NaPoWriMo 2022 #10

This is #10 in the prompts for NaPoWriMo.

Photo by Bhavesh Jain on Pexels.com
Reflection/Shadow

It's all a play of light.
It's a reflection,
When it comes back at you.
It's a shadow, 
When it's behind where you are.

A reflection let's you think about yourself.
Yourself, in terms of how you look,
Yourself, in terms of how you feel,
But, more importantly,
Reflection confirms what you feel about yourself.

A shadow tells us about ourselves,
Ourselves, in terms of what we fear,
Ourselves, in terms of what we don't expect.
But, more importantly,
Shadow tells us that fear is just a play of light. 

NaPoWriMo 2022 #5

This is #5 in the prompts for NaPoWriMo.

Spices and Seasonings

She remembered a time,
When the food wasn't bland and dry,
It had spices and seasonings,
And accompaniments and fries.

She remembered a time,
When rain poured from the dark sky,
When children played in puddles,
Without a worry, nor wondering why.

Now the food was bland,
As spices were lost to a fire,
Neither were there seasonings,
Because there was no one to hire.

It was just her,
Alone on Earth,
Wondering if anyone would come to save her,
Or at least get her some spices and seasonings.

NaPoWriMo 2022 #4

This is #4 in the prompts for NaPoWriMo.

the taste of an emotion

My therapist and I, 
Had tried so many things,
We had had so many sessions,
That my wife thought we were havin' flings.

I was getting desperate,
Will there ever be any cure,
We had tried so many things,
But there wasn't anything but a lot of furore.

Finally she looked at me,
Asked me point blank,
What's the taste of your emotions,
I tasted nothing, I said, being quite frank.

But then having food at home,
Quite anxious what my wife would say,
About my session with the therapist,
I felt anxiety taste bitter for the first time that day.

NaPoWriMo 2022 #3

I missed #2 in the prompts for NaPoWriMo. The numbering scheme is the prompt number and not the poetry number.

a broken object you continue to hold onto...

I am a minimalist,
So, I don't hold on to objects.
I am a spiritualist,
So, objects don't really hold me.

But, there was this one broken object,
I held it and it held me.
It was a simple Swiss knife.

It was just loose,
Although everyone else insisted 
That it was broken

The knife was with me,
Through several highs and 
Many more lows.

It was with me when I,
Used it to uncork that wine bottle,
On our beautiful honeymoon.

It was with me when I,
Had to tear open the letters,
When I was separated from my lover.

It was with me when I,
Wanted to fix my daughter's,
Broken toys and odds and ends.

It was with me when I,
Had forgotten to clean my nails,
Jus' before a work meeting.

It was with me when I,
Had to open a bottle,
Of jam for my daughter.

But now, when it is broken,
It is they, who ask me to throw it away,
They know not all that it has taken.
While I hold it and it holds me!

NaPoWriMo 2022 #1

April is celebrated as National Poetry Writing Month. An Instagram user I follow, @literarychills helped with a daily prompt for each of the thirty days. These are just my practice off-the-cuff efforts.

An Overrated Adjective

Do not use adjectives,
That was the simple directive,
I used the word overrated,
Realized too late that it's an adjective.

I was taken to a Remedial Room,
Where a machine went zip-zap-zoom,
The next thing that I realized,
Was that I had forgotten all adjectives.

Writing a Novel

November is celebrated as National Novel Writing Month in America. It’s called NaNoWriMo for short. Although it began as a US phenomenon, it has turned into a global movement. There is growing global participation each year of authors writing every day in the month of November. They hope to write about 50,000 words in the month of November. Consistent daily writing with global accountability.

My tryst with NaNoWriMo began in 2012. I do not have any public record of this. I had emailed a bunch of people in 2012 asking if they would be my beta readers. There is no record of this novel on my private storage or on Google Drive. I seem to also not have informed these people about the status of this novel.

In 2018, I started writing chapters of a science fiction novel. I had called it One in Malayalam – Onu. I had published the chapters on Medium. Although I call them Chapters, the number of words in each was very low. I don’t think the whole thing together would qualify as a short story. I was also not sure where the story was going after Chapter 8. Hence, I abandoned that effort.

In 2019, I took to a physical notebook and started writing a nation-state fiction. The first book in the series was called William Horsborg – Life and Times. I wrote about 1200 words before I gave up on that. I will take this up again. It is a story I used to tell myself as I drew maps in a notebook as a 11 year old child. I have the stories in my head and they will not leave me in peace until I have told them.

I gave 2020 a hard pass and did not attempt NaNoWriMo.

In 2021, I had mixed feelings about writing a novel. I see-sawed between wanting to write and not wanting to write. An opportunity to write for about an hour a day opened up for me yesterday. I took the time to read the story I had written in 2018.

Although, I started writing it in the month of November, I am not counting it as an entry for NaNoWriMo 2021. But, I would like to acknowledge the part that NaNoWriMo played in remembering about writing the novel.

I am calling the novel, Return to Earth, tentatively. It is not a final title and it may change. Once each chapter is over, I will share it here and on my About page. I finished writing about 1000 words of the first chapter today morning.

Using a Zettelkasten in a Bullet Journal

In my last post I explained the concept of the Zettelkasten. Many of the articles that I linked to in that post suggest using digital tools to implement the Zettelkasten.

