Thinking by Writing

Conclusions from thinking with zettelkasten, workshop vs library and notation:

  • there's some kind of difference in using language for thinking and for communicating thoughts, be it written or spoken
  • thinking by writing is an example of extended mind notion, where thinking happens partially outside of the brain
  • Andy Matuschak argues that most people don't take evergreen notes - ones that will be relevant in weeks, months, years, and for most people taking notes is just a way to close "open loops", instead of "accumulating insight"

    Evergreen notes are written and organized to evolve, contribute, and accumulate over time, across projects

    — Andy Matuschak -

  • I think there should be some friction to adding new notes, which forces me to re-read and re-think through the material - there's a difference between quick inbox capture, and long-term storage, the friction of migrating from inbox to long-term storage might be a good thing; Tom MacWright has similar intuitions:

    I think there's some notetaking/databasing ideology in which any "friction" between your brain and the notebook is viewed as bad. Which imho is a faulty idea: choosing words and structure in order to represent your thoughts is not a chore, it's part of forming the thoughts

    — Tom MacWright -

  • thinking about this makes sense, if it improves some other thing - notes should serve a purpose after all
    • coincidentally thinking about thinking, without having something to think of is impossible
  • keeping in mind thinking by writing ideas, canvas for thinking should probably be a very personal thing
  • thinking by writing makes it easy to think, as there's very small latency to putting things on paper / in text buffer - you don't think about the tool/medium, you think thoughts and use the tools to put them in writing
  • tools like writing allow for growing ideas over long periods of time (if deliberately used to do so)
Szymon Kaliski © 2020