Getting Shit Done Learning Writing

A note-gathering and idea-making process

Anna Havron gives tips on managing your note-taking and calls out:

The magic is in the fact that writing is a transit system, which transports little electrical sparks in your synapses into things that affect shared reality.

Keeping a focus on what purpose a note serves — logistical, inspirational — can help you discard less useful information:

Be picky about what goes into your systems.

I have several paper notebooks I just scribble down ideas in. Each day I look them over for actionable notes, and scoop those out. Otherwise, when they are full, I scan them over, and only a few more notes get entered into my systems.

(My poor digital gathering practices means this article’s been open in my tabs for six+ weeks 🤦‍♀️ The actionable bit is the sticking point for me: I leave tabs open as a reminder because I don’t trust my systems or backlog.)


Cory Doctorow enumerates his blogging process and how he uses his blog as a digital garden:

Far from competing with my “serious” writing time, blogging has enabled me to write an objectively large quantity of well-regarded, commercially and critically successful prose…

The genius of the blog was not in the note-taking, it was in the publishing. The act of making your log-file public requires a rigor that keeping personal notes does not. Writing for a notional audience — particularly an audience of strangers — demands a comprehensive account that I rarely muster when I’m taking notes for myself.

Every now and again, a few of these fragments will stick to each other and nucleate, crystallizing a substantial, synthetic analysis out of all of those bits and pieces I’ve salted into that solution of potential sources of inspiration.

I love thinking of information as a nucleation site.

In the (my) blogging method, the writer blogs about everything that seems interesting, until a subject gels out of all of those disparate, short pieces.


Matthias Ott elaborating on Doctorow’s piece:

[Rick Rubin’s] approach is to not limit his input at all, meaning that he curiously allows to enter his mind whatever draws his attention, regardless of whether it might seem relevant or “useless” in his current situation. There is no such thing as useless information, because you never know which new ideas will emerge as a synthesis of all the individual fragments of creative input you were exposed to in the past.

(I bailed on The Creative Act because I didn’t like the way he framed his ideas around “Source” but I keep encountering interesting thoughts gathered by others who persevered 😂)

The thing is: This process isn’t a science. The only thing we can do is to be curious, keep a record of the things we deem to be significant, and constantly look for clues pointing to new ideas, for fragments of thought suddenly turning into something bigger.

See also: Foraging for insights

Discerning the value of note-taking

Culture Featured Technology

Culture companies have forgotten how culture works

Hollywood executives have detached cultural works from cultural meaning, losing sight of the anchor of their business. They’re currently chasing the enshittification cycle down, down, down, dreaming that AI will allow them to cut all their costs (people) while pocketing even more profit because they’ll be able to produce endless “good enough” content.

Ed Zitron writes:

It’s somewhat cliché, but Hollywood is not concerned about creating interesting, or good, or unique content, but more content that can be used to make more things that can be used to make more profit to increase the stock price. It’s not about whether something’s good, or new, but whether or not it is marketable and “good enough” for consumers…

As Tim Carmody highlights, studios are barely entertainment companies anymore as they move into streaming, with the entertainment they make merely the hook for their real profit-centers. They make culture, but they value culture only insofar as it makes them money. The end game they envision is generating content for next to nothing; with an endless supply of content, everyone will find something good enough to watch, letting them maintain a vast customer base.

Towards that future, studios are self-cannibalizing their own industry by destroying career development for writers. They don’t value storytelling or recognize script-writing as a craft needing industry knowledge. As Dave Karpf writes, studios will satisfice their processes and products using AI if they can get away with it, accepting mediocre scripts as the price of profitability.


Personal Growth Relationships

Living through loneliness

Liked Loneliness by James G (

I felt like I needed to protect myself from what other people might think about me.

I tried to read people’s minds, as if I could know what they were thinking. What did they think of me? Was I interesting? Did they like talking with me? I knew, intellectually, this was impossible. By that time, the pattern was etched in my mind.

