My morning writing practice

After the pre-desk elements of My daily routine, I begin my first serious creative work of the day: at least two hours writing and revising Evergreen notes. This is typically the most challenging work I do all day, so I like to do it when I have the most clarity and focus. It’s not for “note-taking” in a traditional sense—writing down other people’s ideas, or recording things that happened—it’s for developing ideas. (i.e. Most people use notes as a bucket for storage or scratch thoughts vs. Evergreen note-writing helps insight accumulate)

I usually begin by opening my writing inbox (A writing inbox for transient and incomplete notes) and flipping through those prompts and incomplete notes. If any strike me, I’ll draft Evergreen notes about them. This may happen over multiple days: I may flesh out a note considerably, then run out of steam and leave it in my inbox to finish another day.

If my inbox is relatively low, I’ll get out my memo pad (Pocket memo pad to capture into writing inbox while out) and fill my inbox with those notes. I don’t force it: if none of the prompts seem interesting, I’ll archive the ones which seem most boring and move on.

After working through my writing inbox, I’ll focus my attention on my primary creative projects and ask myself prompts like:

  • what are the most important unknowns for this project?
  • what new ideas am I excited about?
  • what are the most interesting things I know about this project?

For these prompts, I’ll use my Daily working log as a scratch space, splatting a dozen or so one-liners into a haphazard bulleted list. After emptying my head, I’ll write about any that seem interesting. Usually that leads to rabbit holes which consume the rest of the session. I’ll add promising stragglers to my writing inbox for future days.

If those prompts don’t feel fruitful, I’ll use the time to Write about what you read. I’ve usually got a backlog of books and articles I’ve read but for which I haven’t yet written Evergreen notes. If the prompts don’t feel fruitful for several days in a row, that’s a sign that I need to shake things up: my inputs aren’t high-variance enough, or I’m not giving myself the right kind of creative space, or I may need to re-evaluate my projects. My writing inbox should always feel like a cornucopia.

I take 5-minute breaks to get up and move around every 35 minutes, but even with those breaks, I usually can’t continue this practice much longer than two hours. Sometimes I can do another session later in the day.