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Charlotte and Her Friend, Notability

It has been a little over a week with Charlotte.  That’s what I call the Little Red Notebook.  Chickie named her.  Charlotte is always with us, so the notebook sort of needed a name.


Charlotte makes my brain feel light.  It floats around above my head instead of pressing down heavily on my skull.  I used to spend so much energy remembering: remembering what I had to do and where I had to go and funny things the twins said and blog posts I wanted to write and this idea for the novel that would solve a plotline problem.  All of it churned around in my brain, like a blender left on all the time.

By Thursday morning, three days after starting Charlotte, Josh commented that I had fallen asleep before him.  This never happens.  It takes me hours to fall asleep.  This is partly because I am a terrible sleeper.  But the other side of it is that I get into bed and my brain keeps going and going and going.  I loop through everything I’m trying to remember, and then I loop through again for good measure, and then I pause to worry for a bit before I do another jog through the tall grasses of what needs to get done.

Before Charlotte, I never stopped spinning mental plates.  I wasn’t scared that if I stopped their rotation, they would shatter to the floor.  I was worried they would disappear.  Mental plates, spinning one moment and blank stems the next.

Since getting Charlotte, my mind feels light.  Not exactly happy because… after all… I am still me.  I’m just me with a notebook.  But I’m not working so hard to remember everything.  Instead I have peace of mind that it is written down, not going anywhere until I cross out the words.  I put down everything in that notebook.  All the bits and pieces that make up a life.

I write down everything; even the most obvious things.  Clean Truman’s cage.  I can smell Truman’s cage.  I can see Truman’s cage.  Still, I write down “clean Truman’s cage.”  After I clean his cage, I checked it off the list, and I feel at peace.  Order has been restored to the rodent world.

I’m retaining more things, thoughts that would have drifted away into the ether.  There’s a “why not” element to writing things down.  Why not?  Why not record that thought?  It’s just centimeters on a piece of paper.

I’m getting more done because I have to keep looking at my list.  I backed up my computer.  It’s been months since I’ve done a proper backup.  I have eight post topics lying in wait, whenever I feel inspired to write them out.  Games I want to buy and a phone call I want to make and everything I’ve worried about in the last week.  It’s all in one place.  In my hand.


The notebook managed the sea of post-it notes, but it did little to make a dent in the rest of the loose sheets of paper floating around my house.  Packing lists, recipes, written instructions.

I have Notability as a note-taking app, but I decided to use it as a way to go paper-free-ish.  If you’re not familiar with Notability (I downloaded it when it was the free app of the week, but it’s totally worth the $2.99 if you do actual work on your iPad), it’s a note-taking app that allows you to type or hand-write your notes.  But moreover, you can also record the lecture at the same time, and when you play back the recording, it will highlight your notes when it comes to the part of the speech.  For instance, let’s say you’re recording the State of the Union.  Obama says something brilliant that you want to include later in the article you’re writing.  You just write on the screen something like, “include this!” and when you play back the speech, the words “include this!” will light up when you get to that part of the speech.  Or you can write something completely unrelated such as “tell the story about my visit to the doctor” when he’s talking about healthcare, and you’ll have your notes and the sound notes in the same place.  Does that make sense?

But that’s not how I’m using Notability to go more-paper-free. (I feel I need to qualify it since I’m not going to actually go paper-free.)  I mean, yes, I am still using it to take notes (or the twins use it to do their homework.  It makes great scrap “paper”), but instead I am using it for those recipes or packing lists.  One of the reasons I like paper recipes is that I write notes all over them as I cook, tweaking the ingredients or cooking steps.  You can do that on Notability.  You just create a PDF of all your recipes, upload it to Notability, and you can write all over the PDF.  You can change ink colours so your first time making the recipe, the notes are red.  And the next time, the notes are orange.  That way, you always know which were your most recent notes.

