Mining for Thought: How to create, combine and search for ideas

PKM Nov 14, 2020

My friend, creating is an excruciating activity.

We do so because the reward is worth the struggle: we find pleasure in the act of doing so. We want to see our creations out there. We want the world to see what we’re capable of making. Anything else is mental masturbation.

Naturally, we then dive into the act of thinking, fighting against resistance. In the end, we come out with something valuable. We do this everyday. I don’t see anything calm about that.

Rather than a garden of serenity, I feel it’s closer to a mine, picking at the ores of our thoughts.

So I’ve developed the Thoughtmine: my own personal metaphor of a digital garden.

The Thoughtmine: What is it?

A diagram of the Thoughtmine.

The Thoughtmine is a progressive note taking system that helps you capture, synthesize and create context-specific thought. By making a funnel to capture all our chaotic thoughts, we can organize them into usable pieces. We deconstruct their formats, and pull out only what we observe.

Organisation can come later by a future version of ourselves. We have context switching sections for that.

There are multiple sections to this funnel depending on the level of refinement. But everything starts from chaos. The answer to capturing all of this mess is our ability to initiate rough documentation. From there, we refine it over time.

I talked about this system in my RoamFM conversation with Maggie Appleton:

Here’s the transcript:

Norman Chella: [00:49:56] Yeah. Uh, I am actually going through that right now. So, um, although I don't call my notes seedlings, uh, my, my, shall we say my image or at least my analogy of my garden isn't a garden, but a mine like you would mine ores? Like a, and where you go and take a pickax eand you might ores. So all of my different levels of notes are called ores, which are the messy, you know, disorganized notes of whatever. And once they have, once they have become proper concepts they become alloys.

So alloys are put where they like, like what you said for, I believe for evergreens or for at least the basic level of evergreens. It's maybe one paragraph or something like that. It's more or less stable. Right. And there are different formations of alloys. The alloys will be put on a public garden, hopefully.

And from there I can. Make a skeleton and a skeleton is basically the outline for a piece of content, right? Like a video or an article or whatever. This skeleton can be reused because it's the same outline. I'm just doing it in video format or podcast format or whatever. And from there, it will turn into a weapon and the weapon is basically the piece of content, like an article.

Maggie Appleton: [00:51:11] Oh, interesting. I love, I love that you came up with a different metaphor. That's great.

Norman Chella: [00:51:17] Yeah. Uh, I think it's because I have the. I think it's because the way that I look at it is I look at knowledge workers as blacksmiths of thinking. So the way that they would look at these notes that they  would temper them or they would forge them over time.

So the word tempering is a very personal word to me. Like I even have another show that has the word in it, and it's all about like fiction and stuff, but basically it's on like trying to temper wisdom and trying to mold it into something else. So on the notion of trying to build an ore or build an alloy and then weaponize it because I want to build something that has an intent.

So this article will be about the following  or this video will be about this. So that's, um, that's how I will look at it. Yeah.

The Formula, Inspirations and Sources

Thoughtmine consists of a Commonplace, Zettelkasten, Tagging and Digital Garden elements.

This combines multiple systems:

The Commonplace

I spent years building up my own commonplace after reading [[Ryan Holiday]]’s article back in university.

It’s a box of index cards built up to hold quotes, interesting data, observations and more from all kinds of resources.

The quote by Seneca he used in the post summarizes it very well:

“We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching and the spirited and noble-minded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application–not far far-fetched or archaic expressions or extravagant metaphors and figures of speech–and learn them so well that words become works.”

There was even a section where he would bring his commonplace with him as a last resort if his house was caught in a fire. Though as much as the future proofing of such notes are a concern here, what I want to highlight is the influence of a commonplace on Ryan’s writing practice, having written great books like Ego is the Enemy and Perennial Seller (which is a favorite of mine).

But, it wasn’t enough for me. I needed to internalize the system to justify using it every day of my life. I was just hoarding notes. It felt like an inbox, or archive of notes I was picking in.  The reason why Ryan’s commonplace had a profound impact on him was because he had a specific intention behind it: to write longform pieces. It could be books, it could be an article, or something else. Ryan knows how to turn it into a weapon, and meanwhile, all I wanted was a passing grade. There was no need to go further than that.

