Tenthmedieval has a pair of lovely posts up, one about taking notes (with screenshots) and one about writing in which he uses the term "environmental fretting," which I'm going to adopt immediately. He also has links to others' posts about their writing processes and to his notes catalogue.
Here's the problem I keep running into: if my notes are organized into something like an Endnote database or put into folders, I perceive them as hidden and can't remember what I wrote in them. If they're disorganized, as in "heaped into one big Word file with a whole lot of commentary added" or stuck in a huge pile on my desk or in the huge folder optimistically labeled To File, I know what they say but don't have them organized at all.
What I've been trying to do this morning is to organize some concepts so that they cohere in this project I'm working on: I have five things that relate to concept X, three for concept Y, etc. It's been kind of like those word puzzles on the SAT: "If John sits next to Jane but two seats away from Tyrone, and Tyrone has a beach cottage, who is sitting next to Susan and which person has red hair?"
Reading the little pieces in Endnote, even if I search for the keywords I've inserted, doesn't make these ideas come together. Index cards don't work for me, either, because somehow they encourage a sense of fragmentation. I've tried, but the concepts just sit there like little white specks of dead ideas on the floor. Index cards worked great as flash cards for memorizing Anglo-Saxon vocabulary words back in the day, but for concepts, no dice.
What this project apparently requires is the magic of print. I recently printed out transcriptions from various research trips, including the one last year and the recent one (and boy howdy--if I could write as fast as I can type and transcribe, I'd have a book manuscript by now), got out my trusty three-hole punch, and put them in notebooks. Now the pages are alive: I can flip through the pages of the notebook and read them in a manner that my brain has decided is the proper one for reading. When I was reading these files on the screen, I wasn't getting anywhere. Now that I have what appears to be a narrative, even though the order is random, I can see narrative patterns emerging. I can only "find" if the files aren't set up in the order that would allow me to "seek."
Today's distraction: why, this blog post, of course.