Note Taking for Developing Thought

New note-taking apps seem to be appearing by the minute. For example, David Sparks turned me on to Craft in his post Looking at Obsidian and the Craft app. I’ve played around with it a bit and find it to be quite enjoyable. It has a smooth backlink system, a modular block approach to doing work and more. For many people, it could work nicely.

I’ve written about Obsidian and Roam Research and there are certainly many more. Meanwhile, making a decision between them, continues to be a struggle for many I’m sure. Each one has its own bells and whistles, and none of them does everything.

There at least a few important considerations in note-taking. The first seem to be the focus on most agendas:

  • Are you able to write your ideas easily?
  • Are you able to easily get your ideas, when and where they would be useful to you?

But maybe most importantly is:

  • Can it help you think?

This is where your ability to structure your notes is important. This is where it is not just about writing stuff down and, “Can I get to it from my iPhone” comes in.

We transfer ideas onto some medium, digital or analog, to not only set our thoughts aside. We set them down so we can see them side by side. This helps us consider them because we don’t have to fear losing the ideas if we stop thinking about them. We can pick one up, then the other, and go back and forth however we want.

As an example, I was reading about a particular branch of psychoanalytic thinking. I had written about it a year ago. While reading about it now, I readily found my previous note and connected it to what I was writing about now. I saw that what I thought then and now were two very different approaches.

I asked myself, how can these both be true? And that is where I began to come up with answers for myself. Rather than go searching for an answer, which can be helpful too, I began to think.

And because I was thinking about it, coming up with my own answers, those answers are much better integrated within myself as a person and, therefore, much more available when I am sitting with a client. Rather than have to say, “wait a second, I read about this once. Let me go look it up,” I have a more meaningful connection with the ideas involved, and can subtly or overtly work with the concepts as I see fit.

It can be both lazier, and perhaps paradoxically, more difficult to just memorize what two authors have to say rather than come up with your own integration. However, I find that my own integration helps me to act with greater mastery in the moment, while sitting with a patient or otherwise.

What’s interesting is that part of the force that makes this happen is not just my interests, though that is certainly there. There is also my interest in maintaining the integrity of the system. I want to at least acknowledge a conflict when ideas clash with each other. When things conflict, I can write a new note and have an easy way to link it to the inspiring notes.

The whole set up gives me clear prompts to explore, when I want to.

So more than the bells and whistles, ask yourself which app feels useful to you. Which one helps you get to what you want? Which one do you feel inspired to write in? Which one feels enjoyable to write in? Which one feels like the initial seeds of a system can be enjoyable to maintain?

Because that is what will prompt you to do the real work.

Recent Posts