Maybe there was a sense of irrelevance there. There were books I picked up on the way and they only made me want to remember something: akin to studying for a test that will never arrive. All this knowledge I have collected will never be applied. That disappointing ending meant I never built the habit of adding more to my commonplace.

There is a lot of friction in doing this physically. I get lost trying to remember the context for these notes. When it’s time to resurface, so much of it is spent rummaging through index cards, checking whether they’re useful or not, and putting it back in the same order. Time spent organizing, not thinking.

And what if I forget? There might have been a hidden index card that would have been useful at one time. Or my crappy memory can fail me, and I rewrite the same note twice on separate index cards (has happened multiple times!).

I paused that system and searched for other tools to add to my kit.

The tagging system came along.

Tagging System

This system is self-explanatory: add a tag, and now your new note is associated with this tag. You can use this to organize everything.

  • Starting a new project? Make a unique tag for that.
  • Want to date your notes? Add a Year, Month and Week tag.

I found this through Evernote, which had a notebook and tagging system. I wasn’t a fan of the notebook system, it was hard to context-switch and reuse notes that were put elsewhere. Hard barriers reduces potential serendipity, though at the time I had no need for such potential. I only wanted to graduate and capture all these uni papers I was reading.

The tagging system is different though. I remembered reading a guide somewhere (it might have been Michael Hyatt) where he emphasized using tags instead of notebooks - so you have a robust tagging system to figure out which tags you want to filter out, and you depend on search to surface up the right ones. This meant having an effective tagging system instead of a notebook system.

It’s powerful, but it can get unwieldy, Especially if you have duplicates, similar-sounding tags, and discarded tags. Your system gets messy quick.

It also doesn’t cater for the different levels of chaos a note can contain. Some can have 5 paragraphs, while others consist of 3 words and one picture. Some notes can have mathematical formulas while others are voice notes. We have to tag them by format, which can lead to human error.

The more tags I have to create to tell myself what this note is, the greater the chances of errors popping up, leading to friction. We need to simplify the tags to control them. Having too many tags on one note locks its context and won’t set the grounds for serendipity. We’ll need a tool to resurface them when needed.

If we can tackle that, we can encourage context-switching, which is important when creating anything. Notes must have the ability to cross over and overlap without losing their initial context. That way, we as knowledge workers stay in the middle, making the connections ourselves.

The world’s work is knowledge, ours is synthesis: that’s where Zettelkasten comes in.

Zettelkasten

In a nutshell: Zettelkasten is the act of keeping a slip box full of atomic notes. Each note contains one idea (hence atomic), and their relevant context. LessWrong has a great article on this.

It’s very close to the Commonplace system, with elements of tagging and  emphasis on smart notes. These are notes that are derived from your own writing, observations and interpretations of the data you obtained.

Rather than directly quoting the insight, you write your interpretation of the piece you read and keep that in your highly threaded box of note goodies.

But, there came a dilemma: as above, I didn’t have this growing purpose for my notes. I was only hoarding, not applying. I wasn’t really satisfied with ways to present my findings. It seemed too rigid, too structured. Blogs have SEO practices, academic papers have layers of reviews to tackle, and my patience is microscopic.

And here we have true, digital fun: the Digital Garden.

The Digital Garden

There is no set definition for a digital garden. That’s the fun part. It can be what you like.

Joel Hooks emphasizes the process, care and craft it takes to get there. Gordon Brander calls it his bag of tricks: patterns, rules-of-thumbs, gimmicks and more.

Your interpretation of what can digital garden can be, works and is accepted!

Here’s Maggie's take on it:

A digital garden is fun because it:

  • Accepts progressive notes: have an incomplete thought? You CAN put it on your garden. It’s up to you what goes on there. We can declare these notes to be incomplete and subject to updates in the future. This means creating a blog that isn’t publish-and-let-go, and more of creating a growing space that people can wander in and out of all the time.
  • Caters for different behaviors: Since digital gardens are malleable, you can mix standard blog formats with notes here and there. For those who prefer longform reading you can direct them to your articles. For those who want short, snappy, interesting insights, the gardens are theirs to explore.
  • Introduces bi-directional thinking: If you have the right tech, you can leave breadcrumbs for each note. Readers can visualize the connections you’ve made. You can provide a narrative unique to yourself that readers can experience as they reach your conclusions.

One thing to note: digital gardens have looser expectations than blogs. It turns out gardeners are very forgiving of each other. Each garden has its own interpretation of notes, information, and ways to access them. Every garden is unique, and it took me a while to realize that.

The uniqueness works because they are subjective manifestations and reflections of their authors. It’s up to them how they determine what goes on the garden or not - it also depends on them what note is considered complete or ‘publishable’. All the more power to digital gardeners, we don’t have to conform to SEO practices and content marketing strategies!

I only have one disagreement: I don’t think of it as a garden. Why does it sound so calm? Serene? Are gardeners at peace when tending to their notes?

Just beautiful seedlings and evergreens; no element of stress and chaos in that analogy. No fireflies glowing and fading into oblivion. No bushfires or mad note-taking. There is only tending.

No no no, it’s a lot more disastrous than that. Gardeners work hard to collect, think and write out their findings. They ponder and wander in search of what captivates them. They seek thought. Once they find something, they MUST write it down. There is blood, sweat and tears hidden in these green hands, and it’s not even green.

My image of a thinker’s mind is a vast, natural mine. We are desperate for the Three I’s: inspiration, insight, and ideas, aka. the golden nuggets of thinking. We find ourselves in a state of constant thinking. Constant articulating. Constant writing. Constant creating. It’s safe to say we are mad.

We walk into said mine looking for riches to discover. So here we are, picking at the jagged stone, cracking the walls of our minds. Here you are, thinking as you’re reading, Absorbing to create something beautiful. Here I am showing you what I’ve found, from the madness in my head.

Because who are we if we don’t create? Our minds are made to eventually strike gold if we keep at it everyday.

Build your thoughtmine: The components

There are 4 main components (and their variants): Ores, Alloys, Skeletons and Weapons. (Side note: I use Roam to think in, but any tool will do!)

Ores

These are the messy chaotic notes that we take in every day: Rough pieces of information found anywhere. It emphasizes speed over clarity, and searchability.

Speed is everything: quick capture, fleeting, you name it. The ability to write it down during its fleeting moments is more important than its validity (which you can check it later).

Because ores are fleeting, we need a way to make it easy to surface again. You can write extra notes under each ore, like a memo, to let you know this is related to an interesting field or topic.

Some criteria:

  • There must be a source, whether internal or external. External is self-explanatory, ranging from blogs to podcasts to videos you watch. Internal sources can range from personal experiences to lingering thoughts you’ve been brewing over time in your head.
  • There must be a provoked thought: These answers prompts like ”What if? Why? How? What about...?”. Every provoked thought is an answer to a question. If you can’t reverse-engineer the thought to get the question, you’re doing this for fun. You’re daydreaming. It’s mental masturbation again.
  • There must be keywords: Do your best to have keywords for each ore. This increases their searchability, which is important when you want to craft your alloys in the next step. You want to nest them under these so it’s easier to work with.

Cherry Sun shares more on this in our RoamFM chat:

Every thought that is a result of context-specific [[Knowledge Synthesis]] or [[Deconstruction]] becomes a piece of ore. Once you refine this over time, it becomes an Alloy.

Alloys

Alloys are refined, ‘complete’ ores. A lingering thought that you’ve had that builds over time, given enough processing, may become a full-fledged alloy.

They have the following criteria:

  1. Intra-context completion: Subjective to the writer, the alloy should be able to stand on its own. If it’s a paragraph or two paragraphs long, it must be concise enough to explain to the reader what is it, how and why it works.
  2. Little jargon used: This helps with multiple field [[Knowledge Synthesis]] in the future. If you pair this criteria with searchable keywords, your alloys become even more useful.
  3. Documented ores: Your ores are the building blocks of your alloys. These ores may be re-used somewhere else. This is useful when you want to deconstruct your alloy first before applying it in a new context or field (an article for another time).

There are multiple types as well. Some common ones include:

  • A combination of multiple ores to become one coherent idea is a Combination Alloy. Promoting synthesis once again, Combination Alloys help lower the borders between two fields. If you want to build your [[Monuments]], this is a great way to do so.
  • A foreign alloy is a concept or idea you’ve learned from an external source that you fully believe in, and want to make it part of your Thoughtmine.

There are advanced ones like Anti-Alloys, but we’ll touch on that another time.

As we build these alloys, you only need two processes: forging and tempering (that is a post for another time).

And now, story time.

Skeletons

The proper definition is a universal outline or structure for any piece of content.

This is a bullet-point narrative: an outline towards an end point. You need the right materials to get there.

By nesting multiple alloys underneath each point in your skeleton, you get a summarized version of the end piece.

Here are the criteria:

  1. There is a beginning, middle, and end: If any of these are missing, we won’t have a narrative.
  2. The point of each section can be summarized in one sentence: As a creator, an overview of what you’re making is useful. The sections don’t have to be written as if they’re headers. You can nest those underneath the skeleton.
  3. The entire point of the content can be ‘understood’ by reading the skeleton: This means ensuring what you’re saying makes sense. Does it flow well? What parts are missing? Which bullet point can be an illustration?

For an advanced creator, you can have different types of skeletons. eg. The Primary Skeleton has the following criteria:

  1. The First One: Whether you’re diving into a new field or going further into your current one, this is the skeleton of a piece that is proof of that journey. It’s the first of many to come.
  2. World-shaking: The skeleton describes a main, defining piece to prove a powerful point. It could be an opinion that goes against the norm, or a unique perspective no one’s ever considered before. But it’s world-shaking, and only you can deliver that.
  3. Modularity: The skeleton’s bullet points are reusable, and can branch off into smaller, secondary skeletons. The relationship between these skeletons emerge: they can refer to each other, and can complement each other’s points well.

A good analogy for this is a tweetstorm: bullet-point summaries of long articles, conversations, and videos. You don’t have to consume the entire piece: the bullet points work as a good-enough summary to convince someone. Sometimes we want more though.

There are overlaps with [[Andy Matuschak]]’s speculative outlines note. In his, Andy emphasizes on potential writing projects stemming from the connection of various notes. That’s the beauty: write your skeletons as if they’re ready to branch off into someplace else.

Once these skeletons are ready, we then create weapons.

Weapons

This one is simple: a weapon is a published piece of content. You can have many types: articles, podcasts, narratives, essays, videos.

Think about it this way: A weapon is an articulated skeleton. It holds the same criteria. The only difference is you have to flesh it out in your chosen format.

That takes multiple editing sessions and other parts of the creation process. This includes adding in illustrations, post-production, getting the right materials, conversations and more.

For advanced users: Primary Skeletons give birth to Epic Weapons. They have a few distinct attributes:

  1. Format reflects time investment: A book. A longform essay. A well-loved podcast. A concise video. Whichever format you choose reflects the hard work you’ve put into creating it.
  2. The narrative contains multiple angles: If this weapon aims to drive home one point, it must take into account the points of others. Either to combat them, question their validity or to strengthen one’s own point, this attribute adds a colorful complexity to the piece. We want to be taken for a wild ride.
  3. Answers multiple questions ahead of time: Related to the above point, the narrative prepares for different kinds of consumers. They may have conflicting opinions, perspectives, or have more questions to put in the comments. They might email you what they think, whether constructive or not. Having these answered beforehand shows ample preparation.

This post is an example of an #[[🏹Epic Weapon]]. I could have split this into multiple #[[⚔Weapon]] posts to keep them separate, but I decided the narrative was worth putting it all in one post.

Remember, these weapons are editable. You can update them.

That’s the beauty of publishing something online: the world can respond back, and you realize the depth of your creations are greater than the limits of your thoughts.

Using the Thoughtmine

We have the types of notes and what they mean. But how do we use them to create this interweaving web of notes that represent us?

