Six Famous Notebook Users

If you’re an active reader, you know that we frequently advise keeping a thought notebook or journal around to keep track of daily activities and ideas, and we do so with good reason. Research has indicated that keeping a notebook handy can actually improve a person’s creativity. While the research is fairly new, people have known about the usefulness of journaling for as long as paper and writing utensils have been readily available. Here’s a list of six well-known individuals who understood the importance of capturing fleeting thoughts into a notebook for creativity.

Six Famous Notebook Users

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway developed a reputation for his use of pocket notebooks. Even in the picture above, he is seen sitting on a boat at sea with a pencil and notebook in his hands, only taking a pause from writing to look at the camera. Hemingway’s relationship with his journal was so intimate he once said “I belong to this notebook and this pencil.” As a man who made his living as a writer, it seems he may have been right about that.

Famous Notebook Users Famous Notebook Users

Pablo Picasso

Keeping a notebook isn’t just a good idea for a writer, it can also benefit artists of other mediums as well. Pablo Picasso was quite fond of keeping a sketch notebook. He valued his notebooks so much that he’d often decorate their outsides with colorful cloth designs. Picasso would use his notebook to sketch rough versions of his ideas before he would put them on canvas. With some of his paintings, he would sketch them into his notebooks hundreds of times before feeling comfortable turning it into one of his masterpieces. Below is one of his notebook sketches of his brilliant Guernica.

Famous Notebook Users Famous Notebook Users

Charles Darwin

Without the very important journal of Charles Darwin, our understanding of Earth’s natural history would likely be much different. Darwin kept his notebooks by his side throughout his voyage on the HMS Beagle. During his journey, he filled dozens of notebooks with his scientific discoveries as well as general musings and mundane lists.  When making zoological and botanical observations, he would write every detail of a species’ variations as well as sketch drawings of the subject for reference. Much of what Darwin kept in his notebooks ended up in his revolutionary On the Origin of Species. Below is one of Darwin’s sketches of an evolutionary tree, the very first of its kind.

Famous Notebook Users Famous Notebook Users

Beatrix Potter

Best known for creating the beloved children’s book The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter was also an avid notebooker. Before she ever published famous furry-tailed tale, she kept a journal where she would write on topics ranging from philosophy to politics, often including cut-outs and sketches that would coincide with her writings. Much of what she wrote was actually in code so that her mother wouldn’t be able to understand what she was writing about. Her journal has since been published and is readily available for purchase.

Famous Notebook Users Famous Notebook Users

Ludwig Van Beethoven

Nearly every depiction that can be found of Beethoven shows him with notebook and pen in hand. While the phenomenal musician did compose numerous symphonies in his journal, he also used it to write down day to day events and quotes that he wished to remember. After Beethoven lost his keen sense of hearing, he turned to his notebook as his primary means of communicating. Below is a picture of one of his journals he used for conversation.

Famous Notebook Users Famous Notebook Users

Leonardo Da Vinci

Considered “the most curious man who ever lived,” Da Vinci was also a very prolific notebook keeper. All of his wonders and discoveries he kept in one of his many notebooks, oftentimes with detailed sketches to go along with them.  His notebooks were generally not kept very tidy, as he would usually jump from one subject to the next on a single sheet of paper. One of the most curious details about Da Vinci’s notebooks was that he wrote in them from right to left instead of left to right. This may have been because he wanted to keep his entries as secretive as possible, but it may have just been a way to prevent ink from smearing as he wrote left-handed. Below is his journal entry where he designed the world’s first cross-bow.

Leonardo Famous Notebook Users

3 replies
  1. Julie
    Julie says:

    I agree with this; I love Moleskine notebooks and have them in all sizes and all colors (eagerly awaiting the white Moleskine!) I also favor Mirado Black Warrior pencils and keep notebooks and pencils handy at all times–even in my bed. 🙂 I even wrote a poem about the notebooks I keep in bed!

  2. PaulK
    PaulK says:

    Leonardo did not write in notebooks.
    His works were on separate pieces of paper and only bound into notebooks by others after his death.


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