My First Field Notes

My First Field Notes

Last night I decided to tidy up my collection of Field Notes memo books. For a few years now I’ve kept one in my back pocket everywhere I go. Even if most days I don’t grab for it, I’m happy to have it there just in case.

After organizing my unused and sealed books, I went to put my filled up books in order.1 With few exceptions, almost every memo book I’ve written in has functioned as a sort of ongoing journal. To-do lists, creative pieces and work-related notes are often mixed in with more diaristic writing, but there is certainly an order to the books.

While flipping through pages to find the dates they were started and finished2 last night, I came across my first Field Notes memo book. I actually remember picking up that first three-pack, a limited edition Raven’s Wing from 2010, at McNally-Jackson, one of the great NYC book stores, long before I knew that these little notebooks would become pined after by collectors.3

I was surprised to find a notebook that actually said flat out that it was the first of the collection. When I opened up this little black book, there it was staring me in the face. My first Field Notes. An occasion worth calling out back then, apparently.

The next thing that surprised me was how specific the entry was about my relationship to digital tools, and how excited I seemed to be to be putting pen to paper once again. I had no idea, back in 2011, that writing in Field Notes would become a habit. But it has.

So I thought it would be fun to post the first thing I ever wrote in a Field Notes here on the candler blog. This was never supposed to see the light of day, but I rather like reading it again four years down the line. I wonder what other little nuggets are hidden within my collection of little filled notebooks.4 So here it is: what a twenty-six year-old version of myself thought about writing his thoughts out by hand.


Picked up my first Field Notes pack today. I’m not positive, but I believe this is my first notebook purchase since the iPad. Most of my writing has moved to an all digital format, something I’ve dreamed of from a young age. I had a Palm, and always wanted to try an iPaq because it seemed like a palm sized computer. But nothing compares to the ubiquity of the iPad and the iPhone.

I now produce more content than ever before, and of a higher caliber than any other point in my writing life. My digital workflow is refined and something elegant. But not writing in notebooks has also taken its toll on me. I rarely write digital work that goes unpublished, whereas most of my notebook work has never been seen by anyone other than myself.

In other words, on the computer, I rarely do any creative exploration anymore. My old notebooks are full of half-cocked stories.

But enough about that. I’m going to try to get back in the swing of putting pen to paper and see how I do. I have atrocious handwriting. Digital acquisition has always been something of a favor to myself. Let’s see if I can even read my own writing.

Handwritten Blogging

Two quick editorial notes:

  • I checked and I had been producing “more content than ever before” back in 2011; whether it was all that great (ugh, “high caliber,” Jon?) is something I’m scared to go back and adjudicate.
  • Remember iPAQs?

  1. For the curious here’s the breakdown:

    • 14 Sealed Packs (13 3-packs and 1 Arts and Sciences 2-pack)
    • 30 Singles
    • 30 Full Books

    101 books, plus the one I’m using right now. And honsetly I think a few more are hiding around the house… ↩︎

  2. I haven’t filled out the inside covers on most of my books, which would have made this process easy. And no, I didn’t fill them out last night either. ↩︎

  3. There’s a listing for a sealed Raven’s Wing 3-pack on eBay going for $150, which is high but actually not that much more than many would pay. There were only 15,000 of these books printed. For comparison, the latest “Colors” edition, Workshop Companion, was a run of 102,000 books. It’s not exactly apples-to-apples (there are six unique Workshop books in each box wheras all the Raven’s Wing were the same), but suffice it to say: older editions are scarecer, and collectors are always on the lookout.

    Speaking of which, if anyone has a Just Below Zero set they’d like to part with, be in touch↩︎

  4. I don’t revisit them often, because, as the motto goes: “I’m not writing it down to remember it later. I’m writing it down to remember it now.” ↩︎