Saturday, March 11, 2023
The Spark File
Ten years ago, Steven Johnson wrote The Spark File, in which he describes his process for keeping track of hunches, ideas, etc. in a single text file.
I, of course, thought this was a great idea and immediately started keeping my own spark file. It began in 2012 and I was reasonably consistent with it until 2016. After that, there was a lull, but it picked up a again for a short time in 2021, after which I sort of forgot about it.
I ran into the file today and reviewing it has been quite a trip. The short version is that I’ve only done a few of the things I’d written down. This is fine, since many of them are things I’m either no longer interested in or were too ambitious anyway. I have, since I last checked, completed a few of them. Crossing them off the list was fun. There are others that are still good ideas and that I may pursue.
Since the file is an org-mode file, I’ve added a capture template to my Emacs config that lets me quickly capture new entries. Now I just need some hunches or ideas to capture.
Markdown in Tinderbox
I’m experimenting with using Markdown as markup for my Tinderbox posts. Tinderbox has some support for Markdown, even though the note editor is always using rich text “in the background”. The trick is to create a prototype based on the built-in Markdown prototype and make a few tweaks specific to the way I work. For example, my prototype uses a monospaced font and pandoc for rendering. This post is the first to attempt it. Just for fun, let’s add an image using Markdown formatting1
A nice side effect of using Pandoc is that images like the above are automatically rendered as figure elements, with a figcaption generated from the Alt text. It’s handy.
And maybe even a footnote!↩︎
Starting over every day
Each new day I reset everything and begin again, from scratch. At least that’s what it feels like. I throw away the things I learned yesterday and try something else. Can you imagine how far along I’d be today if I hadn’t been doing that all this time?
For example, I’m writing this post in Tinderbox because this morning that’s where I feel like writing blog posts. Yesterday, I felt like using Drummer for a while, then I was back to Emacs for the afternoon.
I also spent hours yesterday learning some new Tinderbox tricks. I’ve been using Tinderbox on and off for like 15 years now. What if there were no “off” periods? Can you imagine how good at it I would be? I’d be holding classes.
It’s the same with Emacs. I’m going on, what, 10 years in Emacs? You’d think I’d be good at it. I’m not, because I keep trying to quit using it for some reason. Why? Because maybe Obsidian would work better for me?
Last week, I would have hand-written this post first in my notebook. The week before that, on a typewriter. Or maybe the iPad.
Every time I reset and say, “THIS is how I’m doing it from now on!” I lose hours or days of progress. I don’t know how to stop.