How I Manage My Three R’s
It’s nothing new, we’re all buried in information of sorts. I’m up to my armpits in my own set of three-r’s; reading, writin’, and research. The internet is my haven for wading through mountains of information and knowledge in search of wisdom and meaning for my arts practice.
Currently, I’ve got three book concepts I’m researching to see if they’re worth doing, and what approach I want to take. I’ve got three art-making projects in the works. I’m swimming through books and blogs about minimalism, simplicity, culture, and faith & art. I’m learning to manage how I gather so it serves my process and I don’t drown.
Finding My Own System
Among the many blogs I read are several which offer good advice about how to “manage” these often divergent resources. Some of the advice works for me and much does not. I’m a gleaner, and a searcher. I gather tips and tidbits which actually work for me and discard the rest. I’m not one of those who thinks, “Oh maybe, someday it’ll come in handy.” No, it’s either valuable now or it’s gone.
I used to force myself to conform to the “systems” of popular organizational gurus until I realized that unless it helps me make meaning, I’m not going to bother. That doesn’t mean they’re offering bad advice, it’s just not good advice for me. I mean, you’ve got to love on yourself a little bit, get real, and do for yourself what actually works.
Like many philomaths (major love of learning) I’m an information hoarder. I go searching for one thing, and end up sideways looking at something related to the original, but definitely not the original. I get it from my dear Grandmother who raised me to enjoy (and I really do) trawling through dictionaries and encyclodepiae. I’d begin with one word, and while reading the definition, if there was another word I didn’t understand, I’d go look that up too. Soon I had a growing relational chain of thought(s). It taught me nuance.
Realizing that I need to get back on track, I now “file” the blog/website URL in my “favorites”. Now, I’m not going to give you a precise count, but I’d guess I’ve got some two-hundred website/blog URLs in dozens of folders because I don’t need a cloud, I need to actually find meaningful resources.
I house-clean about every two or three months. I may use something in a folder and see the loads of other “favorites” in there. I go through each and in a flash, without thinking about it, I look at the website homepage and make an immediate decision – keep it or ditch it. Most I ditch because I don’t really need then anymore. Their project is done, and I’ve moved on.
God Bless Blog Aggregates
The same goes for blogs, and I read (using Google Reader) a load of blogs. I’ve become really picky about their quality too. When I began reading blogs regularly, I created a folder, one for each day of the week, and browsed each of them on their day. Then I learned about aggregate readers and how they’ll show you what’s new and what’s not. It saves me going through each and every blog just to see if there’s anything new. It also shows me when a blog’s gone dead (no new posts for weeks/months) – bye-bye!
Eventually, I had built up a list of about 80-blogs. If they were highlighted by the reader, I’d browse them for new material. If they were not, if they didn’t have something new, I’d skip them. That worked fine right up until I got to this full-on list and the the daily “reading” was two or three-hundred new posts. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got other things to do. I need to move on.
So, to use the oft abused and misused word, I “evolved” to a simpler system. First, I renewed the folder per day discipline, and though I am tempted to “peek” at say, Wednesday with its one-hundred new posts (LifeHacker is excellent, but they post a bundle of new stuff each day), I don’t look. I restrain my self and I really, actually read the new posts from that day’s blog folder. Instead of merely glancing and feeling like I must move on, I actually get something out of it.
My Digital File Cabinets
I’m the same way with “notes” (my current favorite clipper is EverNote). Today, my file cabinets are digital and they hold gigabytes of stuff. I gather, and pile, and accumulate until eventually the original idea hiding in there reveals itself and I can make meaning. Like most creatives, I gather, incubate, and create, giving birth, as it were, to something meaningful and new. And the only way that process continues is if I keep tweaking how I manage my three-r’s.
Leave a Comment: I’d love to hear from you.
What’s your system for remaining sane in the sea of creative influences? What creative sorting or piling do you use? What does your creativity demand, and how do you fulfill that need?