I remember exactly when I first heard the term Traveler’s Notebook. Or at least heard the words that would lead me to finding out everything there is to know about an item that I would fall ridiculously in love with. It was all Stephanie Tyler’s fault on Instagram. She posted this photo and I was all, whaaat? What is a #foxydori? Yeah. Took about five seconds to find out. Something my credit card (and my husband) regrets ever happened. I watched video after video and already being a fan of the Bullet Journal, I was like KERMIT FLAIL! MUST HAVE! MUST HAVE! MUST HAVE! Confession: I have never bullet-journaled in the official way. It’s more like I make a to-do list, cross off what gets done, move it to the next day and try again. And as soon as I know I have something coming up that requires I leave the house, I add that to the list, and it gets carried forward. It’s the least efficient bullet-journaling method possible, but it works for me, and I love it. Yet I was just using any ol’ spiral, when there were TRAVELER’S NOTEBOOKS to be had!
I started watching Carie Harling’s videos, and the Reset Girl’s videos, and Chic Sparrow’s videos, and… gah, another I can’t recall, and wish I could because she painted one of hers another color, and it was really brave and impressive. But here’s the thing. Most of these folks are planning their lives. I don’t need a notebook or calendar for that. My kids are grown and gone. I work from home. The husband works from home. Our social lives are pretty much spur of the moment things. And our appointments are so few, I can keep them in my head, though I do set reminders in my phone’s calendar. But none of that negates me wanting to work in these notebooks.
I’m a by-hand writer from way back. Originally out of necessity. I worked a day job for a lot of years, and rode the bus 40 minutes in and 40 minutes out. That’s a lot of writing time. Plus I wrote at lunch, and did a lot of that outside, leaving the office for the park, or the sandwich shop. Wherever I could go to put on my headphones and write without co-workers wanting to chat! This was back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and I didn’t have a laptop. Even when I finally bought my first (used at double the price new ones are now!) I still found hand-writing the easiest way to be a mobile author! I used legal pads, spiral notebooks, Big Chief tablets…
ENTER Traveler’s Notebooks!
The pocket size is what I throw in my purse so that I always have something to write on besides a napkin or a receipt. And I usually buy Field Notes notebooks to go inside. The notebook below with the embossed compass came from this Etsy shop.
It’s got four Fields Notes inserts (well, three and a plain kraft one), and since I’m developing four suspense stories, each gets its own place for random notes which I later mark through as I add them to the manuscript.
In the other photo, the shiny brown is a Chic Sparrow Mr. Darcy Deluxe, the grey/green/blue (I don’t know what color is is honestly) is a Chic Sparrow American Dream Deluxe, and the brown suede is a Foxy Fix Wanderlust. I don’t think she offers that one any longer. I’ve had it for ages.
Basically, I use these small notebooks (Note 4 phone for reference) as a place to round up bits to later move elsewhere. I find them super versatile because of being portable. I can assign one story to one insert, as with the suspense, or use the inserts for different elements of a single story. Characters, locations, plot twists to be revealed, etc. It’s never the same. It’s just what I need at the time. And I know where to find everything as it’s all bound in one neat package.
Next is the narrow. (There are many other sizes; I only use three.) These four notebooks all came from Onica Hanby on Etsy. I love love LOVE them. I have some in the same size from Foxy Fix and Chic Sparrow, where I’ve bought most of what I have, though there are other quality sellers out there. These make me smile. They’re a lightweight pliable leather (the ASK is my fave because it feels so wise and worn).
I use Midori brown kraft lined or grid inserts in these. (I did buy a bulk package through an Etsy seller once, and they were great.) And I’ve bought some from Yellow Paper House. I also have Moleskin Chapters Journals in a Chic Sparrow narrow, not pictured. Each of these notebooks will hold four inserts, and I do more extensive brainstorming and note-taking.
I use the wide (I think this is cahier size) with May Books. (The alphabet folder is from an Etsy shop, though that’s a narrow Chic Sparrow, not a wide, and is a discontinued leather/line sorry!) The wide traveler’s notebooks will easily hold four of the May Books, and I can fit five using Midori Connection Bands.
It’s the same way I fit seven into the Chic Sparrow extra wide (this is the only one I have and it’s really too big). The bands come with instructions, but there are also YouTube videos showing how it’s done. I also have a couple of personal size traveler’s notebooks, but don’t really use them. They’re an in-between size I don’t find convenient, and I stick primarily to the narrow and wide.
So those are some of my traveler’s notebooks, but what do I do with them, you ask?
As I said above, I use the smaller ones for notes, then in the narrow and wide versions, I use the inserts for different story elements. One insert to keep track of characters, their physical traits and backstories, and another to jot a rough synopsis, in a bullet list or even scenes I know need to happen. I may even use one insert to write the day’s words. Once I’ve transcribed them, I put a big X through the page so I know I’m done with it.
I try to write notes to myself on another page so it doesn’t get lost. So I may have a page with actual story words next to a page of bullet notes. And once I’ve filled a book, I shred all the pages with the big X and deal with the other notes, transferring them to another notebook, or shredding them if they’re no longer important.
I’m sure this sounds ridiculously inefficient to those of you who are more organized, but it completely works for me. I know exactly where everything is. The rodeo romance? It’s in the purple Chic Sparrow Gemini. The Jane Austen space opera? It’s in the orange Chic Sparrow American Dream. The were-owl shifter suspense? It’s in the Onica Hanby. (Just kidding about those plots.) But you get the point! And, check out Pinterest for amazing ideas!
ETA: I also put in character photos, and tape them down with washi, and the fun decorative things that TNs require!