Writing is all about information, getting it, understanding it, communicating it to others.
How do you get your information? And how to you record it so that you can find it later?
My own scenario often goes like this: I come across a juicy piece of info I want to keep, remember and find later. My favorite mode is eclectic, gathering it from wherever. But when saving it, I often take the easy route: I put it in a Word file and save in in a folder on my hard-drive. I have a large hard-drive, so If I don’t name the file and/or folder in a findable way, it can be like figuring my way through a maze later to re-locate it.
That can really knock me out of my writing zone—especially if I can’t find that info after looking for it for a while.
Back to you.
You’re coming across information all the time, some of it you want or even need. What do you do with it? Can you find it next week, two months from now, a year?
Even though I often yield to the temptation to just chuck it into a file and save it, I do like to organize it. So what are the options? And what’s good about each?
Here are my thoughts–along with the pros and cons for each:
1. Save it in a file
Pro: This makes the info available and easy to clipboard and manipulate here and there when writing, or otherwise. It’s usually nicely readable too.
Con: But, as I mentioned above, can I find it quickly and easily later? Sometimes, too, it’s all-too-easy to delete it when that’s the last thing I want to do.
2. 3 x 5” cards (or a notepad)
Pro: No batteries. Easy to carry, quick and easy to use. Later, cards can be shuffled easily into different arrangements to choose the best order for writing. And they can be physically filed. In fact, they are electronically undelete-able.
Con: If you like things in your computer so that you can work with them there, you have to type the cards into files. Also, you can misplace or lose them. And, if you’re in a hurry and/or your handwriting is poor (like mine), they can be hard to read after the fact.
3. Use a “notes” program, like Evernote or Microsoft’s OneNote or similar.
Pro: These programs have indexing and notetab features that make your info pieces much more findable.
Con: It can be either hard to take them with you or at times, when you can, you do not have them with you.
4. Your smart phone.
Pro: Easy to carry, and you usually have it with you. Your notes are downloadable.
Con: Unless you’re a texting whiz (I’m certainly not), recording your inspirations can be slow going.
5. TheBrain–now this is different…
.Pro: It not only can help you organize your thoughts in an organic-outlining fashion, it’s one of the easiest to learn and use brainstorming programs I’ve found. You can record your ideas, then copy them and next output them via your clipboard into Word, for example, where they wind up in a neat outline format, then further develop them–if you want.
Another key feature is that ability to attach files from your computer and links from the Web–to any thought (a “thought” is an individual idea written onto TheBrain screen). This creates a little icon at the left end of the thought. Then merely clicking on the thought’s icon opens the file or webpage in its own window.
A couple cons: (1) the notes feature is a bit awkward to use (but works), and you can open any note in its own window. (2) And, to keep attaching files after the 30-day pro-version trial period, you have to buy the pro-version (there are several options for this), which is rather expensive.
But here’s some key info:
If you use DropBox to store you most-used files, you can go online to your DropBox account and drag and drop files/folders (their URLs) onto a thought on TheBrain screen. They are then clickable just like a weblink. (You can continue attaching weblinks even on the free version, which you get to keep).
I love my “TheBrain.” I get to keep the free version, which is quite powerful, forever. I downloaded one to my laptop too. I use it for brainstorming scenes, recording webinar notes on the fly, and noting down my ideas and developing them. ALSO, it’s become an updated index to my hard drive, at least for the files I use most often.
I’ll leave the many other features (including in the free version) for you to discover if you download it. What the heck–it’s free! And it’s handy software to have. (You can get it free at www.thebrain.com.)
So those are some of my ideas on organizing information.
Do you have any ideas to can add?