May 6, 2022

Where I’ve been.

It’s been a while since I’ve written here. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. With two kids waking me up before the sun, I’ve lost those precious stretches of time in the morning when I used to drink my coffee and make sense of my world. The timing isn’t great, since the world increasingly needs making sense of. I’m sure you’ve felt it too.

So I made a thing. At work, we have a team wiki, our own mini-Wikipedia that anyone on our team can add to. In it, we write down things we’ve learned so that teammates can find them when they need to. Some pages are about general programming knowledge and practices. Some are specific details about our systems that every new developer eventually needs to know. I started something like this for myself: a kind of Steve-o-pedia. A place to record the ideas, questions, and connections that are on my mind. I gave them a home so that they don’t come bother me at 2am while I’m trying to sleep.

I call it my “note garden”, and it’s not just for me. It’s an app anyone can use to keep track of their own ideas and interests, find connections between them, and see what they grow into. It’s mostly just me in there right now, but as more people use it, the app can let you know if someone else has shared thoughts or further reading about a topic you’ve written about. (Sharing is optional, though, and everything is private by default.)

Since I started using note.garden a year ago, I’ve written something about 349 different ideas, 197 of them I thought worthwhile enough to make public. Some of my most-tended notes are on parenting, stress, and systems dynamics. I’m not sure when I’ll get back to writing the longer stuff, but being able to write a little here and a little there without the pressure to finish and move on…all I can say is it’s got me writing again so it’s made all the difference.

Is this shift from essays to notes making my writing shallower? I don’t think so. (But please, judge for yourself!) Studying philosophy and literature in college taught me that I don’t really know what I think until I try to put it into words. Writing is how I learn. And when it comes to the ideas and concepts that interest me most—how to think, how to be, how to act—I’ll never be done learning. And so I’ll never be done writing. A format that allows and even encourages me to continually build on and revise what I’ve written seems more akin to what I want to get out of writing.

It’s an experiment, and one I’m enjoying so far, so it’s probably where you’ll find me if you don’t see much going on here. Here’s to finding (or building) what works for you.