Zettelkasten. Image Credit: Kai Schreiber via Wikimedia Commons.
What the bullets in a bullet journal stand for. Image Credit: BulletJournal.com

I have had a history of not trusting digital tools. This is because I have used many of them and move to the shiny new object when I find one. This has led to my information being stuck in various digital tools like Evernote, Notion and now some on Roam Research.

The idea of a second brain requires something that we would trust we would use. Else, we just keep our ideas and thoughts in our head.

I needed something that I would trust I would use and would be analog.

This is where the Bullet Journal comes in. I have used this analog tool for the past six months. I am starting to build enough trust in entering information there knowing that I will use it. The physical presence of the written word also dispels fear about losing ideas in various silos.

Moving a Zettelkasten into a Bullet Journal reduces the clutter of index cards that it leaves behind. While, Zettelkasten enriches the practice of reflection in the Bullet Journal. It pushes us to link the ideas we jot down in the Bullet Journal with each other in a way that our brain does. This also helps us remember these ideas better.

Zettelkasten in its original avatar is analog. It uses a sort of threading system using boxes and alphanumeric references to each idea. The word threading reminded me of the practice of threading used in Bullet Journal.

Zettelkasten in it’s original avatar is analog. BuJo is also analog. I thought there must be a way to tie both these practices together. Threading is used to refer to a previous section as a way to provide continuity to a post. The video explains threading:

I want to extend the concept of threading to use it more than just for providing continuity of a collection or notes within the Bullet Journal.

A latitude or longitude is expressed in degrees, minutes and seconds. Similarly, a bullet can be referred to as volume, page number and line number. This means that each bullet in your notebook can be linked to another bullet within the same notebook or even another notebook.

This threads similar ideas together in the course of writing your bullet journal. I would suggest using the Index to collect tags related to a similar idea together. This would give you an index that would collect the page numbers on which ideas are being discussed. You can take a minute to go through these tags during your weekly or monthly reflection. You can also refer to the index when you are struggling with an idea related to the tag.

Zettelkasten

Zettelkasten is a way to organise notes.

When you get any information (via a book, an article, a podcast episode, etc.) that you think is important for you, it suggested that you write it down. In the process of writing it down, it is essential that you write it down in your own words. Later, it is essential to consider where this idea fits into your understanding of the world. This helps to retain and apply the information that you obtained.

Eugene Yan summarises the process succinctly:

  1. Write each idea you come across on a card.
  2. Link idea cards to other relevant idea cards (idea -> idea link).
  3. Sort cards into broader topic boxes (idea -> topic link).

Before I talk about my personal experience, I would like to record how I discovered this process.

I stumbled upon the Zettelkasten in March 2020 when I read this piece on the process by David Clear on the Writing Cooperative. This is the most comprehensive write-up I’ve seen on the Zettelkasten.

I found Roam Research during a Twitter conversation I was having with a friend who mentioned it as a note taking app that he was using.

Twitter conversation on March 19 with Saurabh Garg where he mentioned Roam Research.

There are a bunch of videos that have been put out by it’s founder Connor Sullivan-White. But, those did not make any sense to me. I tried taking notes on two days of April. I could not figure out what people were going crazy about. Hence, I dropped the whole Zettelkasten experiment there.

Roam Research then found mention in a Thomas Frank video. I subscribe to his YouTube channel for tips about productivity. This was where the tool started to make some sense.

Thomas Frank’s video about Roam Research app.

I agree with Thomas that the major drawback of this app is that it does not have a mobile companion app. It is a good tool to research a subject.

Then two days ago I found these two blog posts on Eugene Yan’s blog which I found through Twitter again. I liked his writing style which is short and to the point.

  1. Learning an Easier Way to Write: 3 Simple Parts
  2. Stop Taking Regular Notes; Use a Zettelkasten Instead

Shu Omi’s YouTube channel has two videos that explain both the Zettelkasten method as well as the way he takes notes. The method is similar to the one that Eugene Yan uses. So, you can watch the videos if you like to watch this method work.

Shu Omi explains the Zettelkasten method.
Shu Omi explains how he implements the Zettelkasten in Roam Research

I have now started using the Bullet Journal and have found it more useful as a tool that I want to use. I have not had success with digital tools and I seem to keep replacing them when I find a shiny new thing. This, is why I prefer to keep things in a bullet journal. In the next blog post, I will go into the details of how I incorporated the practice of the Zettelkasten into my BuJo practice.

Why journal?

I have been keeping a bullet journal (BuJo) again since I moved to Pune in July. Although, I still have not completely migrated from mind to BuJo, I have been lately trying to figure out how to keep a diary within my BuJo.

Ryder Carroll posted an online tutorial today on YouTube about how to do this. From the website, where there is a companion blog post, Ryder goes into why he thinks we should journal, that I think is worth sharing here:

It’s often hard to understand what we’re feeling, or why we feel the way we do. Though we can’t  will  ourselves to change the way we feel, we can change the way we think. Journaling provides a powerful way to unpack our mind and our hearts. There, with it all laid out on the page, we’re granted the clarity, context, and distance that we often lack when things get rough. It can shift our perspective enough to change our mind, and with it, the way we feel.

Journaling can also be a great way for you to explore ideas, and deepen your appreciation for the good things that come and go so quickly. By putting pen to paper, you get to relive the good times and preserve them in loving detail so that you may revisit them for years to come. 

Ryder Carroll, Long-form Journalling, bulletjournal.com

If you do not write a diary or keep a journal, I think this is a good reason to keep one and maybe to begin today.