As my regulars know, I have been writing, and thinking, a lot, lately, about the importance of a note-taking practice to writing quality content. Perhaps, very experienced writers can virtuously whip up quality writing without relying on a note-taking system, but the rest of need to make notes and use notes to write effectively, efficiently, and with quality.
Note-taking systems and practices are as polarizing as cryptocurrency. A lot of people will tell you that notes, like crypto, aren’t worth it; that notes, like crypto, aren’t valuable; that notes, like crypto, are a scam by companies who want to profit off of your naiveté.
Maybe. Time will tell. But, in the present moment, a note-taking system has really been working for me.
Andy Matuschak encourages people who have a note-taking system to create speculative outlines while you write. The idea here is to make a note and add it to one of the outlines that you are maintaining. Eventually, an outline becomes “ripe”, as he says, and “substantially complete writing projects emerge.”
Google also has some wisdom to share about emergence:
In any complex endeavor, you can rarely forecast ahead of time which of several shared foundations will be the optimal one: you need only something that is ‟good enough,ˮ and let emergence guide you from there.
Maintaining a speculative outline, one where you add notes, as soon as you make the note, seems like a great solution for a common problem that people have with note-taking systems: I have too many notes and I don’t know what to do with them.
Plus, maintaining speculative outlines seems like a great way to set yourself up to be prolific.
I don’t know for sure, time will tell, but I think I’m really onto something with a note-taking practice.
Just like any other practice, or habit, it’s really hard at first, and you want to give up (I already did once), but the intrinsic reward of achieving something hard, with no clear rules, that you figured out for yourself, and that not everyone can or wants to do, is extremely meaningful - much more meaningful than being handed a reward that you didn’t work for.
Today’s post was short because I’ve been working super hard on a draft of my next short story in the YODA series on DAOs, and now I’m heading off for a weekend getaway with friends, but I wanted to share these thoughts before I unplug and recharge.
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Glad your note taking system is working for you and really that’s all that matters. Enjoy your weekend away with friends