Screenshot of my current digital garden

The blogpost I posted earlier today, on cities as a source of inspiration, is the first one that fully came from stringing some of my notes together. An earlier posting, a meta one about note taking, was based on notes, but this one is basically just putting notes together, and writing a few sentences to make them flow over into each other. With a twist though. Because the notes used as a basis are already in full text form (although mostly in Dutch), there wasn’t much writing involved in bringing the point across I started out with. In the end that freed up time that was then used to write additional things, ending up in a conclusion that wasn’t part of the source notes, but in itself ended up as new content for those notes. It think that is a nice example of writing/blogging as thinking out loud.

The source notes themselves were created last week. And while creating them I noticed for the first time that the notes in the Garden of the Forking Paths, form a thinking tool, not a collection, a garden, not a back yard. I started out with just making one or two notes on cities, and while thinking how it connected to other notions already in there, additional patterns stood out to me. Additionally I couldn’t remember where I got some of the notions (e.g. cities being efficient, cities being crossroads), and that had me searching for the literature I got it from in the first place adding them to my reference library (in Zotero), which in turn teased out additional patterns ending up in notes. Feedback happening, in short. At first it bothered me that what I was doing (‘making just one or two notes on cities’) took much longer than expected, but then I realised it was an effect I intended to create, and that thinking takes time. That it took me beyond those one or two notes, but not in a yak-shaving kind of way, but as an act of creation.

Both those effects, new things rising because of writing about existing ones, and spending time thinking to be able to create, are most welcome ones.

As I write this, I realise I’ve developed a dislike for the word ‘notes’ in the past weeks to describe the plantings in my digital garden, as it invokes primary/raw note taking mostly. Maybe I should call them ‘notions’ instead. My Garden of the Forking Paths now has 234 ‘notions’, and another batch that size of ‘notes’ outside it, but somewhat interlinked with it (think day logs, tickler files, ideas, raw notes, thoughts and snippets for projects). That second batch basically is a folder structure similar to my existing Evernote notebooks.

Taking Notes
The wiki I used to take both primary and secondary notes in, in 2006. It was wikkawiki which I ran locally on my laptop, with the css adapted to that of my then employer.

2 reactions on “Two Effects From Notetaking

  1. Both those effects, new things rising because of writing about existing ones, and spending time thinking to be able to create, are most welcome ones.

    Great to hear! It’s nice to hear about your note notion-taking system leading to a long-form post. I haven’t written a very long post from my notes yet – I think I’ll have a reflect as to why that is.

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