About these notes

Hi! I’m Andy Matuschak. You’ve stumbled upon my working notes. They’re kind of strange, so some context might help.

These notes are mostly written for myself: they’re roughly my thinking environment (Evergreen notes; My morning writing practice). But I’m sharing them publicly as an experiment (Work with the garage door up). If a note seems confusing or under-explained, it’s probably because I didn’t write it for you! Sorry—that’s sort of an essential tension of this experiment (Write notes for yourself by default, disregarding audience).

For now, there’s no index or navigational aids: you’ll need to follow a link to some starting point. You might be interested in §What’s top of mind.

👋 Andy (email, Twitter, main personal site)

PS: My work is made possible by a crowd-funded research grant from my Patreon community. You can become a member to support future work, and to read patron-only updates and previews of upcoming projects.

PS: Many people ask, so I’ll just note here: no, I haven’t made this system available for others to use. It’s still an early research environment, and Premature scaling can stunt system iteration.

Last updated 2023-10-23.

Write notes for yourself by default, disregarding audience

Because Evergreen notes can be used as part of a strategy for writing public work (Executable strategy for writing), it’s tempting to “save time” by writing notes in publishable form. That might mean providing all the necessary background to understand some (boring to you) idea, or self-censoring, or adding lots of qualifiers, or spending lots of effort on clarity. Many of these practices can be somewhat useful as part of your own thinking process—for instance, clearer writing usually involves clearer thinking. But I find it substantially increases the overhead and effort in writing, often to the point of producing blockage.

More concretely, this manifests as a common failure mode for me when I’m writing notes as part of explicit preparation for some public writing. I’ll often try to do both jobs at once. That is, I might be writing atomic-style notes (Evergreen notes should be atomic) but I try to write them as if they’re sections in a larger essay or work. Or even just: I try to write things with all the context and clear prose needed for an outsider to understand what I’m talking about. Then I often find that I can’t write anything at all! Better to write at a level where I can produce something, then use that to lever myself upward. (Evergreen notes permit smooth incremental progress in writing (“incremental writing”))

When it’s a topic I understand well, I can write notes for both myself and an audience simultaneously. But that sometimes produces the false impression that I can pull this off all the time! To avoid that false impression, I’ll write notes for myself “by default,” and only “opt into” writing notes for an audience explicitly.

Q. What bad habit do I often fall into when writing evergreen notes in preparation for public writing?
A. I’ll try to do my public writing as part of my first pass on the notes.

Q. Why do I often find myself stuck when I try to write evergreen notes as publishable prose for an audience?
A. When a topic is hard enough to distill on its own, the extra cognitive load of considering a reader overwhelms me.

Last updated 2023-07-13.