Ben Borgers

Web of Thoughts

March 21, 2022

The new thing for note-taking apps is that you can link your notes together with “bi-directional links” — if you link from one note to another note, the other note also indicates that it was linked to by the first note.

That’s the idea behind apps like Roam, Obsidian, and Reflect. The bi-directional linking model is supposed to be a better representation of how your brain works: thoughts with connections between them. And if you put enough of yourself into one of these note-taking apps, you’re promised a beautiful graph view showing the different notes and their connections:

An example graph view from Obsidian. Not mine though. I don’t have that kind of diligence.

I’ve played with a lot of these kinds of note-taking apps before, but I always end up falling off the wagon. I never really get into creating and maintaining a web of thoughts like this, and my graph view always looks sad: either a bunch of individual notes with not a lot of connections, or forced connections between notes that don’t really feel that helpful (but look pretty when graphed!).

But through writing this blog, I think I’ve come to the simple reason why these apps didn’t work out for me: I didn’t have enough notes in the note-taking app. I didn’t have enough thoughts in there in the first place.

It’s a simple conclusion. But in order to graph your thoughts in a note-taking app, you have to write your thoughts down. And that’s easier said than done.

It’s a lot of work to pour all the thoughts that you have into a note-taking app, and to remember to keep that up to date as your brain comes up with new ideas or gathers new information.

Writing in a note-taking app is solitary. You’re the only one who will ever read and edit any of it. Whether you pour out your thoughts and connect them to become a better thinker or not — you’re the only one who will ever know.

But newly, with this blog, I’m forced to churn out a certain rate of things since I’m writing every day. It’s a cadence of putting-thoughts-into-writing that I never had with a note-taking app. And as a result, I’m finding that my thoughts naturally overlap and connect to one another.

I’m finding an urge to sometimes link from one blog post to another, when the ideas naturally connect.

However, I don’t think this is just an idea that I can bring back to one of those note-taking apps and produce a Productivity YouTuber-worthy web of connected thoughts. Just write more thoughts down!

Instead, I think my writing output on this blog only really works because it’s a performance.

On this blog, I’m aware that it’s getting published somewhere. A handful of other people will read it. And that public performance pressure makes me write a lot more, since I’ve committed to writing daily. It’s like the feeling that you get when you should be doing work in public but you’re procrastinating instead: Maybe someone’s watching me make a fool of myself. I should probably just do my work.

So thank you, reader. Whether you’re there or not, the thought of other people reading this blog motivates me to write more — in order to not embarrass myself and miss my goal of writing every day. And I think that’s good for me. So thank you.