Interesting view from professional writer on modern note-taking

The novelist David Hewson has an interesting view on modern note-taking over on Medium. You should also check out his blog, which is chock full of excellent advice for writers.

I am beginning to lean toward Mr. Hewson minimalist approach, but I’m not there yet. I’m working on a book that requires (I think) a more complex note-taking system than he describes. And there is a difference between note-taking for a specific project and managing all the bits of information we tend to accumulate. It isn’t always easy to know which information is going to be necessary six months or six years from now. I can’t see placing all of that in an app like Keep. But then again I’m not exactly satisfied with my current amalgam of applications.


  1. Yes, an interesting post by David. I also found his preceding post, on creativity as revelation, thought-provoking. When I disagree with him, he at least spurs me to think.

  2. I thought his article was very apt. I guess he would probably suggest that if you have an ‘amalgam’ of note-taking applications, you might be doing it wrong. 😉

    I still have old Natara Bonsai database files left over from my Palm PDA days. I try to stick to plain text files now, but still use a few apps myself- Workflowy, the iOS Notes apps, Simplenote, a mind mapping app, etc.

    1. Hi Stevey. There is no right and wrong when it comes to writing techniques. Just things that work for you or don’t. I just write about what works for me in the hope others can cherry pick ideas that may suit them too.

      1. David, that is my philosophy, too. The perfect note system for one person would be a horrible fit for others. That’s why I appreciated being able to link to your article on the subject. The more views, the better.

        By the way, I appreciate that you share your experiences on writing. That’s generous of you.

  3. I have an amalgam of apps as well from Scrivener to Scapple, Tinderbox, Apple Notes, Macbook Journal and so on. But what works best for me? A moleskine notebook and pen. I ask what if and then the words come out and I make a list. That’s as simple as it gets.

    1. Thank you reading my blog. I’d be interesting in learning more about your process getting notes into your notebook and from there into your work in Scrivener or whichever writing app you use. BTW, your list of apps is very similar to mine.

      1. It’s a fairly simple process. Once I’ve written out the thoughts. For instance, in my WIP, I decided that my MC’s grandmother had a larger role than doing translations during the Spanish Civil War. So I write a couple of bullet points of what she did, how she got involved and who she knew and then just transfer them over to project notes. I’ve recently fooled with the idea of taking an image of my handwritten notes (as long as they’re legible) and then import to my research section in Scriv in a folder I have Labeled as ideas.

        The most important element of the process, though, is getting the mental stimulation by actually writing the thoughts in longhand. There’s something more creative about it. You take more time to think through the concept. Once you have that down that’s when you have the wordplay and edit it.

      2. Thank you for the additional details. I’ve always been terrible at taking long hand notes. Not sure why. Maybe I just never learned properly. I find being able to type the notes, and quickly edit my thoughts is much more productive for me. That’s why the bullet journal works for me: it isn’t creative. It is just capturing details. Happy writing!

  4. Rebecca, I have long held the same belief in longhand-written notes as you (as Steve will possibly be aware from what I’ve put down in another forum). This belief stems from the days from when I wrote scripts for TV. I and the people with whom I closely collaborated concluded that the scripts first written in longhand were better in several respects than those typed straight in. There was something more creative about them, as you say – at least we thought so. Perhaps note-taking for non-creative purposes, as Steve describes, is different, and typing is more efficient in those circumstances.

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