I asked myself a lot of questions. What if people were looking at me? What if I said the wrong thing?

There’s so much in this essay that I relate to! I’ve been lonely a lot of my life, and tried for many years to compensate with self-sufficiency. I refused to let having no one to go with stop me; I went to concerts alone, I hiked alone. But concerts aren’t that fun on your own, and hiking alone has its risks.

About ten years ago, I’d finally had enough of not having friends nearby and was determined to make them. I built a group of friends around writing, which ultimately broke apart a couple years ago. In the time since, I’ve discussed what went wrong with the friends I kept individually, and grown much closer to them as a result of honest conversation.


Read In.

Read In. by Will McPhail

Nick, a young illustrator, can’t shake the feeling that there is some hidden realm of human interaction beyond his reach. He haunts lookalike fussy, silly, coffee shops, listens to old Joni Mitchell albums too loudly, and stares at his navel in the hope that he will find it in there. But it isn’t until he learns to speak from the heart that he begins to find authentic human connections and is let in—to the worlds of the people he meets. Nick’s journey occurs alongside the beginnings of a relationship with Wren, a wry, spirited oncologist at a nearby hospital, whose work and life becomes painfully tangled with Nick’s.

Illustrated in both color and black-and-white in McPhail’s instantly recognizable style, In elevates the graphic novel genre; it captures his trademark humor and compassion with a semi-autobiographical tale that is equal parts hilarious and heart-wrenching—uncannily appropriate for our isolated times.

Too literary for me — I didn’t really get several of the colored passages representing when Nick makes a real emotional connection. Some of them felt like dream (nightmare) sequences, others were clearly meant to convey actual continuing conversation. Especially the ending, I wasn’t clear on and would have appreciated another explanatory sequence because the way I’m interpreting it doesn’t really make sense.

He seemed to think his only challenge was playacting his life when to me his emotional detachment and ennui reads as depression.

The artwork is great. The expressions are eloquent and the frequent bug-eyes Nick makes are entertaining. The black and white outline artwork used for most of the work contrasts effectively with the color segments — I just would have appreciated slightly less metaphorical for some of them.


Reading well

Bookmarked The myth of the myth of the well read person by Dwarkesh Patel (The Lunar Society)

But to understand something is not to know random minutiae about it – to understand is to know how the parts compose the whole, to notice patterns and discern their causes, and to be able to make predictions on the basis of these insights. In that sense, understanding is precisely what the weighty small print books fail to provide and what books advancing or attacking an explanatory theory are supplying.

A more non-fiction focused version of “read a lot“.

His suggestion for reading:

Instead of reading mid-wit pop-sci books which just offer vague metaphors or irrelevant anecdotes, read books that are either pure fun (fantasy, sci-fi, manga, etc), or actual hardcore science (textbooks and review papers.

And take steps to cement your learning:

Do things which force you to absorb the main ideas from books, like writing reviews or organizing discussions. And if that doesn’t work, it is still better to learn what little you can…

I like the approach of aiming for big picture understanding rather than trying to learn one new subject deeply. (Though I also like the idea of T-shaped knowledge: broad, with one deep specialization.

See also: Slava Akhmechet’s reading in clusters approach

I agree that we don’t always get as much out of books as we could, but don’t think blaming the reader’s intelligence is fair:

If intelligence is the ability to understand complex ideas, to notice patterns and make inferences, and to build connections between new information and existing knowledge, then it’s no surprise that dull people don’t get that much out of reading a lot.

Not learning much from reading seems more rooted in not being taught how to make connections, think big picture, and draw lessons from a text. Learning to do this is a skill, not an innate talent based on your intelligence. It also requires a starting base of knowledge because you need context to truly understand things and see connections at a grand scale, which many people are lacking.

