Nighttime note taking tools?
February 2, 2008 9:07 AM   Subscribe

Are there any unique, cool, and quiet middle-of-the-night note-taking solutions out there?

I wake up very frequently and need to write stuff down. Right now I scrape open my sock drawer, fumble for the pad of paper and a pen, blindly scribble down my note, and hope I'll be able to read it in the morning. Complications include not wanting to make noise or much light that might wake up my wife, not wanting to get out of bed, and being mostly blind unless my contacts are in.
posted by TheManChild2000 to Work & Money (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Notebook, pen clipped to notebook, book light clipped to notebook, all in a drawer in your night table next to the bed. Even blind without contacts you should be able to see close without them, although it might be a bit uncomfortably close. (As you age it will grow to a more convenient distance. ;) You do have a night table? If not, I highly recommend one; they are quite convenient.
posted by caddis at 9:23 AM on February 2, 2008

I have exactly the same problem and use a book light permanently attached to a pretty notepad that I leave on the bedside table, along with a thick nibbed "calligraphy" pen (it makes my handwriting easier to read).
posted by ceri richard at 9:24 AM on February 2, 2008

Ditch the booklight - it's too bright if your eyes have dark-adapted. Use a light-up pen instead. It's certainly bright enough and it won't wake anyone else up.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 9:25 AM on February 2, 2008

A touch lamp might be an idea too (the light isn't very bright, no noise when switching on/off).
posted by ceri richard at 9:26 AM on February 2, 2008

Mrs. Deadmessenger has used an old-fashioned microcassette recorder for this for years. She just reaches over, grabs the recorder sitting on her nightstand, hits the one-button record, and whispers her note into the mic. I've never been disturbed by it, and it seems to work really well for her.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:27 AM on February 2, 2008

There are pens that have lights near the tips, often in red, which is easier on the eyes in the dark. This would let you see what you're writing without too much light leakage. You might also consider a tape or digital audio recorder that you can operate by feel, and with a mic sensitive enough to record your whispers, that you could then transcribe in the morning. If the recorder has a display, a sheet of dark red cellophane over the backlit area will also help cut down on disturbing light.
posted by mboszko at 9:27 AM on February 2, 2008

deadmessenger, I tried that but must have had an exceptionally noisey recorder as the on/off clicks would often wake him up.
posted by ceri richard at 9:29 AM on February 2, 2008

If you like the recorder idea, you can get a fairly cheap digital recorder nowadays that's essentially silent.
posted by zachlipton at 9:40 AM on February 2, 2008

LightWedge Night Vision reading light + PicoPad Wallet Notes on your nightstand.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 10:30 AM on February 2, 2008

Seconding the recorder thing. You can buy a CHEAP mp3 player that has a mic and allows recording as well.

My friend uses it to record bouts of hypnogognia whenever he's around other people falling asleep. (Those flashes of insta-dream you get just as you're falling asleep.)

It's... interesting to review them the next day. He simply asks "what are you dreaming about" just as you fall asleep.
posted by disillusioned at 10:34 AM on February 2, 2008

The LED pen from Morse Express is what you're looking for! I got a couple recently (cheap!) and gave them out as gifts, plus kept one for myself.

Everyone says it's the best gift ever, and my night-time note-taking couldn't be easier.
posted by Aquaman at 10:39 AM on February 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

wake up very frequently and need to write stuff down.

I do this ALL the time. My solution was a digital voice recorder. (whats more, after a few years, I even bought Dragon Naturally Speaking, which REALLY WORKS, and now I automatically TRANSCRIBE my middle-of-night-notes into text (with about 98 percent accuracy). Its an amazing solution.

In case you're curious, I bought the Olympus DS-2 (amazon) and I use DNS version 8 (there's a version 9 out now). THe DS-2 is fantastic and so is DNS. I bought the DS-2 for 60 bucks "refurbished" on amazon, its even cheaper these days (check ebay too). I bought DNS 8 for 20 bucks on ebay (retail price isnt that much anyway, maybe 90).

Even without DNS, the digital voice recorder idea is great. If you're not going to try DNS, then you could get an even less expensive digital voice recorder (hundreds of choices at amazon, look at the high-rated ones).

Note that some DVRs (digital voice recorders) batteries last a very long time while others dont last that long. I used to have a small SONY voice recorder and the AAA battery in it used to last almost 2 months. The Olympus DS-2's batteries only last 2 weeks with constant use, but then I use eneloop rechargeable batteries (look up eneloop on amazon) - these keep their charge even if unused (unlike lithiums) and so it hasnt been a problem at all.

(if you're really against a DVR for some reason, another solution which I tried, and which worked, was to buy an Alphasmart Dana (ebay or the alphasmart website). Lighted lcd display, good keyboard, very light and portable, you can just pick it up, turn it on, lcd lights up and you can just type in your thought -- it turns on and off instantly and saves the work automatically and instantly. If you havent ever looked at the Alphasmart Dana (or the Neo), do so; its an interesting device on its own merits).
posted by jak68 at 11:21 AM on February 2, 2008

What I always wanted to have for this (but still haven't been able to, since I have textured walls) was a borderless white (to match the wall) dry-erase laminated sheet stuck to the wall by the bed. Unobtrusive, minimalist, but something that could easily be written on late at night, within arm's reach of the bed. So that's one idea.
posted by limeonaire at 1:15 PM on February 2, 2008

Dislaimer: I keep my cell phone charger on my nightstand, so this may or may not work for you.

Check out Jott . You call a toll-free number, babble for a bit and voice recognition software emails you a message. I only have this set up to email my work account and I love it. It's right about 90% of the time. When it's not, it's still close enough to jog my memory. It almost always picks up whispering. ;)
posted by meindee at 2:27 PM on February 2, 2008

That LED pen will be perfect, but thanks to all for other great suggestions.
posted by TheManChild2000 at 7:54 PM on February 2, 2008

Update: The pen was, in fact, perfect. But I had to wrap most of it in duct tape because it really was quite bright and turning it on at 3 am immediately burned holes straight into my head. The tape did the trick so only a little light leaks out.
posted by TheManChild2000 at 8:54 PM on March 31, 2008

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