Editorium Update

From Editorium:

You can’t do much carpentry with your bare hands, and you can’t do much thinking with your bare brain. —Bo Dahlbom

High school English class. Freshman year. The teacher explained how to:

  1. Come up with a thesis statement.
  2. Create an outline of arguments supporting the thesis statement.
  3. Write a paper based on that outline.

That’s actually a terrible way to write! It requires you to organize your thoughts before you know what those thoughts actually are. But there is a better way.

Brainstorm, Organize, Write

What are your thoughts about a particular subject? In the days before computers, you’d find out like this:

  1. Get a package of index cards, something like these.
  2. On each card, write an idea related to your thesis (the fancy word for whatever it is you want to write about). Do not try to do this in any kind of order; you’re brainstorming here: good ideas, bad ideas, any ideas—they all go down on the cards. When your brain is empty, stop.
  3. On a big desk or table, spread the cards out in front of you. Keep them messy.
  4. Read the cards and stack those on a certain subject together until you have several stacks. Discard (pardon the pun) those that don’t belong anywhere or that now seem irrelevant or stupid.
  5. Put the cards in each stack in some kind of order. Importance? Chronology? You choose.
  6. Put the stacks in some kind of order. Each stack represents a section of your paper.

After you’ve captured and organized your thoughts, write your paper, starting with the first card and ending with the last. Each stack gets a subheading. Each card gets a paragraph. When you’re finished, edit your paper as needed.

Card-Based Writing Programs

But, again, that was in the days before computers. We now have much better ways of doing what I’ve just described, with new card-based writing programs popping up all the time.

. . . .


Milanote is the most expensive of the programs listed here, but it’s also the slickest. Cards can be created and then placed on the screen in any order you like. After you have them all down, organize them into columns. Finally, export the whole thing as a Word document, a Markdown document, or plain text, ready for editing. Milanote is elegant, a pleasure to use.


Speare doesn’t support free-form card placement; each paragraph is a card, and all cards must be arranged in a “board.” After creating and organizing your cards, “compile” them into a document, copy the document, and paste into Word or another word processor.

Link to the rest at Editorium

PG would be interested in hearing from visitors to TPV who use or have used programs like those described in the OP. He’d be interested to understand the pluses and minuses of using something other than a word processor.

Smarter Tomorrow

From The Wall Street Journal:

Working at home has led to widescale experimentation in productivity. Many workers, no longer tied to central offices, are trying new schedules, locations, routines and work-life arrangements. But this has been a haphazard process, nothing like a controlled scientific study. Those interested in adding rigor to their self-improvement journeys have no better place to turn than “Smarter Tomorrow: How 15 Minutes of Neurohacking a Day Can Help You Work Better, Think Faster, and Get More Done,” by the science educator and advocate Elizabeth Ricker. (Neurohacking, to put it simply, is finding shortcuts to a better-functioning brain).

At the outset, Ms. Ricker contrasts her project with traditional self-help, in which one copies an authority’s example and doesn’t measure the results. Instead, she offers what she calls “The Neurohacker’s Creed”: Don’t assume the same thing works for everyone, pick “hacks” and evaluations carefully, and find a partner so you can help each other. There’s also “the neurohacker’s ladder,” F-S-T-R: Focus on your goals, select an experiment, train and reflect on the outcome and next steps.

Similar organizing structures permeate her upbeat book, which reads like a combination of a science book (including both fun findings and neuroanatomical terms), a workbook (presenting goals and takeaways in each chapter, and a section for experiment recipes), a memoir (detailing her own self-help sojourn) and an encouraging email from a smart friend (full of exclamations points and apologies for puns).

“Smarter” can mean lots of things. Ms. Ricker interprets the term ecumenically, tackling four broad categories of improvement. First, there’s “the new IQ,” by which she means executive functioning, a combination of working memory (juggling things in your head), inhibition (resisting temptation) and mental flexibility (quickly shifting focus or synthesizing ideas). Second, “the new EQ,” or emotional self-regulation—the ability to monitor, assess and modify your feelings. Third, memory and learning, whether for events, facts or skills. Fourth, creativity. Each can be assessed with simple tasks online or in the book, and the author also offers surveys with which to track two more holistic outcomes: the ability to complete to-do lists and life satisfaction.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (The link should work for non-subscribers, but the WSJ may cause it to rot after a few clicks. PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)