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Category: paper and process

Notebooknotes: Writing DO ANYTHING

DO ANYTHING was mostly written in a Moleskine reporter’s notepad with a propelling pencil. The page reproduced below — cranked up in GIMP to make it visible, if not legible — appears to date from late May 2009. It’s written in block caps because I needed to be able to copy-type from it, and as we know from earlier posts, my handwriting is shitty.

Pretty much every page of DO ANYTHING in this notebook looks like this:


If you’ve read DO ANYTHING, you know a lot of it is pretty densely layered with connections. The column was written in a very specific way to maximise the information. It always, always started out as longhand, early in the day. The longhand was always about the forward thrust of the column — the column meanders a lot, but it doesn’t wander, it’s constantly following a channel. As I go, I’m signposting things I need to check later, or need to remember to tie in.

Later, I sit down and copy-type the thing into Notepad, with a browser open, because I’m fact-checking as I go. The longhand draft is all mental, and that includes working in information from memory. Since I often can’t remember what I did yesterday, it needs to be checked.

I’d write the longhand version in intense two-hour stretches, and usually had way too much for a single column. After 003, in fact, I just kept writing without thinking about column breaks, and found those breaks later after the copy-typing.

Once I’d typed the column up, the real draft started. Because I’d then spend an hour plugging names from the column into Google, looking for more connections, as well as following my signposts, and layering that stuff into the piece. The Notepad draft after an hour or so on Google was the actual first draft, and that’s what’d get pasted into OpenOffice to get edited and cleaned up.

Really, an incredibly complicated and time-devouring process for a column no-one read. But it was fun, and it taught me things.