Tag Archive for notes

Why I Love Evernote (and You Will, Too)

I use a lot of apps, but Evernote has become the single app I’m not sure I could replace. Word processors, task managers, and social media apps are all fairly interchangeable. Operating systems? I have my favorites, but they don’t much matter in the end. Even the device isn’t very important anymore.

Not so for Evernote. Sure, it has competitors offering some of the same features, but it’s so entrenched in my workflow, and I have so much data stashed in its cloudspace, that it would be difficult for me to migrate away from it, even if I wanted to. I have a premium account for the extra features, but I’m also happy to pay up to ensure they’re not going anywhere.

The following video sums up the basic idea and features. Check it out, and then I’ll get on to how Evernote’s been useful for me in so many ways.

Now let’s talk about why you might want to sign up.

I Use It For:

The Day Gig

I juggle a lot of information in the day job, and there’s not a lot that doesn’t find its way into Evernote. Software manuals and instruction booklets can be stored on several services, but Evernote makes them searchable, lets me tag them, and lets me add my own notes. The extensive federal paperwork I have to fill out every year goes into Evernote, along with all of the notes, dates, and filing information that goes with it.

It also makes a great repository for software license codes and activation keys. For a while I’d type in anything I couldn’t cut and paste, but now I just take a picture of the keys. For example, when we purchase interactive whiteboards, there are activation keys on both the board and the CD case. A couple of taps and a photo of every new key is added to the same note as the others.

Separately, I make extensive use of Evernote Skitch to mark up screenshots for passing instructions and tips along to coworkers. With Evernote integration, I have those same notes and annotations to share again later.

Research

This one should be a no-brainer. I record it once, I keep it forever, no matter the subject. If I’m shopping for something, I can snap photos and take notes about pricing and/or features. If it’s a newspaper or magazine article, I can snap a photo and Evernote will make its text searchable.

This is also where the Evernote Web Clipper comes in handy. Web articles, blog posts, Wikipedia entries, and more can be saved and tagged with a couple of clicks. Just yesterday I grabbed an io9 article on powering a starship with an artificial black hole for possible use in a writing project.

Fitness

There are a handful of print fitness magazines I’ll pick up from time to time, but my shelf space is far too limited to keep them around to look up a workout routine once in a blue moon. In those cases I’ll scan and tag the article and slide it into Evernote.

It works the same for digital magazines on the iPad. Whether I’m reading them in the Kindle app or Apple iBooks or Newsstand, a screenshot works as well as a scanner, and Evernote filing is handled on the same device.

Even better, I don’t have to think about them anymore. Magazines go forgotten on shelves, but if I search for “bench press” in Evernote, it’ll turn up a handful of useful articles I’ll have forgotten about.

Recipes

This is how I hooked The Wife. She has a cabinet full of recipe books, magazines, and hand-written cards from her mom or her friends. I do most of the cooking these days, and I can never find the right books. If we go shopping, we would inevitably forget an ingredient or two.

With Evernote, I snap a picture of our favorite recipes. They’re instantly available when I’m cooking, and if we’re at the store and suddenly decide we’re going to make shrimp chowder, I can pull up the recipe right there. I’ve used Web Clipper to collect several new recipes, too.

Now The Wife has an account, and I’ve shared the entire recipe notebook with her. She can browse them on her phone, or she can add to our collection.

Martial Arts

This is where the workflow gets a little strange because I take notes by hand at first. I’d love to use an Evernote Notebook by Moleskine, but my handwriting is way too messy for Evernote to make any sense of it, especially when I’m writing in a hurry in class.

Taking a few minutes to retype them, however, is worth the time. I have research, history, kata breakdowns, judo articles, and more piled up in there, and I often include links to videos I’ve stashed on YouTube for reference. As such, it became an invaluable study guide for my black belt test last March, both for the written test and the board exam.

We also have a class where my instructor has a handout from time to time. We have a binder we keep for these papers, but scans or pictures of these, too, go straight into Evernote. Instead of digging up the binder, I just pick up my phone.

Writing

And now we have the big one. Aside from the writing itself, there’s not much I don’t do in Evernote (though there’s no reason I couldn’t write in a note if I chose to). Let’s just make a list:

  • Character descriptions. Sure beats searching back through a manuscript, and I’ll often paste in passages alongside my own notes.
  • Timelines and continuity. Character histories, plot timelines, back story, all of it.
  • Plot notes. Best way to keep the story straight.
  • Outlines. I’ve been known to use ’em.
  • Submission tracking. Dates, editor information, all of it.
  • Contracts and contract terms. Of course I keep the paper, too, but sometimes I need to look things up.
  • Production notes. Artwork, thumbnails, layouts, cover mock-ups, and so on.
  • Publication details. Street dates, blurbs, reviews, ISBNs, and links.

I’m also using Evernote to collaborate on a project. We have a small pile of notes and reference material in a shared notebook. We’re gearing up to do the actual writing in Google Docs, but Evernote is better for organizing the rest of the material.

I Don’t Use It For:

As much as I love Evernote, there are some things I prefer other apps for. Most notably, I use an entirely different task manager, as Evernote’s task/todo list is a bit unwieldy for my taste. And I haven’t used its reminder feature much because Google Calendar is faster and easier.

