An Ode to Sticky Notes

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

Occasionally someone in one of the various on-line writing groups in which I hang out will ask how people organize their research. It usually generates a discussion of digital versus paper filing systems.  And I occasionally weigh in with my own multi-layered, always evolving system of computer files, notebooks, 3 x 5 cards, and the glory of the project box (courtesy of Twyla Tharp).  Within that system, one thing stays constant:  sticky-notes.

I literally don’t remember what it is like to do historical research without sticky-notes.  3M marketed the first Post-It notes the year I wrote my master’s paper and I embraced them with enthusiasm. Over the years, they’ve become one of the pillars on which my research process rests.

When sticky-notes first came out, they were expensive for someone on a graduate student budget, so I used them sparingly.  I cut them in two.  I reused them until the sticky strips grew fuzzy and refused to stick any more. I reverted to using scraps of paper as bookmarks.  (Because real bookmarks were also a luxury on a graduate student budget.)

Now I use sticky-notes with abandon.  I even stopped trying to re-use them about a year ago.  (I finally realized the aggravation of losing information I had marked when they fell out a book outweighed the virtuous glow of reducing paper usage one small square at a time.)

At the moment I have a large (and growing) pile of books on the floor near my desk, stuffed with more-or-less color-coded sticky-notes and tabs.  The tabs mark sections I want to capture for the books.  The regular sticky-notes allow me to annotate a page in a library book with an idea or response to the author.  (Because while I happily underline and scribble in the margins of books I own, I do not write in library books.  I am not a barbarian.)  

Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books

PG admits to being a heavy-duty sticky notes user from very shortly after the beginning of the Post-It Note in 1980.

2 thoughts on “An Ode to Sticky Notes”

  1. I’ve moved location too many times to tolerate the sticky note disasters that inevitably ensue.

    All-digital for me. I’ll even scan short printed materials to convert them. (Long ones, I’ll content myself with a file note about title/page/location… but then the book itself goes missing in the next move.)

    And Scrivener, for anything organized and long form for writing. (Ordinary digital folders for other stuff).

    I’ve just discovered that Scrivener has finally done its first major revamp release (been awaited for years) and I’m now in the process of converting from the old release for the one thing that has to move, namely the Series Bible for my current long-running series (not yet released). For the actual writing, once I move the completed work to Word/Ebook for initial publication I no longer use the Scrivener file, but the Series Bible has to stay alive as long as the series does, for each subsequent book.

    That’s the one downside of digital tech from my lifetime’s perspective — too new, too unstable. Sticky notes on paper in physical books are forever (sort of), but digital work, equivalently organized, is subject to the constant product update creep/replacement that serves as friction for our digital lives. Not stable enough yet, but too useful to ignore.

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