I made a master packing list that I duplicate and then make specific for each trip.  I can keep adding to it as I remember things I want to bring.  And then, when it comes time to pack, I have this typed list on the screen, and I choose the hand-writing function and cross out each item as it goes in the suitcase.  I can jot quick notes on the side of the page.  I can even add images to the document if want to leave the list for someone else and have them see all the things I want them to pack specifically.  And then I can erase all my markings so the same list is clear and ready to go when I’m ready to repack those items on the other end of the trip.

It feels as if a little flip has been switched.


1 Ana { 05.20.14 at 11:56 am }

I can’t even express how much I love that you named your notebook Charlotte.

2 Tiara { 05.20.14 at 12:55 pm }

I, too, love that you named your notebook. When you eventually need to get a new one when Charlotte is full, will it also be red? Or will you go for another colour? New name or will these notebooks always be Charlottes?

I also love that you’ve found such peace with such a relatively simple solution. & Notability sounds like an app I need to check out…I have been using plan old Notes on my iPhone but I think I need something more like Notability. I have some of my greatest thoughts while driving on my commute to & from work but by the time I get to my destination & am able to write them down, those thoughts are jumbled with all the other thoughts. I have been tempted to use voice recordings & just think aloud in the car so I can capture these thoughts.

3 Mel { 05.20.14 at 1:47 pm }

I think they will always be a red notebook unless I’m forced to switch to something new. I like the idea that red notebook always equals X. And I said that I would always keep the name Charlotte for the notebook, and the ChickieNob was aghast. She said that would be like naming all your children the same thing.

4 Mina { 05.20.14 at 3:20 pm }

How adorable! Charlotte…
I used to have a mini-folder/organiser, the sort with replaceable sheets of paper, and calendar, it could be personalised at will, and it was alright since I kept it on my desk at all times. Now that I don’t use a desk every day, it got obsolete. It should be somewhere on a shelf.
I first tried a notebook, but it had a finality to it, replacing the sheets of paper was like using a vanishing spell for a badly brewed potion. That way, it was always tidy and just as I liked it.

5 a { 05.20.14 at 3:34 pm }

Ha! I find it depressing that I must now enter notes on the calendar in my phone (or on my computer at work) if I want to remember something. I used to have a perfectly respectable brain to take care of that sort of thing for me. I wonder where I put it… It’s probably next to the ring my husband gave me yesterday that I lost within a few hours. Sigh…

6 Life Breath Present { 05.20.14 at 6:13 pm }

How neat, you named your notebook. I, too, find that when I actually write even the simplest of things down (clean the floor), I am free-er mentally and physically. 🙂

7 Turia { 05.20.14 at 8:36 pm }

I have been known to write things down on lists that I have ALREADY done, just so I can then cross them off and immediately feel better about have made an inroad on the list.

I’m so glad the notebook is working out so well. I know starting to use the Moleskine agendas I use changed my life.

8 Heather { 05.21.14 at 11:39 am }

That’s such a brilliant idea. I must tell my mom about this.

9 Serenity { 05.22.14 at 9:40 am }

So I’ve been using Athena now for what, a week? I have a blog post about her which I’m going to put up soon, I hope. I modified it from what you do even further to more of a real journal.

And I love her.

Post soon. Today, I hope.


10 Caryn { 12.31.14 at 12:51 am }

I have been using a bullet journal format since the beginning of 2014. I started with a cheap gridded composition book from staples to see if I liked the concept. It’s worked fine, but the binding broke halfway through the year and I’ve had to duct tape it. Now that I know the system works, I’m ready to upgrade for 2015. I remembered you had done the same and wanted to see what kind of notebook you’re using, size and whether you’re still happy with it. I looked at some moleskin journals, but they only had black covers in the 7.5 x 10″ size and I’m not sure if I can fit a full month if I go smaller. I will settle for black if it’s absolute necessary, but really prefer to have some color in my life. Any thoughts you’d be willing to share would be appreciated.

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