Digital Marginalia

I walk around with the constant dread that I am going to forget something. Things to do, ideas that float through my head, stuff I see that I think is clever. It is especially bad in that moment of time between when the lights go off and I fall asleep where I get a handful of good ideas or lines that wander through my head that are really, really good. Do I turn on a light and scribble them down? Do I try to write them down in the dark and wake up in a Seinfeld-esque situation? Do I flip open the notes app on my phone, take it down, and risk disrupting my cycle of slumber?

Often enough, I fall asleep. I anticipate that I’ve lost anywhere between $400K and $2.5 million worth of ideas in that space.

I have been writing notebooks in pencil lately, so I can go back to highlight and expand on the ideas I have with a pen at a later date. I still clip stuff I dig out of the newspaper. I mark up books like crazy, leave sticky notes on the edge, and then risk losing that thought forever as the book lives on the shelf, spine out, notes in. I suppose I could find the newspaper article online and save it to my Pocket, or keep a giant index file of notes that I’ve taken from the books I read. Mostly, I just hope that the idea of whatever I read comes across my mind again, and I’ve had enough sense to save it where I can find it.

It’s enough to drown the number of options we have nowadays, ever mind the number of things that we save within those options. eReaders are getting better at their highlight and notes tools, but all of that information seems to get stuck within the walls of the application. Genius offers a tool that allows you to do group annotation of just about anything, even if you don’t want it to. Although I have been fascinated by group notes and annotations (like what Highlighter does in the classroom and what Feedly does for their premium groups).

Then again, I don’t want to share my digital marginalia with the world, I’d rather just keep it to myself. Remember, I have lost MILLIONS of dollars to this. Maybe.

I’ve been experimenting some with keeping digital marginalia of the stuff that really jumps out at me. At the most simple, I might snap a photo and give it a quick title, and tuck it away to my Google Keep.

If I’m reading on my tablet (it’s a Samsung, with an S-pen) I’ll do a screen grab of the text and scribble all over it before saving it, again, to my Keep.

A clip looking inside my Keep file

The trick that I have yet to master is going back to review. Like those who swear they will “read that later” and pile up a reading list that numbers into the thousands on their Instapaper app, it only works if you go back and modify, supplement, and add to it.

Baby steps, I suppose.

David Pennington
David Pennington

Writing would be great if it weren't the only thing I knew how to do. I publish as much as I can, you'll just have to wait for the rest.  

This Is Not For You

I came across this talk from Cameron Esposito a few weeks ago and I can’t stop thinking about the main point she made: Art challenges the power, everything else is propaganda. Jesus, so what the hell am I making? There are a handful of days out of every month where I
Read More

My Modern Gargoyle

I write for a living. Writing, editing, proofreading. It is basically the only thing I have ever wanted to do and I’m lucky to be in the position I’m in. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a terribly creative endeavor. When I write my own stories, I start out
Read More
%d bloggers like this: