As the research for the boat book began to pile up — goodness, especially the things in the “need to read” queue — and I felt the urge, or need, to begin writing, I felt I needed to revisit my “workflow”, workflow here being “how I do what I do.” One of the conclusions I came to, comparing how I did things ten or fifteen years ago with how I am doing them now was that I got a lot accomplished using paper. Perhaps more than I am getting accomplished digitally, which makes no sense because digital notes are a lot more searchable. What’s the problem? I wondered. I think it all comes down to interface. I really like working with paper. I like pens, pencils, and paper. I like working on my Mac, but I haven’t found the interface that works the way I do.
Here’s how I understand my process:
- Inputs are all the materials that I collect: books, articles, tear sheets, field notes. These are raw.
- Intermediate forms are summaries, quotations, and responses to topics and arguments found in the texts above.
- Output takes the form of chapters in a book (in the current moment.)
As the materials travel through their transformation from raw, unprocessed texts into useful summaries or quotations, they need to have, at the very least, be tagged with citation information. Other tags — by topic, area, etc. — would be useful, too.
A number of folks I know are very fond of DevonThink, and DT2 promises to have tags, which might make it useful for me. I can almost see the interface and the data structure that would work for me, but I do not have the time, at the moment, to hammer it out. (I would need not only the time to code such a thing but to learn how to code.)