Don't Let Your Ideas Get Lost In the Ice

Tool talk and a story teardown

The first time I set foot in another country I was 20 and had a blue pocket notebook in hand.

It was May 10th, 2000, and I wrote:

St. Columba’s church, Yeats’ grave, high 50’s, sunny, blue-skied, cloudless and windy morning.

I was on a college trip to Ireland and the UK, and would go on to spend much of my twenties broke from funding three more trips to Ireland.

Each one with a pocket notebook.

They were where my ideas went to die.

Because I:

  1. had no writing practice.

  2. had no idea system.

Looking back through them now is like peering through thick glass. Sometimes I can make out a memory, but mostly it’s just vague shapes and colors.

It makes me sad.

And when it’s harder to make myself write, I think how my notebooks are like glaciers: how, every now and again something melts out of them, but most of it’s lost in time.

It reminds me to keep going. And build better systems.

  • Learned: Tool talk: Notion, Roam, & Readwise

  • Loved: Viking creativity, found in the ice

  • Curious: Writing retrospective

Let’s talk tools.

It’s been a slow walk, but after months with the first two here, my whole outlook is changing. More ideas, better ideas. The third is a recent addition.

[Note: no affiliate links]

Notion - you’ve surely heard of this one. If not, it’s for knowledge management and general organization. I use it mostly for the latter.

Whether it’s groceries, ChatGPT prompts, book lists, or a growing database of Medium stories, Notion is a tool I’ve grown into—and that I’ll probably never outgrow.

If you’re new to it, absolutely check out Thomas Frank (his templates AND his videos) to get started.

Roam - a serendipity system designed to help you capture and connect ideas.

Bit of a learning curve and it’s not intuitive, but once you get started it’s an incredible idea bank to grow with. I’m about 90 days in. More detail here.

Readwise - I was drowning in Kindle highlights, and someone recommended Readwise. Now I can organize and sort—and import content from Twitter and Medium, too.

I’m only a week or so into it, and am encouraged by the potential. Turns out you can DM tweets to Readwise too. It’ll take some time to go through everything, but this definitely solves some pain points.

Here’s a partial list of what you can connect and import from:

What was the world like when the person who made these stitches stitched them?

This tweet about a cloth fragment found in the ice in Norway got me thinking about the creative process. Because, so often, we’re stitching pieces.

Fitting old ideas together in new ways.

The purpose of tools and systems is to help find the right pieces to stitch together, in the right ways.

Otherwise, our ideas get frozen in time.

Do you ever go back to your old writing?

I never used to, but writing online is teaching me differently.

Going from long-form on Medium to a different style on Twitter forces me to learn how to write better and for more impact.

But that’s not the best reason for re-reading old work.

The best reason is to understand the writing itself: what worked, what I’d do differently. Doing this deconstruction was great storytelling practice, and definitely something to do again.

🧠 and ❤️


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