I ponder the idea of the writer's notebook. I have one but I don't use it like I should. I've tried all kinds of variations on this theme. I've tried regular sketchbooks, so seductive with their hard covers and clean white paper, but they're too heavy. I use a larger size sketch pad sometimes but for all my regular sketching, when I'm at museums, for example, I'll use a small moleskine sketchbook. I used one on my last two trips and have it open to a page near my desk so I can see my own drawings. Very satisfying.
Back to the notebook. I've tried 3x5 cards along with the sexy circa notebooks from Levenger. Ah, Levenger. One of my friends said the catalogs were like crack cocaine. Indeed. I also have a cheaper circa punch and have make my own 4x6 circa index card notebook. Very, very cool if a little DIY. I have plenty of 3x5 cards with ideas, descriptions of things, etc. I don't read them, though.
Now I use a small squared (grid) moleskine notebook attached to a moleskine calendar with a few small binder clips. It's small, light, and satisfying. I sometimes think of keeping the calendar but switching back to my 4x6 homemade circa notebook but the moleskines look so wonderful so I just leave everything as it is. I've taken to making notes, doing rants in the notebook, writing lists, and generally writing down things that are sticking in my mind. I should be watching people and making a note of anyone interesting, listening to dialog and writing bits in my notebook, writing down descriptions of places, but I don't. It seems like such an effort. I do think doing these things would be a great way to pay attention to the here and now much like carrying around my camera everywhere helped me notice and see. I need to go back to carrying my camera again.
I hold back from making notes, though. I think it's because I keep telling myself that I should use 3x5 cards so I can file them away and have a great resource for my writing. The other day I read through a few pages of my notebook and was pleasantly surprised. It's fun to read something that seems kinda cool even if it's just a paragraph or two in my own notebook.
I should ask my fellow writers at my writing group what they do about taking notes. A writer is supposed to, after all. I do hold a bit of prejudice about such activities. I could take it to an extreme and remove myself from experiences because I'm too busy writing down rather than participating. Well, that's the extreme and it would take a lot to get to that point. These hesitations come from when I was working at the children's museum a long time ago. We would see parents behind their cameras and video cameras losing out on the experience of interacting with the kids and the exhibits. It was an ongoing challenge to get the parents to put down their cameras and just have fun with their kids rather than obsessively recording every moment.
The main thing is to use what I have. It's always a challenge for me whether a moleskine notebook or a great point-and-shoot camera.