Writers have to manage a ton of information. There’s information for writing projects, research, and blog posts. There are our personal writing practice and journaling. There’s our own habit of reading and the notes that creates. Plus we also want to hold on to ideas and observations–it can all become a crazy mess of stuff!
And as an INFP, I have a ton of ideas that I don’t want to lose in my notebooks or computer. By lose, I mean can’t find ever again due to disorganization.
[Note: This post contains affiliate links from bookshop.org in support of indie bookstores. I earn a commission from these links, but this does not affect the price you pay, and I only link to books that I’ve enjoyed.]
Recently I’ve read L’art de la Liste by Dominique Loreau. L’Art de la List is a nice guide on how to record and bring all of that together without being overwhelmed by volume. Lists are the secret to saving information that matters in a way that is concise and easy to find.
Although this isn’t exactly a writing book, I think it’s one that writers need to read. List-creating techniques can help busy writers to:
- Capture ideas and observations.
- Have a simple journaling practice.
- Have a simple regular writing practice, from testing out descriptions to imaginary conversations.
- Manage research and information.
- Plan stories.
If you’re also an artist, creating lists is an easy way to bring your writing and art together.
Also as an INFP, working with lists helps us to see how different things are connected. Being aware of patterns and connections is a major part of how we process information.
However, my favorite piece of advice from this book involves how to organize all of this. Loreau advises having your list-making practice divided into two parts: capture and organization.
Have one notebook for capturing
Notebooks are great for capturing. You just go about your life, jotting down whatever comes to mind. You would want to title and date the entries in your notebook and use an index to keep this information somewhat organized.
Bullet Journals are also a good way for capturing information. I think when it comes to Bullet Journaling, many people forget that it is at its essence, a capturing system. Your notebook is for capturing. Bullet Journalling is for capturing. So yes, it’s going to be crazy and ugly. That’s the nature of it.
For a long time, I’ve used notebooks for capturing information. However, in her book, Loreau mentions that some older Japanese people like taking notes on a folded piece of paper. Technically, it’s a piece of paper that is folded 6 to 8 times to create a little palm-sized pad to write on.
Once I read about it, I knew that this is what I needed in my life. The reasons are:
- This is more portable than a notebook. The folded paper is ridged enough that I can write on it in the palm of my hand, even while standing. It can even fit into the tiny pockets of my jeans (a common issue with women’s pants).
- I can use any paper type I want, from fancy writing paper to artwork ready smooth bristol.
- The folds of the paper allow me to write more sensitive information where it can’t be easily seen.
- Easy to digitize!!! Recently, I started using Rocketbook notebooks. Yes, they are easier to scan than a standard notebook, but still, I found scanning and cleaning all of those pages a pain. Using one piece of paper is perfect because when it’s all full, all I have to do is scan one page front and back.
I title my scanned pages by looking at the titles of the notes I took and picking keywords from them. These are the words I’m most likely to use when searching for them on my computer. Along with keywords, I also add to the title of the scan the date of my earliest note.
I use a sheet of blank paper so I can fit as much information as possible, reducing paper waste. I number each square to keep things organized. Sometimes when I make I note, I may include the number of a square with related information, much like the threading technique used in Bullet Journalling.
It takes me two to three days to fill a sheet. My go-to paper is letter-sized writing paper by Strathmore. I throw away most of my notes, but some are so lovely I’ve decided to hold on to them for a bit. When I unfold them, they are like fascinating mini-maps of my mind.
So after capturing the next thing is to…
Use a computer or binder system for creating long-term/archival lists and organizing them for storage.
Capturing daily information from your life may be messy, but when you go back and create your archival lists, you can make them as beautiful as you want. Loreau recommends using a computer or a binder system for storing archival lists because you must be able to add to the lists without running out of space.
Also, it’s best if your lists are portable so you can carry any information needed with you. She recommends using a half-page sized binder. Filofax style binders are also another option. She didn’t mention this in her book, but I believe that index cards could also work.
Workflowy is my list-making app of choice. However, this book has helped me to expand how I use it. After filling out my capture page, I type my notes into Workflowy. I’ve found that doing this has given my collection of notes a more introspective feel.
Whenever you’re ready, look through what you’ve captured. From that information, create new lists that you will save for the long term. Title and date the lists, and then jot the details you captured in bulleted style. It’s best to let each list have its own page, just in-case you want to add more later. Keep the details short and concise.
Add lists to your archive. Store them in alphabetical order, and then let go of what you no longer need.
Creating lists involves taking the time to clean up what you captured. Creating archival lists are also a great opportunity to add artwork, photos, and other embellishments, possibly inspired by what you captured. The process removes the pressure of making your notebook look pretty. Use all of that creative effort for your lists instead.
If you are a Bullet Journaller, I think this is one of the most exciting ways I’ve come across so far for archiving. Just go through your Bullet Journal and copy the information from collections you want to save in the style of a list.
One note about reading this book: don’t be overwhelmed by her list suggestions. Lists can grow new lists on their own. The key is to look at each entry in your list as having the potential of becoming a whole new list. With this kind of approach, you will create a collection of lists that fit your needs because they are based on other lists that you have made.
I recommend reading L’art de la Liste if you are a writer who is struggling to manage all the information that naturally comes from being a writer.
Have a question about this blog post? I’m now offering 1-on-1 Consultations for questions related to any of my blog posts. It’s a 15 minute video chat for $10. This is highly experimental fun.🙂