WN02 Take Notes not Reminders

Starting writing Weeknotes is almost a direct result of going to Nor(DEV):con this year. A small mention of Theory of Constraints lead me down a rabbit hole. I discovered Tiago Forte’s series on it, before branching into the rest of his material. Through that, I discovered Roam as a tool. Which has brought its own rabbit hole.

Building on couple other ideas and sources, a plan and approach slowly built up. That ToC could be used for writing isn’t a leap. Realising that I would is unexpected. I’ve not been thinking about it directly in a while, yet identifying and elevating the constraint has happened implicitly. I’d like more words and ideas presented on this blog. Committing to posting makes is causing ripples in my process to bring it about. Writing about writing is more meta than I’d like, but I’m glad I’ve had this realisation.

There are many moments like this across a lifetime. Turn left instead of right, and the butterfly effect takes us to unexpected places.

📯 From the World

Memories of Murder is worth a watch. As is The Roads Not Taken. Watching them together, I came away with a wistfulness for more presence or awareness for the consequences of how we act and think.

Take Notes not Reminders

Any workflow is inherently personal. And I’ve seen a few different approaches to taking notes recently. From Progressive Summarisation, to the Zettelkasten method, to the Bullet Journal, there’s a running theme that a note has a use and that is to be reference. Anything else can be part of a workflow, but it should become reference soon to avoid wasted effort. How this looks in practice varies, but [[Andy Matuschak]]’s term Evergreen Notes sums this up well. Their note on the topic, quoted in its short entirety, is quite illuminating on their process. And the notes portal is interesting in itself.

Evergreen notes are written and organized to evolve, contribute, and accumulate over time, across projects. This is an unusual way to think about writing notes: Most people take only transient notes. That’s because these practices aren’t about writing notes; they’re about effectively developing insight: “Better note-taking” misses the point; what matters is “better thinking”. When done well, these notes can be quite valuable: Evergreen note-writing as fundamental unit of knowledge work.

It’s hard to write notes that are worth developing over time. These principles help:

This concept evolves in large part from Niklas Luhmann’s Zettelkasten, which he regards as the independent intellectual partner in writing his 70 books. See Similarities and differences between evergreen note-writing and Zettelkasten

Elizabeth Van Nostrand’s experiment in thorough fact-checking is an extreme example of this; mining a book for literally all the information it contains, then following up by asking what is credible. It’s a great example of the power of Roam, and how notes aid thinking.

“How do we know that?” questions moved from something I pushed myself to think about during second read-throughs to popping into my head unbidden. There were just natural “How do we know that?” shaped holes in my notes.

It became much more obvious when a bunch of paragraphs said nothing, or said nothing I valued, because even when I tried I couldn’t distill them into my notes.

When I felt I knew enough I would create a Synthesis page representing what I really thought, with links to all the relevant claims (Roam lets you link to bullet points, not just pages) and a slider bar stating how firmly I believed it. This supported something I already wanted conceptually, which was shifting from [evaluating claims for truth and then judging the trustworthiness of the book] to [collating data from multiple sources of unknown reliability to inform my opinion of the world]. When this happened it became obvious Claims didn’t need their own pages and could live happily as bullet points on their associated Source page.

💎 Rethinking

Chuck Palahniuk, describes part of the writing process as finding what resonates. I’m going to keep an ear out for this.

At the same time you’re beta testing it. You’re kind of taking it on the road and you’re seeing that it’s an idea that resonates with huge number of people, because a great anecdote doesn’t leave people speechless, it leaves some competing to tell the better version of the same thing.

This reminds me of Lynda Barry’s Syllabus book which is full of exercises to train you to notice small details about the world. When catching up with people recently, I noticed a few stories that were retold by different people in the group. Bus drivers are sometimes weird, getting ID’d or mistaken for the sibling of your children, driving in hazardous conditions etc. All received a “that happened to me too!” response.

🔥 Alchemy of Creation

Building out my writing process has been a focus at the moment. Little changes from last week have made writing today far easier, but not less time consuming. From a Theory of Constraints perspective, finding a bottleneck would help. Which most likely means having some more notes prepared to a higher standard.

📍 A Point on the Timeline

  • Just as UK restrictions are increasing again, I’ve seen more of my colleagues in person! Both professionally, and socially.
  • Doing my first multi-day fast. Gone smoother than expected. I will gather my thoughts.

Cyberpunk Red

A friend has been running the new Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart. We’re a few session in. They’ve been quite short, but that suits us well at the moment. It’s nice to be talking to these guys more regularly. And I’m thinking that one good scene a session is really all we need to make it worth it.

The GM’s been taking advantage of Roll20‘s features quite well. There’s something lost by not doing it in person, but clicking the character sheet to do dice rolls is satisfyingly simple. And, live updating the map where we’ve been shot or set things on fire has been an excellent touch.

This session we had some serious blowback. We ditched a car to avoid the police and have returned to pick it up. Our hiding place has been undiscovered, but fenced off as corp territory. The car is “camo” and hiding under some foliage, but it’s blue and yellow. In a panic, Camden jumps the fence to retrieve the body we also hid, thinking it’ll get found soon. A patrol car rolls up, and carnage ensues.

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