When I think I have a vague idea for a blog post, my first inclination is to come up with a title. In part, this is because I want a concise way to capture the idea in my notes, that way I can follow up on it later and elaborate. There is something more fundamental behind this tendency. I am trying to categorize the idea, to fit it into a hierarchy of ideas. I want a logical place to store it, both in my mental rolodex of ideas as well as in my notes.
I've labeled a thing before I even really know what it is. I'm setting a course for my thinking, rather than letting my thinking develop more spontaneously. I'm deciding what I want the conclusion to be which from the start is cutting me off from a whole swath of possibilities. In trying to put a title or a label on my thinking from the outset, I am hindering my thinking process.
This reminds me of how Sönke Ahrens talks about labeling notes in How To Take Smart Notes. There is not some given structure of topics that our ideas and writing will fit into. That structure is the result of our thinking. The process of writing and developing ideas leads to the development of topics and their relation to one another. I've got it backwards when I try to start with the title.
Ahrens goes on to explain that there are two approaches to coming up with and structuring topics. These approaches come down to thinking like an "archivist" and thinking like a "writer." The archivist is preoccupied with how to store the thing. This is a mindset that leads to things collecting dust. And it really only works if there is a robust structure in place for the archivist to work within. The writer on the other hand is focused on retrieval, thinking about the context of the idea and how it is connected to other ideas.
As a writer I am expanding existing content, making connections, and developing new ideas. I can't do these things with an archivist mindset. I can't do them if I've constrained an idea with a title before I've had a chance to develop it.
My goal then is to save the topics and titles for last. Whether I am doing some note-taking or turning existing notes into a blog post, I hope to give the idea room to grow before putting a label on it.
- How To Take Smart Notes, Sönke Ahrens
The title I choose has implications for how myself and others will approach the writing and how we will recall it later.
A lot of blogging platforms don't have robust draft post capabilities to begin with. That many of them require a title before you are ready to publish makes it all the more challenging.
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