Capturing the Chaos

Capture everything you can think of and tag them as ores. Remember, these are forgiving: You can write as little or as much as you want. They are quick, dirty, and unrefined. You don’t have to use all of them immediately or at all. If you come back to them after a few days and find that they’re useless, it’s fine to throw them away. That’s great too.

As long as you keep the source of inspiration for each one, in case your future self may want to flesh it out for further usage.

Embrace modular creation

When creating content, versatility is rewarded.

Create repurposable skeletons. With this, your essay outlines don’t have to stay as outlines. The same outline can be turned into video, podcast, sound bites, snackable copy on social media and even images. Of course, you do have to edit it to fit the medium.

Instead of re-writing the outline to get the same point across, base your content off the primary skeleton and be more efficient in creation.

As Craig Burgess said on AntiFool:

You don't see it. If I say even 10 times, you don't see it. So I've got to say the same thing a hundred times, 200 times, all like Jack Butcher says find a thousand ways, find a thousand ways to say the same thing, because if you only say it once nobody notices it. So the content plus idea is the strategy behind the whole content onion thing.

Create interconnected content over time

We are the constant between our notes. It doesn't matter where the notes come from. The responsibility of capturing, deconstructing, and applying these notes lies on us alone. To a certain extent, anything we create is related to each other in some way.

This is the foundation of interconnected content: your weapons are built on the same alloys you've tempered over time. When figuring out what to create, find a way to connect completed content with each other within your domain.

Create articles, videos, podcasts, etc. continuously, not out of thin air, but through the constant tinkering of your accumulated understanding.

Share concepts with your circle for feedback

There is this growing trend of thinking out loud and building in public, and it does help.

Alloys are the crux of your Thoughtmine. Without them, ores are too rough to use. Skeletons will be empty. Without tested alloys, weapons are brittle and prone to break. People won’t believe you if your opinions are weak. By sharing alloys out in the open, you can test it for validity. Comments from others can see it

These are principles, not rules. Your Thoughtmine is your assistant for thinking and it shouldn’t prevent you from doing.  We know how our minds work and truth be told, we’re not always rigid and linear in terms of our thinking.

Don’t mind the mess, alright :)

Use a Capture and Discover Tag

For the Thoughtmine, you are in two different modes when curating vs creating:

  • Creation: The madness to articulate your internal thoughts
  • Curation: The willingness to absorb the opinions and observations of others.

Have a distinction between these two helps to laser your focus.

Context switching is mentally exhausting. To set ourselves up for deep work in one environment (creating more than curating, hopefully), name your modes and moods.

For curation, decide on a tag representing your want to absorb things from the internet. For myself, it’s [[👀discoveries]]

With every discovery, there is a quick summary of what it is and another tag for the type of content it is. Maybe it’s a video, or an article, or a podcast.

  • Here’s a screenshot:

Unlike the [[👀discoveries]] tag, the #[[🧠Thoughtmine]] tag is fundamental because it threads together what you think about anything. It nests all the things you think about in one place, and later you can dedicate a section to tempering: cleaning out and organizing your ores to make them more succinct.

But all things must have a source. You have to experience something before you start thinking about it.

You are the constant between the synthesis of knowledge between all your experiences and the things you consume. Part of your experiences comes from interacting with the world.

  • What do you consume?
  • What do you listen to?
  • Who do you talk to?
  • What are you reading?

When you start processing these, that’s when we build our Thoughtmine out in interconnected ways. A fast and high-touch method to record your discoveries sets the foundation. There are two criteria:

  • Credited and documented well to credit those whose knowledge you have built upon
  • Future-proof: Record these well so your future self can look back on what you have created and want to dive deep into the same rabbit hole again.

In a nutshell: with every discovery comes a quick summary, a source and proper searchability. We don’t want our findings to get lost.

Capturing books

We can visualize a thoughtmine using a book. Here’s an exercise to try out:

Take any non-fiction book nearby you.

The book itself is an epic weapon. Its table of contents is the skeleton. Each chapter consists of multiple weapons.

Within these weapons there are multiple paragraphs: these paragraphs serve as evidence for trying to bring the point of the chapter home. These paragraphs can be alloys.

