“Keep a Notebook”: Jack London.

7-7-10_jack3I’m not sure how popular Jack London is these days, but I’ve long been a fan. I read a piece today quoting Mr. London on success, and I thought I’d quote from this quotation.

“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.”

JackLondon-office-1916This is also the source of the differently-quoted line about inspiration:

“Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don’t get it you will none the less get something that looks remarkably like it.”

Jack London, “Getting into Print,” 1903, via The Art of Manliness.

The Art of Manliness and notebooks and pencils.


With apologies for what might seem, at first, to be a moderately chauvinistic post about the lost art of being a “man,” I have read two very interesting articles from the companion blog to the book The Art of Manliness (or did the book come first?).  First, there is The Manly Tradition of the Pocket Notebook, which features our favorite writing implement.  This post has gone around the writing blogosphere for a few weeks now, but this particular passage hits close to home for an Eagle Scout:

The Boy Scout
“In one of the pockets there should be a lot of bachelor buttons, the sort that you do not have to sew on to your clothes, but which fasten with a snap, something like glove buttons. There should be a pocket made in your shirt or vest to fit your notebook, and a part of it stitched up to hold a pencil and a toothbrush….

No camper, be he hunter, fisherman, scout, naturalist, explorer, prospector, soldier or lumberman, should go into the woods without a notebook and hard lead pencil. Remember that notes made with a hard pencil will last longer than those made with ink, and be readable as long as the paper lasts.

Every scientist and every surveyor knows this and it is only tenderfeet, who use a soft pencil and fountain pen for making field notes, because an upset canoe will blur all ink marks and the constant rubbing of the pages of the book will smudge all soft pencil marks.

Therefore, have a pocket especially made, so that your notebook, pencil and fountain pen, if you insist upon including it—will fit snugly with no chance of dropping out.” The American Boys’ Handybook of Camp-lore and Woodcraft, By Daniel Carter Beard, 1920

This week, they published a piece on The Pocket Notebooks of 20 Famous Men.  I did not see any mention of Thomas Edison’s custom-made pocket pencils, but I was very happy to learn about Mark Twain’s custom notebooks, about which I knew exactly nothing.  We have reviews of two pocket notebooks (Field Notes being one) in the works on Pencil Revolution and wonder what kinds of pocket notebooks work especially well with pencils.