What do you do with all the Information?

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?

 

 

6 thoughts on “What do you do with all the Information?

  1. Corianne

    I like good old-fashioned notepads (Moleskines are my favourite – they last well through wear and tear, have nice backpocket, the elastic around the notebook, pageholder, not to mention all the fancy colours and sizes and lined/squared pages they are available in!). I like pen and paper, because there are no restrictions as to how you are writing something down (or drawing something, making arrows, whatever is necessary! [though this is of course entirely dependent on your drawing skills]).

    I tried using Microsoft OneNote to save information I liked, but it just didn’t work for me. Nowadays I have a gigantic load of bookmarks in my browser with interesting/useful information but that does not adhere to something specific. The danger there is that webpages might change/disappear of course over time.

    If the information relates to a specific project, I usually have a folder in the project folder that says “Bibliography/Sources/Background info”. In these folders you can save all kinds of files, and because it is in the same folder as the rest of your project, it is easily retrievable.

    Reply
  2. Corianne

    I like good old-fashioned notepads (Moleskines are my favourite – they last well through wear and tear, have nice backpocket, the elastic around the notebook, pageholder, not to mention all the fancy colours and sizes and lined/squared pages they are available in!). I like pen and paper, because there are no restrictions as to how you are writing something down (or drawing something, making arrows, whatever is necessary! [though this is of course entirely dependent on your drawing skills]).

    I tried using Microsoft OneNote to save information I liked, but it just didn’t work for me. Nowadays I have a gigantic load of bookmarks in my browser with interesting/useful information but that does not adhere to something specific. The danger there is that webpages might change/disappear of course over time.

    If the information relates to a specific project, I usually have a folder in the project folder that says “Bibliography/Sources/Background info”. In these folders you can save all kinds of files, and because it is in the same folder as the rest of your project, it is easily retrievable.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hi Corianne,
      Thanks for replying both times–and so quickly!
      I have filled several Moleskines and love the covers, not so much the paper.
      I have found s notebook almost identical to the Moleskine but with much better paper. They are called Rhodia. They are especially fountain pen friendly–I use fountain pens a lot, as well as Pitt Pens, roller ball/gel, and pencil.

      I like the reporter style best (bound on the short side), but it does bend a little more in my hip pocket (by sitting on it) that the other style.

      The Rhodia is a bit more expensive. For a 3.5×5.5 Webbook at Goulet Pens, here: http://www.gouletpens.com/Black_Dot_Grid_Small_Rhodia_Webnotepad_p/r118339.htm the cost is $15.70, but at Amazon a comparable Moleskine is $11.14.
      Bujt the paper in the Rhodia is Clairefontaine from France, and there is virtual not bleedthrough or ghosting.

      Reply
      1. Corianne

        The Rhodia looks nice as well! I’ll keep an eye out for those. At the moment I have too many empty notebooks lying around so I’ve banned myself from buying any new ones at the moment.

        Reply
  3. Maria Smith (@mariaAsmith)

    Oh dear! I’m not very organised I’m afraid. I have notebooks, but can never find what I’m looking for very easily. I do use Notes, on my IPhone, and I find its good if you want to mail stuff back to yourself.

    I also like taking pictures on the phone, I usually mail them back to myself with a few details written in the body of the e mail. Then it all goes horribly wrong, and I’m left with a massive pile of emails to file and sort out!

    I don’t have any useful tips other than, perhaps we all ought to spend an hour a month clearing information out that we no longer need?

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Thanks Maria,
      Now there’s something I should do, that monthly purge. I tend to keep everything. And sometimes when I don’t feel like writing, as in procrastinating, I organize it!

      Reply

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