Last week I was warming up the old travel planning muscles writing up a list of must-dos for someone going to New York City. This week was a day for organising some of the research I’ve done over recent weeks and preparing to start in earnest.

I’ve always loved to take notes by hand. As an undergraduate I lived about a mile out of town and often spent time between lectures working on essays in the library. While we did in fact have computers “in my day”, I was a postgraduate before I abandoned my desktop computer and much preferred to work among the shelves upstairs, by the windows overlooking the sea, rather than joining the basement scrum for the limited communal computers, with anxious business students hopping up and down wanting to get to their spreadsheets. As a PhD student I liked to sit with just the book and my notes, a very manageable pair of essentials on a tidy desk. I loved the process of writing out my insights and observations, as well as double- and triple-checking any citations. It felt like a tangible achievement to take something home that was created physically, a continuity with generations of scholars whose material was information.

I’ve always taken my travel notes the same way. Sitting with a guidebook, copying only the relevant information and typing out my own wish list later, it seemed so portable as if I were ready to fold over my notes and hit the road. However my New York lists reminded me that my arthritis-damaged hand, though now working do much better than before, does have its limitations. It made me realise that as part of this stage I should write a blog post soon, about some of the tools I now use since having to move away from my low-tech instincts.


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