We all have one and it goes with us everywhere we go. It’s your best friend and your worst enemy – it’s your notebook.
For the moment we decide to become serious writers, we’re told to keep one with us, filling it with ideas, snippets of overheard conversation, observations and anything else we think may, someday, make it into a story. It sits in our pockets, bags, even by our bedsides ready for that next big idea, the one that will launch your career on the path of the bestsellers lists.
For years, I’ve followed a time-honoured tradition and stuck with a paper-based notebook. Something small enough to fit in my back-pocket and light enough to be taken anywhere. I have no idea how many of these I’ve filled; I’m not even sure I know where they all are.
Recently, I was introduced to Evernote. I never really had much time for electronic means of note-taking, in part, because I write faster than I can type, but mostly because autocorrect just plain annoys me. However, a free 12 month premium subscription was enough to sway me to give it a try.
I must say I was impressed. The versatility of the application was mind-blowing. Not only can it sync notes across almost every platform (comes in handy when you work across both Android and Windows), the type of data it can capture is not limited solely to text.
In fact, Evernote can store the following data types within a note:
- Images with OCR search capabilities
- Audio and Video files
- PDFs with full OCR search capabilities
- Web-pages (not just links but full pages!)
- It even boasts pretty decent speech-to-text dictation software
Notes are fully searchable and can be tagged with meaningful aide-memoirs. There is even the capability to geo-tag notes for those times when, back at the desk, you can recall where you were when the idea came to you but not where you filed it (happens to me more than I care to admit).
Related notes can be organised into notebooks which, in turn, can be grouped together under stacks. So, once it’s recorded, finding that big idea (and all associated notes) couldn’t be easier.
But, what has sold Evernote to me is what it has added to my research. Whilst browsing the web, I can activate the web-clipper plugin and the whole page is saved into my notebook, not just a link. Which means that, even if the page disappears, I have a full screen dump of all the information I need, stored in a searchable format. If I’m walking through the city and I stumble across a location that would make the perfect backdrop for that fight scene on page 132, I take a quick photo and it’s there in a folder marked locations. Even when the wording of that argument I’ve been agonising over for days finally untangles itself in my head, I can record it as an audio file with a single click and store it away under dialogue.
Evernote has made it so easy for me to record my ideas that my mind is generating hundreds more just to see if I can keep up. The only problem I have now is choosing which to take forward as projects.