Note Cards (aka the Hipster PDA)


With a book on the way, a short story festering its way to completion, and two talks coming up, I’m having a blast writing it all! But sadly, I haven’t posted a blog in a while. That makes me sad. So here is a little recent discovery from my world; One that has really helped me keep my brain wrapped around all these projects while still working two day-jobs, loving with my wife, and keeping the house in order–whatever that means:

Note Cards.

This is one guy who has tried every type of take-notes-on-the-go technique you can think of, from the pocket-sized Moleskine notebook to iphone apps like Evernote, Notes, Wunderlist, and GoTasks. Every single one of these tools has failed to get off the ground for any significant length of time. I decided to give simple note cards a try after hearing one of my favorite speakers and one of my favorite writers using them (with obvious success). I heard speaker Rob Bell say in his seminar “Poets, Prophets, and Preachers” that he carried them around to grab spontaneous blips of inspiration–more on that in the fifth paragraph of this little post–, and Anne Lamott write in her book on writing and life called “Bird by Bird” that she used them all the time too.

I didn’t get it at first, but I figured that at a buck for 200 cards from Big Lots it was worth a try. Although you can download and print out all kinds of custom note cards by searching “Hipster PDA” on Google, I just use the regular lined-on-one-side-blank-on-the-other type, held together with a binder clip. I like both sides: The lined side for quotes and stories, and the blank side for more abstract ideas or organizational ideas like the order of events in a characters life.

I think I mostly like how quick they are. no flipping to a page, no opening an app. There’s only one step: Write on the card. At least it’s only one step when you remember to keep a blank card on top.It’s so easy to keep organized too! When I get home and ceremoniously empty my pockets onto the bedside table, I see the cards and just put them in order of what they apply to: message illustration, book point, another short story idea, or random thing that doesn’t go anywhere but was interesting and may be useful later.

That last thing is what Rob Bell calls “collecting buckets”. They are just random stories and pictures that grab you as intriguing even though you can’t place them as useful for any current project. Those are the best because they always end up being that thing you need later down the road. Quick tip for the end: Jot that stuff down. Make a bucket called “stories” or “weird stuff” and keep it. Your next message, book, or blog post may just need a story or some “weird stuff.”

Most of my cards do get populated into an app (Scriptito or Evernote depending on content) at the end of the day. I recommend that. You could do that with your phone as you get the inspiration. But, for me at least, it works better to do that at the end of the day than several times over the course of the day. Besides if I’m writing ideas into an app all day then I’m not living. And if I don’t live, then what do I write about? Writing?

4 thoughts on “Note Cards (aka the Hipster PDA)”

  1. Yes! And Anne Lamott throws index card prayers all over the place (glove box, kitchen drawer, pocket) when she just needs to jot down and put out a need. Thanks for writing on this.

  2. Yes, It’s good idea to copy paper blancks to Evernote. I collect used blancks to the folders. But there are too many papers. I’ll try Evernote.

  3. I’ve learn a few excellent stuff here. Definitely price bookmarking for
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