Field notebooks are an important tool to the naturalist, as sketchbooks are to the artist, as journals are to the traveler. Field notebooks are a place to record observations and ideas, make notes, ask questions, and come to conclusions. Sketchbooks are a place to try out techniques, plan compositions, learn about anatomy or structure, and generally experiment. Journals are a place to record events in pictures and/or words, to capture and evoke memories.
I grew up reading the meticulously-penned published notebooks of Edith Holden, and I thought that The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady is how all sketchbooks were supposed to look—page after page of perfection. As a result I suffered through years of what I call “perfectionist’s sketchbook-phobia.” Well, it turned out that perfection was neither necessary nor expected. I learned that notebooks are where one can let loose and forget about spelling or writing in a straight line. Where one can scribble a little bit. Play. Notebooks are a place to lose one’s inhibitions and free up one’s creative and inquisitive spirit.
After all, who else is going to read them?