When I was young I very much enjoyed reading Louise Fitzhugh’s “Harriet the Spy”. Harriet used to walk around with a notebook, spying on people and writing down her thoughts. (Spoiler alert!) She is eventually caught when her friends find her notebook and are offended by the things she wrote about them. Although they were her private thoughts, she was punished by her parents and social group.

Harriet taught me two lessons. The first was never to write anything down that you wouldn’t mind someone seeing. Nothing is sacred, not even notebooks or journals, and especially not diaries. I know that wasn’t the point of the book, it’s just something I very much feared. The second was that one should always carry a notebook and pen. Like Harriet, I used to write down my thoughts and impressions of people, but I was smart enough to never write about people I actually knew. I would see people on the street and make up their stories; who they were, what they were like, where they came from and where they were going. Mostly these stories were based on the clothing of the person and the location in which they were spotted. I still do that, but not in a notebook. Today I saw a grown-man with a Gryffindor backpack. Instead of writing in my notebook, I text-messaged a friend.

Today I have so many notebooks scattered around my apartment and at least one with me at all times, each with a purpose. These notebooks are used for everything. I keep recipes, to-do lists, information, plans and ideas. When I’m on my way to a job interview and an idea pops into my head for a blog post, for example, I write it down. Every morning I write down the things I want to get done throughout the day ahead, and it feels great to check them off as I accomplish my goals. My notebooks are a great way to stay organized and focused (and spy on people).

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