(Though I will admit there are some things I read that I can tell are going completely over my head 😥 It’s like hitting a mental wall of understanding I know I need to climb 😂)

Society The Internet Websites

Overcoming the societal expectations making it hard for women to leave social media

Replied to The luxury of opting out of digital noise by Vicki Boykis (★ Vicki Boykis ★)

Facebook, for better or worse, is still the platform where social events are planned. Where parent groups exchange information. Where family pictures are shared and discussed. To willingly walk away from Facebook and all of its needy notifications is to experience both immense relief and complete ostracism.

And yet, many men I know personally, and online, have been able to walk away from Facebook entirely.

As I’ve struggled with my own balance of this…what I’ve realized…is that women have been distinctly asked [to] shoulder the burden of this specific digital noise.

I’d be much more interested in reading Cal Newport’s wife’s book about how she unplugged.

Ha! This is basically how I feel about Cal Newport. And I don’t even have kids 😂

This article was making me think more about why women aren’t as involved in the IndieWeb, and how to get more women involved. From the standpoint that a lot of mom duties are reliant on social media, seems like your best bet is to focus more on women who aren’t mothers – probably women in college and in their twenties.

What’s the value proposition of a personal website for that age group? I don’t know a lot of younger people so I’m not sure how things have changed since I was in college (yikes fifteen years ago), when every artist had their own portfolio website so it felt like you needed one too if you were in art or design. Now you can just run an Instagram, or set up a Behance portfolio or probably some other cooler website. After graduating, I blogged my internship so I’d have something fresh online if anyone looked me up. Today people have LinkedIn to put themselves out there for hiring. (I obviously still think it’s valuable to have your own site under your control, but I’m not 24 😁)

I think deeper connection is the answer here. When you graduate college, you and your friends go your separate ways. Facebook and Instagram give you the semblance of staying connected but without the frequent interaction of college you drift apart – and making new friends is much harder after college. So a better way to stay in touch and communicate could be compelling, especially to a savvy group aware of the damage social media can cause to young women.

Or, you go all in on the mommy blogger / lifestyle blogger scene and try to get everyone hooked up with webmentions to port the whole community over to a new system. For example, Emily Henderson’s blog still gets (lots of) rich threaded comments. The challenge there is that people congregate around the main blog, and probably a lot of commenters don’t have websites of their own. Do people commenting see a value to having their own website when they’re maintaining a community well enough through the comments on someone else’s blog? Community alone probably isn’t enough of a selling point.

Plus, what’s the value to Emily Henderson’s business in supporting webmentions and promoting her followers joining the IndieWeb and using its tools? (Besides the goodness of her heart and wanting to support an alternative system.) More lifestyle bloggers is more competition.

Another place I see lots of women is cooking blogs – just look at the invaluable comment section on Smitten Kitchen where each recipe has dozens of people who’ve shared the changes they made to the recipe, how it turned out, and what they’d change next time. That style of commenting realistically works better for webmentions than more threaded replies – and is a more demonstrably useful reason to have your own blog, so all your recipe notes are in one spot on your own blog as well as on displayed as a webmention on the original website 🤔 Yeah, cooking blogs seem like an audience who could benefit from the IndieWeb.

Relationships Websites

Connecting with other readers through our websites

Replied to IndieWeb Pop-Up: Personal Libraries (

Personal Libraries is a IndieWebCamp Pop-ups 2022 session focused on the design and use of personal websites with relation to displaying one’s books online, status updates about reading, and generally talking about books in a Goodreads-like social media manner.

When we log reads and write reviews on our personal websites instead of silos, how can we meet others who’ve read the same books and find out what books our network is reading?

Notes and thoughts from the IndieWeb Pop-Up “Personal Libraries”


Read We Should Get Together

Read We Should Get Together by Kat Vellos

Have you recently moved to a new city and are struggling to make friends?
Do you find yourself constantly making plans with friends that fall through?
Are you more likely to see your friends’ social media posts than their faces?

