I'm forever writing notes. In a notebook, on an index card, on my phone, or in my computer.
"I'm not writing it down to remember it later, I'm writing it down to remember it now" - goes the Field Notes tagline, and it certainly works for me. In many ways, I think on paper. That's why I journal. However, it's simpler than that. Note-making is an attempt to capture the fleeting, to solidify it, make it observable.
Take my journal. Often, I write about something that frustrated me. Even as the ink goes onto the paper, the frustration seeps away, and by the end of the sentence, perspective has grown and the negative feelings are banished. Just observing the feeling exists is enough to make me feel better.
Book ideas. I drove past Kokkina, a Turkish enclave inside the Republic of Cyprus, an anomaly from the the invasion of 1974. Unbidden, my mind starts asking questions. Hundreds of them. Either I can capture these somehow in text, or lose them forever.
Often, writing the notes down only delays the loss. The notebook gets archived, lost or trashed. Document formats change, digital storage evolves and all those ideas melt away.
Nothing lasts forever, and nor should it, I guess. But it would be nice if my novel ideas stuck around for a decade or two; just in case I actually get around to finishing one.
I still write journals, and keep notebooks. Increasingly though, I digitise my notes.
If durability and accessibility are the aim, then the simpler the file format, the better. Plain text files are the best bet. They're tiny, and can be read by multiple applications on multiple platforms.
Friday is my "thinking" day. I try not to have meetings or tasks scheduled on Fridays. I go through my hand written notes of the week, and decide whether any need to be preserved. Most don't, but a few do. I type them in and save them alongside notes taken electronically.
Then - I review all the notes. I may delete or develop them. I begin to categorise them. "What's this about?" "Where does it live?"
I have book quotes, (I highlight things in my Kindle) and I may write beneath a quote what I think about it, why I like it.
I use Obsidian. Could I use something else? For sure. Actually, I could use Text edit or many other text editors. People go crazy about Roam, Craft, and others. I imagine they're all pretty good.
Things that drew me to Obsidian:
- Plain files / Markdown.
- Encrypted sync across my devices.
While I'm going through my notes, links become apparent. In part, I deal with this with good old fashioned folders, but sometimes, links cross folder boundaries - and in Obsidian, links are so easy. Even I can type a few brackets.
Readwise is how I get kindle highlights into my notes. Apparently I could get tweets too - but I must be on the wrong Twitter. There's nothing there that I want to preserve.
The app takes my highlights and re-presents them to me each morning, but also dumps them into Obsidian, where I can consider them and comment on them. This is proving useful for studying too.