Notebooks and project management

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I loved Beth’s suggestion that we post about professional, and not just recreational, users of our products. It reminded me of an interview I read a couple years ago with novelist Joshua Ferris (excerpted at Rhodia Drive) in which he explained how he used his Rhodia pad to keep track of the characters in Then We Came to the End:

On the final, cardboard page of that Rhodia notepad, I wrote out all the names of all the characters. When I needed to reference them I turned to that page and saw who was in my virtual office. I learned about the characters much as I suspect the reader learns about them—very slowly at first. Then, after a tipping point, they clicked into place for me and I no longer needed to reference the back page. Hopefully they click into place for the reader in much the same way.

You can read the full interview here.

At any rate, I’ve never been particularly systematic in my notebook use, beyond dedicating different notebooks to different projects and purposes… Are you? Have you ever used a notebook to manage one really big project? How did you do it?

4 thoughts on “Notebooks and project management

  1. Most of my coworkers seem to roll through legal pads with little regard to the order or category of things, never tearing off the pages. I often wonder how they find anything. I rip off each page and hole punch it and put it in the appropriate topic binder – unfortunately I just discovered that the Rhodia No. 19 which they happened to have at my local Border’s pages are an inch too long for binders. Oh well – I’m going to use it for work anyways!

  2. I’ve been mentioned before (kindly) on the site as an author who uses Clairefontaines. I manage the writing of my novels with a Clairefontaine notebook (usually two per book). If I write the book out in longhand it’s obviously several more notebooks that I go through.
    I wish I could say I used some brilliant project management scheme but I don’t. Basically, every thought as it comes in gets recorded in the notebook: character bios, plot outlines, stray thoughts, research notes. I can flag sections with post-its or adhesive tabs if needed; but I let the notebook serve primarily as a catch-all, as a trusted system.

  3. Heh. I do that with my college notes all the time, anywhere from notes for the paper I’ll probably have to write in it, to ideas that have stemmed from the class itself.
    I’ve never actually an entire notebook for a certain project, but I do reserve specific notebooks for things like that. For example, an entire series of stories I have planned are going to be written all based on songs from this one band(one of my favorite bands), and so far I’ve got nothing but a list of songs from them that will make good short stories.
    I’ve also got a small graph paper notebook I’ve made for writing down bands that I want to add to my ipod.

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