You aren’t alone! Millions of adults struggle with an uncomfortable and persistent ache: platonic longing, which is the unfulfilled wish for authentic, resilient, close friendships. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Making and maintaining friendships during adulthood can be hard—or, with a bit of intention and creativity, joyful.

Author Kat Vellos, experience designer and founder of Better Than Small Talk, shares the best tools to overcome the four most common challenges to adult friendships: constant relocation, full schedules, the demands of partnership and family, and our culture’s declining capacity for compassion and intimacy in the age of social media. Combining expert research and personal stories pulled from hundreds of interviews with a diverse group of adults, We Should Get Together is the modern handbook for making and maintaining stronger friendships.

With this book you will learn to:
• Have deeper and more meaningful conversations
• Conquer awkwardness in social situations
• Become less dependent on your phone
• Identify and prioritize quality connections
• Balance friendship and everyday obligations
• Create closer, more durable friendships

Full of charming illustrations, relatable stories, and practical tips, We Should Get Together is the perfect gift for anyone who wants to have dedicated, life-enriching friends, and who wants to be that kind of friend, too.

A fitting follow-up to read after Seek You‘s discussion of American loneliness.

Different from but complementary to Frientimacy, with some overlap but more of a focus on looking inward at your own blockers to spending time with people and getting to know people on a deeper level. Probably more similar to The Art of Showing Up.

Her four “seeds of connection” for making (and keeping) friends are:

  • compatibility
  • frequency
  • commitment
  • proximity
Comics History Relationships Society

Read Seek You

Read Seek You by Kristen Radke

There is a silent epidemic in America: loneliness. Shameful to talk about and often misunderstood, loneliness is everywhere, from the most major of metropolises to the smallest of towns.

In Seek You, Kristen Radtke’s wide-ranging exploration of our inner lives and public selves, Radtke digs into the ways in which we attempt to feel closer to one another, and the distance that remains. Through the lenses of gender and violence, technology and art, Radtke ushers us through a history of loneliness and longing, and shares what feels impossible to share.

Ranging from the invention of the laugh-track to the rise of Instagram, the bootstrap-pulling cowboy to the brutal experiments of Harry Harlow, Radtke investigates why we engage with each other, and what we risk when we turn away. With her distinctive, emotionally charged drawings and deeply empathetic prose, Kristen Radtke masterfully shines a light on some of our most vulnerable and sublime moments, and asks how we might keep the spaces between us from splitting entirely.

A bit of memoir mixed in with history and analysis, this is the kind of non-fiction book I like best: synthesizing and humanizing the subject, elevating it with visual symbolism, and honing in on the essential because of the length restrictions of the graphic novel format. Especially appreciated the section on the cowboy idol and American toxic independence. The chapter on monkey research was hard to read because the experiments are so upsetting, though she illustrates it compassionately.

She uses a color palette suited to the melancholy of loneliness: gray-blues, muted purple, beige, and an orange that in the context of the book reminds me of a streetlight or passing cars through the window at night. A variety of visual metaphors conveys concepts along with thematic and autobiographical illustrations. Shadows fall heavy on faces with dramatic lighting, and the line work is fine and precise, summoning the sterility and disaffection of Chris Ware or Adrian Tomine. In short, the mood suits the work well.

Loneliness influences the expression of our genes – and lonely people are more likely to die and get sick (also rad drawing of an octopus)

Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism: loneliness is “the common ground for terror”

Loneliness is contagious

Fun Relationships

Reading together

Liked Reading Together (

What it is to discover that you’re currently reading the same book as someone else – Kate Briggs

I almost never read along with anyone else anymore. When I was a kid my mom read aloud to my sister and I, and we’d do books on tape on road trips. I’ve realized I don’t follow along that well just listening to someone else read, and I get impatient that I could read by myself faster, so as an adult I wouldn’t be interested in that format – but there is something delightful about reading the same book at the same time as someone else. It’s somewhat deflating when you read something great and don’t have anyone to gush about it to. Maybe I should see if my sister wants to read the same book at the same time 🤔