And within these alloys, you won’t be able to see them anymore but during the makings of the book, it was chaotic, unedited and not fit for publishing. Those are the ores. They’re already gone, melted into powerful alloys to be used. (It would be fun to see the first draft of a book as a digital garden though!)

A book is a complete weapon, built with an intended skeleton, and made out of the finest of alloys. There is not a single impurity inside.

When reading a book, all ores, alloys and weapons are interpreted for relevance. You have to be careful with tagging anything vaguely interesting.

Even if they are well written, relevance in this case is when you can pull insight from reading that bit.

If you don’t have any insights, thoughts and critical comments from reading them, why bother writing notes? Just read past and move on. It’s one reason why speedreading is really useful: you can run past the fluff and ignore things that don’t help with creating insight.

Insight Value

With so many books being published, we want to read through all of them. But we need to separate the fluff from the useful. Thinking this way is a great filter to determine the value of a book to you as the breadth, depth and integration of insight.

This is one way to measure: you can look at price/insights. Or, you can look at number of involved created work as a result of insights from this piece (A book that garnered you 5 tweets and 1 article is more useful than an article that resulted in 1 facebook post with 3 sentences).

Here's a quick #[[✍Ore]] on [[Insight Value]] from my graph:

When consuming a piece of content, determine its value to your knowledge work by the breadth, depth and integration of your accumulated insights as a result of being in this context.

For book notes: collect, record and track the number of things created for [[Insight Value]] #💡Ideas

Was the book worth it? Did it help me create many things? Most of all, did I enjoy it? Would I send it as a gift to others? These are some of the questions that might come up when reading a book.

An exception would be prose: if the wording delights you, write it down. I do that all the time, and I do break my own rules all the time. It’s what makes note-taking fun and accepting.

Here’s a fun game to play: pick out the table of contents of a book, and write down what you think these headlines might contain. It sets the foundation for your #[[🧠Thoughtmine]] of this book.

I explain it here for Ali Abdaal on RoamFM:

Norman Chella: [01:10:42] Yeah, and this is the same for books. If you think about it, right? The books have a certain structure where it's the title, which is normally the point of the book, the blurb on the back, which is what you can expect, the table of contents, which is like an overview of like what you will read and then the content itself.

If you, and this is something, maybe this is an experiment that you should try, like in your Roam. Um, the next book notes that you're gonna do a summary on, copy the table of contents over and write what you think will go in there

Capturing Podcasts

I’m still working on this one because it’s still iffy. My routine for listening to podcasts means I’m doing something while listening. Having to stop and take notes all the time is cumbersome. I still do it anyway because we must mine for gold regardless.

While listening to podcasts either on Airr, Castbox or on Podchaser, I write notes in Google Keep.

This is a temporary place to store things over time, and the notes that I write relate to timestamps as well as employing ores and smart notes. Later on I’ll process them by transferring them into Roam and fleshing out every note.

But there are 3 ways to build one from this source:

Take audio snippets as notes, and mine notes under them. I use Airr to quote sections so I don’t have to listen to the entire thing as reference.

Pause and write notes as I’m listening to them. This tends to be pen and paper (and later transferred to Roam) or typed away on Google Keep.

Find the transcript to the conversation and write out notes as if it’s an article to be read. This can work provided the transcripts are accurate (inaccurate transcripts lead to messier notes), but it switches your consuming context from listening to reading, and depending on your preference for learning, can be a good experience.

That way, you can prime yourself with questions, prompts and more on what to think about and focus on, the next time you context switch to transcriptions.

Videos

In Roam, it’s a bit easier: you can embed the video in a block and nest timestamps for notes you want to take in

This can be a combination of quotes you heard from the video and nesting your own personalized notes beneath it

As the video plays, write down these notes and see what can come out of it.

Complementary Tools

Descript

Since we’re at home most of the time, my audio setup works well for this. I use Descript for this since it’s what I use for work anyway! There is a good edit mode to clean up the transcripts, as well as a way to publish to audio only to use for later projects. Exploring this for later.

When I’m on the go, I use Otter.ai to transcribe audio recordings on my phone. Hours on the road means my mind can wander while driving, so prop up the phone on a holder and voila! It’s me talking to myself in the car. Oh how mad we can truly be.

