mostly, and the weight of their paper was much more fountain pen ink-friendly. Around 2014, at a pivotal time in my personal life, I discovered traveler’s notebooks. My first traveler’s notebook was made by Zenok Leather in Canada. It fit Moleskine Cahier notebooks. Six of them! It was well made and I loved it, but after about a month of carrying it daily, I was actually experiencing shoulder pain.

Shortly thereafter, I discovered the then Midori, which later became Traveler’s Company, brand of traveler’s notebooks. I purchased my first TN in Soho, NY nearly five years ago. Most recently my sons got me a brand new black one from Baum-kuchen, personalized with my name. I’ve tried other notebooks since I’ve started using my “TN,” including the Hobonichi Techo, but I always return to the regular sized TN. It is still my notebook of choice.

There are times that I use a Kokuyo Jibun Techo IDEA notebook for brainstorming and planning when I just need more space. But I like the convenience of everything in one place, and primarily use just my TN.

What all do you use your standard TN for and why do you like that size?
I use my notebook for many things, but unlike most people, do not carry more than one refill at a time. I have carried more refills in the past, but lately, I find that I like how thin and light my notebook is, when I just have one notebook in it. So, I only carry one grid-lined notebook, Traveler’s Company 002 refill. In that refill, I do my daily personal writing/journaling, but I also take notes at meetings, plan, write reminders, story ideas, etc. I write everything I need to write all in one notebook. I know! What kind of madness is that? But I find that I can always find things, in my archive binders, based on when I would have written them.

I like simplified systems because they work best for me. Too many choices and options paralyze me. My notebook also contains a clear, plastic zippered pouch and Fourruouf linen zipper pouch which is my wallet. I carry cash, cards, and keep my receipts in that linen pouch. I carry photos, small slips of paper, paper clips, etc. in the plastic, zippered pouch.

I would love a bigger page to write on because I love to write a lot, but bigger pages make notebooks heavier, and since I like to take my notebook everywhere with me, I like to simplify it and minimize the weight I am going to carry. So, I make do with the size and have grown accustomed to it. And I stick with it because it works. 

What TN notebooks do you use for your MindMosaics?
I came up with my MindMosaic method of journaling to help me clear my head in the mornings, after waking up with numerous thoughts going through my head. If you can visit my webpage, you can find images and instructions for writing MindMosaics. Because the writing is multidirectional, I find the grid-lined notebooks work perfectly.


More and more, over the years, I’ve try to focus on my writing, and all that comes from and through that, rather than the material items that I use to get that job done. While I love and enjoy my analogue tools, my analogue tools are simply that. They are very much the tools that help me do the things that I want to do, which is, in this case, personal writing. They allow me simple joys that some of my digital tools do not, such as slowing down and being present. Holding something in my hand, feeling its shape and texture in my hand, putting pen to paper, all of these things are ways of engaging in slower ways of being and experiencing life, and this, I find, brings me to a more mindful way of being.

I hope this answered some of the questions you might have had.

1 comment

  • Stephen Kristan: February 14, 2019
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    Tina, thank you. I always enjoy your writings on writing and it has been an encouragement to me. I’ve tried using one notebook in my MTN but can’t figure a way to easily archive and be able to retrieve notes from the past. What is your process?
    PS – are you still using the 3×5 cards for to-do items?

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