43 Folders

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”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Anne Lamott on index cards

Lots of people had been suggesting I read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (subtitled “Some Instructions on Writing and Life”) becaues she mentions how much she loves and relies on index cards for more than just composition.

In casting about for more information, I Googled across this wonderful quote, courtesy of Orange Crate Art:

I have index cards and pens all over the house—by the bed, in the bathroom, in the kitchen, by the phones, and I have them in the glove compartment of my car. I carry one with me in my back pocket when I take my dog for a walk. In fact, I carry it folded lengthwise, if you need to know, so that, God forbid, I won’t look bulky. You may want to consider doing the same. I don’t even know you, but I bet you have enough on your mind without having to worry about whether or not you look bulky. So whenever I am leaving the house without my purse—in which there are actual notepads, let alone index cards—I fold an index card lengthwise in half, stick it in my back pocket along with a pen, and head out, knowing that if I have an idea, or see something lovely or strange or for any reason worth remembering, I will be able to jot down a couple of words to remind me of it. Sometimes, if I overhear or think of an exact line of dialogue or a transition, I write it down verbatim. I stick the card back in my pocket. I might be walking along the salt marsh, or out at Phoenix Lake, or in the express line at Safeway, and suddenly I hear something wonderful that makes me want to smile or snap my fingers—as if it has just come back to me—and I take out my index card and scribble it down.

That, for damn sure, got added to the wiki. I'll also be picking up a copy of Bird by Bird today.

JoshD's picture

I so did not need...

I so did not need another book to read. :) But I'm buying this one, along with The Myth of the Paperless Office. Thanks, Merlin!

Index cards are all about collecting all the random scraps of thought and observation, and doing so on an atomic format, so that you can casually chuck them into the proper piles. It's the living embodiment of the principle that you should never have to do things twice; record it, and if there's a ready bucket, you've captured a tiny atom and put it in a place where it can do some good, later.

I've been doing this for years, but it's only recently that I realized that I was capturing into dead storage; spiral bound notebooks that have so much useless information on them that it takes more effort to extract the good stuff than the good stuff is worth. Thus, the GTD collection bucket, and from there my vast army of tiny folders, manila tabs, magnets, magnetic whiteboards, etc. The C2 Wiki is an incredible resource on index cards. Were I not defying doctor's orders by typing even this much, I would add it to the 43f wiki.

In Danny's Notcon04 lifehacks presentation, he talks about Kent Beck flinging index cards at the Xerox PARC group. "Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!" That image warms my heart.

And now I retreat and pretend I didn't really touch a keyboard....




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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