All in All:

Evernote rocks. I love it, and at the day job I encourage the staff and students to check it out. There are more uses for it, and there are more videos and articles about those uses than you can possibly keep up with. Project management, going paperless, research, running a business, the possibilities are endless. There’s even a private investigator using Evernote for case management and field work.

If you think it’ll help you, by all means, sign up for an account.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Generating Ideas

There are times an idea for a piece will seem to come out of nowhere, and the writer will call it inspiration and thank his muse for blessing him on that day.

The rest of the time, we have to sit down and come up with something.

Brainstorming

I still do it old school

There’s as much work in the creation of ideas as there is in the writing. This is why brainstorming is an essential part of the process.

“But Mike, I get ideas all the time!” Hey, great. Good for you. But you won’t always work on your own ideas. There are several instances where a writer has to sit down and noodle up some ideas for specific tasks:

  • Work-for-hire gigs. If a comics editor said “pitch me something with Doctor Obscuro in it,” I’m going to have to spend some time on Wikipedia and figure out who he’s talking about, then figure out what I can do with the guy.
  • Themed anthologies. Take something broad like zombies. Sounds easy, right? If it is, then you just came up with a story that will be just like the rest of the bullshit in the slush pile. Throw that one out and think up something different.
  • Pitch opportunities. When an agent says “Send me three or four simple pitches I can show around to some producers,” you best hurry your ass up and get it done. Waiting for inspiration to strike isn’t going to do you any favors.
  • Collaborations. Doesn’t matter if it’s two guys working up a novella or someone on writing staff for a television show, you need to make your stuff gel with theirs. Also, that flash of inspiration you got anyway? It may get tossed in favor of something else.
  • Contract. That kick-ass idea for a bank heist gone bad may be brilliant, but if you’re up against deadline for another commitment, it just got back-burnered.

And so on.

Even that flash of inspiration takes development. If I sell Werewolf Cheerleaders in Heat to the SyFy Channel*, I need to sit down and come up with characters, plot, dialog, and action. An idea is not a novel, or even a short story. An idea is a theme, a character, or a scene. It’s a catalyst, not a final product.

Everyone gets ideas. The only difference between a writer and any other slob is a writer follows through on his idea.

This is why “Where do you get your ideas?” is such a stupid question. “Jerking off in the shower” is as good an answer as any. If someone wants to know what inspires me, they should ask that question instead. Or they might ask “How do you develop your ideas?” Those are the answers someone can learn from, whether it’s insight into my diseased brain or advice on how they can develop their own ideas.

Generating ideas is part of the job.

*Now I’m tempted to actually make this happen.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

I MUST HAVE ONE

I get a lot of my ideas in the shower. I have long wished for a notebook that works in the shower.

Now AquaNotes has made it possible!

Time to bust out the credit card.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Pencil vs. Keyboard

Most of the time, if I have my laptop or iPad sitting on a table somewhere, my trusty Moleskine and a good mechanical pencil are sitting nearby. It’s not uncommon for me to have the electronic device pushed off to the side in favor of the pencil, nor is it unusual for me to have the Moleskine in my pocket while I travel, or sitting close at hand (often right beneath my smart phone) on a bar or restaurant table.

People will often ask me “What’s with the notebook? Why not just type the same thing in your laptop?”

Because of the feel, I’ll tell them.

Artist Patrick Hoover and I talked about the pencil versus the keyboard recently, and here’s how he explained it:

“It’s very tactile and triggers something creative in the brain. I can’t write in a notebook and not end up doodling all over it. It’s physical and dirty and imperfect, and by it’s nature chaotic in a sense. That’s what creating is all about. The computer is just too hard, sterile, and inflexible. It’s great for polishing up something, but I think the best creations come from old school pencil and paper.”

That about sums it up. The ideas just flow faster through a pencil. I love the feel of scribbling on paper, and sometimes I’ll doodle or draw balloons and connecting lines, underline for emphasis (or scratch out to emphasize how hard something sucks), and capture stream-of-consciousness thoughts that may or may not amount to anything.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming

Why not dump these notes into Evernote? Because Evernote’s for storage and retrieval, not generation. I can’t afford to be deciphering my scribbled handwriting, flipping through the notebook for the right page, or worse, not have the notebook available when I’m trying to write. I also have timelines and character notes for The Pack in Evernote, but there are several drafts of the same in the Moleskine. It’s like Evernote gets the final draft notes, if that makes any sense.

Why not dump them into a story document? Same reason, really. I sit down and start writing when I have an idea of what I want to say. Sure, there’s still a lot of creativity going into the writing process at the keyboard, but that’s more choosing words and stringing together narrative and dialog than it is conjuring the actual scenes and plot. I don’t always work from full outlines, but thinking back, I can hardly think of a time I didn’t at least work off of notes, even for short stories.

Brainstorming and creating just comes easier for me with a pencil. I tinkered with mind map software, but it doesn’t click with me, either. A pencil and the Moleskine — or pretty much any blank piece of paper or yes, a cocktail napkin — works much, much better.

I may be content to replace books with electronic editions, but I’m not sure I’d ever give up my pencil and paper.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.