Creative Note-taking

If you follow me on Twitter, or on my creative instagram account (@RavynnCreates), you know that I love creating aesthetically pleasing notes. People often have questions about them, so I thought I’d create a FAQ post about my notes.

  1. Why do you make your notes like that?

Well, first, it’s super fun! I love making things. It also helps me focus, and it makes my notes easier to read and study when I have to go back to them.

2. What do you mean it helps you focus?

Making creative notes is almost like making a mind map. I think about the relationship of sections and words. For example, if we’re talking about the features of the “Classical Hollywood Narration,” it helps to make that heading large, and make the features smaller underneath, or close to the heading. Sometimes it helps to box things in so I know everything in that section goes together. It can also help to color code. If my heading is gold, I might use a different gold pen to number or bullet point everything that falls under that category. Sometimes I use a combination of all of these methods.

3. Do you make them during class? Like while the professor is lecturing?

Yep. Again, it helps me focus.

4. So you don’t just take quick notes and then rewrite them?

No. I do not.

5. What do you use to take notes? Pens? Notebooks?

My semester notebook is a burgundy Leuchtturm A4+ Master Slim with 121 dotted pages that I got from Jenni Bick in Dupont Circle in DC. Yes, it is personalized.

I use a variety of different pens. For headings and small brush lettering, I use Pentel Sign pens. For shadows and highlights, I use Mildliner Brush Pens. For detailing, I use Metallic Gelly Roll pens. For regular writing, my main text, I most often use a Lamy Safari fountain pen. If I’m not feeling the Lamy (or if I have run out of ink), I use Zebra Sarasa 0.7 ballpoint pens.

6. Wow, that’s really specific. Why do you use those brands?

Leuchtturm journals have thick pages that don’t ghost (show ink on the other side) and they are pre-numbered. Pentel pens are super reliable, and they come in really great, bold colors. Mildliners, I don’t use as much, but I still like them for background and contrast. Gelly Roll pens have really strong color, and they’re also reliable and relatively easy to find. I’m using a Lamy pen because I wanted a good fountain pen and I thought it might be cool to invest in a utensil that I would love to use. It’s beautiful and yellow and I do in fact love it! When my students from Keio offer me stationery gifts, they’re often Sarasa/Zebra pens and Japanese stationery is the best, so usually I’m just using the pens they gift me.

7. So do you just, like, travel with all those notebooks and pens?

Yep.

8. How many pens and notebooks do you carry with you daily?

Between 2-3 journals. I always have my semester bullet journal with me and I often have my dissertation journal. Sometimes I’ll bring my leather bound diary if I haven’t written in a while.

I honestly don’t know how many pens I have at any given time. I have at least 3 of each type of pen in different colors (except the Lamy) in my purse. I mean…probably at least two dozen.

9. Do you let people borrow your pens?

No.

10. Really?

Really. I keep a couple of regular Bic ballpoint pens in my purse to give to my students if they need a writing utensil in a pinch.

11. But how do you make such pretty pages?

Honestly, I don’t know. It’s the equivalent of doodling. My hands just kind of do their own thing. I don’t lay out my spreads prior to class, they just sort of happen. I more or less start on the top left of the page and just build from there.

12. Do you have any suggestions for folks that want to try creative notetaking?

I do! First, try not to take it so seriously; let it happen naturally. The more you try to make it pretty, the more pressure you put on yourself and then you likely won’t be satisfied with the way your notes look. Second, experiment with fonts and colors in relation to others on the page. If you have a keyword in gold script on the right in a square with writing around it, maybe try bold blue uppercase letters for your next piece. Third, practice! I’ve been making notes like this for years and it took me a while to get to a point where I could make these pages. Lastly, comparison is the thief of joy. Your notes will not look like mine. My notes will not look like yours. Embrace the uniqueness of this little way of expressing yourself!

3 thoughts on “Creative Note-taking”

  1. Hi there! Long time/first time. Thanks so much for sharing all this! I’ve been bullet journaling for about three years and doing a similar system with one notebook for the whole semester in a large bullet journal (either the Leuchtturm Master/Master Slim like here or this slightly smaller/cheaper one I got at Staples) for several semesters. I really love the way you jazz up in-class notes, and I want to work on being less self-conscious in class. (Let’s be honest its a BIG notebook, its pretty conspicuous) Also, I’ve been using Pilot Precise v5’s for a few years now and have been eyeing getting a nice fountain pen, there’s a pen store near me and I’ll try the Lamy one!
    One thing I struggle with figuring out is how to organize my notes on sources and readings for papers and projects. How do you do that? I know you have a separate dissertation notebook, which makes sense to me! But what about for those 15, 20, 30 page term papers?

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    1. Hi! So sorry this took so long to respond, I don’t think I realized I had a comment!

      Truth be told, I’m known to save about 10 pages in the back of my semester notebook for outlining papers. Usually I get my ideas for papers in class so I migrate those ideas to the back pages and turn them into outlines, with sources that immediately pop into my mind. I’m much less into making those pages pretty and more of into wading into the messiness of my ideas.

      I’m not sure that gives much guidance but I hope it helps some.

      P.S. writing software like Scrivener and research software like Zotero can be SUPER helpful for organizing your writing and research. Zotero is free and I paid something like $38 for Scrivener. Zotero takes a minute to learn to use, but I find Scrivener super intuitive. It makes writing by idea and not chronologically super easy. You can move blocks of text around, jot down ideas and notes that are visible next to the body of the text, theres a section for research and other ideas. I love it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! No worries on time to get back to me, I only saw this now lol. I started doing a similar thing with an ideas page for papers this semester, but I have them in my organizing bujo not my notes notebook, which I think is a much better idea. More room for sources and outlining, just like you said! Actually, I just started using Scrivener last semester! So far I only used it for one big semester-long project, but I’m thinking I need to use it more rigorously, since I did like it a lot. Only criticism is I wish it had more keyboard commands, but I am probably spoiled by Pages in that regard (which if you have a mac is very underrated). Thanks much for your response, and for the site in general! Stay safe and sane with everything going on ❤

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