Carlos De la Guardia

Writing helps me think, and I’ve long used Evernote to record all of my ideas. After a while, though, I realized I never read any of my notes after writing them. That seemed like a waste, given there were some good ideas buried in those notes. Perhaps I ought to save fewer notes, and ones that were shorter and better written, and so easier to refer to. I created an app (in Elm) called Thoughtwriter to see what happens when I write more and keep less. Here’s what it does (and doesn’t) do:

Here’s how I use it.

  1. I open it up and start writing when I want to think about anything. Perhaps I’m upset, confused, have a decision to make, or some technical problem to solve.
  2. Then I explore the problem by writing a few hundred words. Perhaps referring to the built-in prompts to get me started or to get me unstuck.
  3. I review what I’ve written, then delete everything not worth keeping.
  4. I record my conclusions by writing just a sentence (or even just a couple words) in Evernote.

By the way, I find the prompts are really useful. Here are some of them:

  1. What are three things I can say about this? Even when you can’t think of solutions, you can usually say a few things about what’s bothering you.

  2. What’s the problem? My thoughts are often vague and fuzzy when I start writing. Clarifying the problem is a great first step that’s surprisingly easy to forget.

  3. Just write a stream of consciousness. When you’re really distracted and confused, just write down all the words that are in your head. Don’t worry about writing in full sentences or even staying on topic.

  4. What are some potential solutions? This is ultimately what you care about, so try to come up with as many solutions as possible, rather than writing aimlessly or focusing too much on one potential solution.

  5. Pretend you’re interviewing yourself. It’s amazing how the words start to flow when you play the role of a journalist or concerned friend, and ask all the obvious questions.

Best wishes for all your thinking and writing!