Before I had access to these tools, I used Google Docs for voice typing extensively back in uni. It’s actually quite robust for a free product. My Google Drive has a dedicated Voice Typing doc file for capturing words I want to say out loud and later on I copy it over to my notes for cleaning.

Memex Worldbrain

I’m overhauling my reading habits as I keep getting swarmed with articles to read. Before, I used Pocket often to capture them. It’s now become a graveyard of articles I will read, but I’ll get to it later.

What started as an attempt to limit the ‘save-this-article’ habit turned to be the realization that I don’t want to read them. I subconsciously justified to myself that saving them is productive. It’s...sad.

Now I use Memex Worldbrain: which forces me to read it immediately as I see the link. I can employ a high-touch reading habit, take notes on the side and put them into Roam for usage later on. Super useful! It aligns well with my #[[🧠Thoughtmine]]: Save the insight and bring the context over.

As long as I’m using my attention currency well then all is accepted.

What I need to iron out:

Still figuring out the newsletter problem. I’ve subscribed to too many. Stoop is my newsletter reading app of choice, though it’s becoming a graveyard as well. I’ve done an overhaul on my gmail system with filters and all. Will tackle this someday. I think I need to make a forward filter system for my Gmail to send it to Stoop instead. Will do that someday.

Repetition and SRS.  I’m not always in my Roam (surprise!) to do work. At times, it’s a positive, engaging distraction. There are days where I should be mindlessly editing podcasts and releasing them, but instead I procrastinate by writing in Roam. If there’s a way to surface up quick bits of my Roam without me being there that would be fantastic (imagine a query-based daily push out of blocks sent to your email!)

Other forms of capture. I’m in love with tools that have universal search.  Shu Omi’s video of Mymind and the buzz on Twitter around Readwise makes me want to use them in the future. Will consider them for my thinking stack.

Thinking Rationale

Writers are blacksmiths of thoughts.

We spend our days collecting ores, forging alloys, crafting weapons, tempering them, over and over again. All my thoughts are crafted there.

My mind is a forge. A place of focus. Items are crafted and used in the world.

As is part of [[The Being of Writing]], we’re wrestling with our thoughts all the time. We’re trying to achieve calm habitually, so we strive to write them down every day in the hopes of achieving internal serenity.

It’s why writing is meditative. It’s why slowing down, taking in a deep breath and contemplating yourself is calming. We’ve decided our current narratives to be chaotic, messy and therefore strive to go to a calmer place.

Empirically, What that messy and chaotic place is, is much more representative of who we are.

To me, that is a mine. It’s a giant goldmine we are mining every day, picking at the cracks, until we strike gold. But until then, it’s rubble that we throw away, stone that hurts us, and time passing by that our hands bleed from wielding pickaxes. I don’t seek calmness by going to a garden. I crave the euphoria of discovering a powerful thought, and the willingness to share that with my world.

The workers never rest. They pick at the walls with desperation. They cease to give up. Once they slow down, they’ll question their own self-worth.

We thinkers are mad. Our brains are mining like clockwork. They don’t stop, and we tire as a result. Calm is something we hope to achieve, but it’s not calm that can help us but moderation. What we do to temper our thoughts now will be more effective than tricks to slow down what cannot be stopped.

We want our thoughts to be used because they are evidence that we have lived a life worth thinking about.

In the future

Throughout the growth of this site, I’m going to emulate what I do in Roam publicly: posting ores, alloys, notes in progress on this Ghost platform. I might explore a premium graph of this website as well. That is for explorers to get lost in my creations. It’s an adventure I would love to design.

In a nutshell:

  • To understand what I think about, look at my ores.
  • To understand what I believe in, look at my alloys.
  • To understand what matters, look at my skeletons.
  • To understand my narratives, look at my weapons.
  • To understand how I create, look at my system.

I hope this sparks something for you. Tweet at me @normanchella and let me know what you think :) -N

Tags

Norm

Norman Chella is the Podcast Rainmaker, Polymath in Progress and a very strange writer. His creative pen name is N.T. Cloever. You can find his words right here.

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