Journaling with org-roam
I made “my journaling practice” the focus of some attention this week. I started out with org-journal, but ran into an issue with it I couldn’t untangle regarding line wrapping. I couldn’t understand what was even going on until I read that it uses its own org-derived major mode, which at least explained why it suddenly started working when I invoked org-mode by hand on a journal buffer, at the expense of god knows what functionality.
In the end, I decided “whatever.”
I was happy with my daily journal pages in Obsidian, which fully existed in my Zettelkasten. So I decided to set org-journal aside – I wasn’t planning on using many of its features anyhow – and focus instead on making org-roam dailies capture templates to suit my needs. At this point it just means I have a couple of quick keystroke paths to capture my morning and evening prompts in the current day’s daily page, which also gets used mostly just as a running log.
Being able to say “whatever” and set aside a bottomless round of troubleshooting is how I’ve committed to using Emacs this time around. Doom continues to mostly “just work” and has proven stable and manageable. At the same time, I’m being less adventurous. If something doesn’t seem right and doesn’t yield to a few common-sense experiments, I prefer to bounce off the issue and figure out what will “just work.”
I will say that the sqlite dependency at the bottom of org-roam makes me uneasy. It is odd for me to err in favor of something like that vs. trying a little harder to make another solution with fewer outside dependencies work. It’s just a taste thing that’s been developing more and more over the past few years.
And the whole thing isn’t peculiar to Emacs. It’s any extensible tool. Like, Yoda said the only thing in the Evil Force Tree is what you take with you, so don’t take a teetering edifice of other peoples’ poorly understood code in there.
Job hunting and writing
I realized in the process of preparing answers to 18(!) interview questions that I was doing more intense thinking and writing about why I show up at work and how I like to be at work than I have in a long while. I have done a few “what’s your personal operator manual” exercises, but not in a way that felt as high stakes as “I want really want this particular job.”
I’ve also been doing more writing about work lately, as part of the job-hunting strategy. I haven’t been comfortable with the mode I’ve been using to do that writing. It is a little too ponderous, a little too just-so. And informal analysis tells me LinkedIn does something with those reading time statistics it collects that also cause that form to work against me.
If you are mystified and gob-smacked by the flatly bizarre content that flows across your feed there, wondering “who on earth reads this?” the answer is what it always is with algorithms The Tech People cook up to solve engagement problems: They don’t have a meaningful way, yet, to assess the content, but they are committed to a project of “surfacing” the “best” content. So they assess the formal characteristics of the content that succeeds so they can seed the feedback loop. I’ve done this. I’d be galled with myself for forgetting it if I hadn’t remembered quickly enough.
So I’m going to experiment with a shift in writing approach, and use it as a practical application of Zettelkasten:
The practical writing I’ve been doing to prepare for interviews has engaged me on a different level. Stories play into it because even when the interview style is very conceptual I still steer my answers into the behavioral, giving interviewers something they didn’t even realize they wanted sometimes. So I have to think about what I’ve done, not just how I think things should be.
But an insight from my coach after a disappointing round of interviews has been ringing in my ears, too:
“Mike, they don’t want to hear your stories until they trust you enough to let you in a little more.”
So the change is just: I have a bunch of very concise writing I’ve done to prepare. It has touched on a bunch of stuff I care about and have done: change management, communications, people management, operational excellence, conflict management, and goal-setting. It starts small – a concrete question – grows into something bigger, because I’m inclined to story-telling – then settles back into something I can get across in a few minutes. It’s all so atomic that it wants to be turned into nodes, ready for slight rehydration as part of a different kind of writing I want to get better at, even once I’m done looking for work.
I’m interested to try it, because my writing comes from a certain tradition: Get it all out, pare it back, let something back in, take something else back out, back and forth until you’re asking for just the right amount of attention – nothing less than the lede promised, nothing more than the lede can bear. It’s like sculpting a big hunk of rock. This approach will be more like … Jenga? Starting from a compact, economical place and making sure no more is added than it can bear to accomplish something a little more ambitious than “capture the thought,” but still modest, and still balanced.
Anyhow, today is a little busy, so I’m wrapping early. I’m really looking forward to next week: It’ll be hectic on Monday and Tuesday, then Al and I are taking the Outfitter to Nehalem Bay for its spring shakedown: A few days of beach-walking, hanging out in Manzanita, and movies on the iPad.