Thinking With Words

Mon 28 December 2015 by yaniv

I want to capture more thoughts in text. I have lots of ideas and thoughts lately, but I forget most of them, let alone follow up or act on them.

Well, I've started moving at that direction - a year ago I wrote nothing; now I write something almost everyday, even if most of what I write isn't being published, and at best added to my growing draft section.

Anyway, I built an infrastructure that enables me to think-write efficiently. I leaned touch-typing, so now I can, potentially, disconnect my hands from my conscious side of the brain, and let my thoughts transcribe themselves directly into text. I still type slower than I think, and that will probably always be the case, but I can already let my thoughts flow with less friction.

I also surrounded myself with editors and tools that are there for me whenever a new thought emerges, so I can quickly log it. Here's a short list of those tools:

  1. Emacs - this is the main editor I use on my laptop. I still have to make some tweaks so I can start a new note from anywhere (and not only from within Emacs).
  2. Drafts - I use it on my iPhone to quickly jot notes on the fly.
  3. Editorial - a richer iOS editor. I use it to edit existing documents, though I rarely actually do it (edit existing files on my phone, I mean).

One set of tools that is missing from that list is, well, pen and paper... Regardless of how many editors I have at my disposable, I still miss the immediacy and flexibility of a simple notebook that takes whatever I throw on it, without having to think about format, syntax or styling. If I want to sketch something, I should be able to just take a pen and draw it. If I want to create a quick chart, I don't want to start looking for the right tool for the exact type of chart I want to illustrate. For some reason though, I can't find a way to incorporate pen and paper in my writing workflow.

But that's not the only reason why I still don't have an efficient way to capture my thoughts[^1]. I also lack self-discipline. I don't insist on capturing things - too often, when an idea comes up, I tell myself that I should log it and expand on it late. That later never comes... This post, on the other hand, is an example for how I should do it. I started to think about why I don't capture more thoughts, and insisted on writing this thought live, as it happens. Not sure if anyone but myself can read the outcome or find something valuable in it, but it's a start.

Now I need to train myself to do it more often, and get better in it, for two main reasons:

  1. To be able to capture things, I should avoid creating a backlog of half baked scribbles. The more partial thoughts that I accumulate, the higher the chance that I will never get back to them.
  2. When I do capture a thought, let my sub-conscious lead the writing, and edit what I came up with later, I tend to screw up that outcome. My thought is being mutilated by my conscious self to the point it makes no sense anymore, and. If I get better at capturing a thought as it appears, I will need less post-processing, and the thought will remain fresh and true to its original meaning.

So, to summarize, what I want to be able to do is capture a meaningful thought when it shows. The write up should be legible. It can take any form, and be in any format - digital or analog.

The KPI I can monitor to measure progress is the time it takes from a "meaningful thought" to a published post. It means that I should capture the time when a thought or an idea emerged (12/28/15 9:05am for this one), and the time it went live (in this case - 10:50am, which is probably a record!)

[1]: Obviously, I don't intend to capture every thought that pops randomly, only those that are "capture worthy".