I mean, where should I have my second brain? A critical question for any who aspire to be a part of the Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) revolution. Critically, how will my PKM interface with my writing workflow? And heavens! Where will I keep the archives - and in what format? Can I really justify analogue elements for planning and journals? It’s 2022 for God’s sake! Pull yourself together man! As for calendars, time-blocking and journaling - COME ON! HOW DIFFICULT CAN IT BE?
RIGHT! Time for change. Out with everything, and in with all the new shiny things. Cue a week of head holding, feet stamping tantrums as I spin in ever decreasing circles, getting less and less done.
A brief peek inside my mind makes for unpleasant viewing. This week I have had a full-blown flounce. I have all the wrong technology, all the wrong applications and the ones that I’m using, I’m using all wrong.
Last night, as Mrs L headed to bed, I opened my MacBook on my lap and began “thinking on a keyboard”.
Stealing from Merlin Mann, who’d borrowed from Silence of the Lambs, “first principles, Clarice.” That’s to say, what do I actually need to do?
“Second Brain! PKM!” My inner-flouncer started squealing. “Draft, edit and publish blog posts” interjected the retired operations manager, who back when God was a baby, used to organise stuff seemingly effortlessly.
Gradually, a framework began to emerge. The foundation stone is simple. My words should exist in accessible folders on my computer. My work should be durable and app-agnostic. I write on my Macs, but it’s nice if I access my words via IOS too.
I wanted to answer three questions.
- Where to write notes
- Where to write blog posts or articles.
- Where to write novels. Or even one. That would be a good start.
Apple Notes, Bear Notes, Drafts, Craft, Evernote, SimpleNote, FS Notes, Agenda, Noteplan…these are just the ones installed on my machines. There are plenty more to choose from.
I had been trying to make Noteplan work for me. I wanted it to plan my days, track my tasks and keep my journal too. It’s great. Except I hated it. I don’t want to open an application to plan my day. I have analogue tools for that - and I use them to distill all my electronic inputs into a cohesive whole. Opening Noteplan felt like another task. One that wasn’t achieving anything. Task manager, journal, calendar, planner and notetaker all in one sounded great, but the reality left me cold. I realised that I need to think more about that - but that today’s problem was NOTES.
Bear is gorgeous. I’d used it way back when, and I love the look. Notes are tied up in a SQL database though. Still accessible, and there’s a good range of export options, including “rtf”, but not as accessible as I would like. Craft is similarly beautiful and hampered. Why did I originally plump for Obsidian?
I read, mostly on kindle, and highlight text that resonates with me. Through a service called Readwise, these highlighted passages end up in Obsidian, which happens to be a powerful notes application that stores data as Markdown files on my hard drive. So, why don’t I like Obsidian? Well, ummm… because it’s ugly. Left side bar, right side bar, tool bar, menu bar, library, editor pane…Oh STOP! This is getting like Microsoft Word. I’m writing notes, not trying to land a 747. Take all this crap away!
It’s not crap. Obsidian is powerful and has all sorts of functionality. It’s unashamedly geeky, and one can add immense power through all manner of bespoke plugins. The problem is me. I just don’t want all that power. Turns out that there are so many plugins, that there are some designed to reduce all the clutter.
Maybe I could use this. I can type away, and glance at the screen without suffering an anxiety attack. So now I have a minimal theme installed, and a Focus Mode plugin to keep me on task.
Ultimately, Obsidian is built on Markdown files on my hard disk, and is so flexible, that it can be customised to suit anyone’s eye. Graph view? Awesome, but I never, ever look at it.
Next - short form writing.
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