Fieldstoning in the Digital Age

So, after a couple of tweets the other day (thanks @imccowatt and @martialtester), I purchased Weinberg on Writing – The Fieldstone Method (Kindle version is much cheaper!).

In it Weinberg talks about Fieldstoning- gathering bits of information/inspiration/ideas/text/etc, logging it in an organised way and perhaps using it in the future for pulling a piece (or pieces) of writing work together.

As I was reading it I realised I was already doing many of the things mentioned, especially more recently since I started using Evernote.  I’ve always previously struggled with note taking as I could never get into the habit of remembering to bring paper and pens with me, let along keep them organised.

I just didn’t have the discipline to remember and make it a habit.

However, I’ve found that I never go anywhere without my iPhone, well within reason 🙂  And as long as I have my iPhone I can log stuff.  But to take it further it’s not difficult to log information into one central source from wherever you are digitally.  The key is adopting the habits or perhaps creating processes around the way you work.

How I Take Notes Digitally

If This, Then That Recipes
Some of my IFTTT recipes


IFTTT.comis awesome.  It stands for ‘If This, Then That’.  In a nutshell it can automate many mundane tasks, I use it to:

  • Archive specific Tweets to Evernote (e.g. my own)
  • Send Tweets with specific Hashtags to Evernote (e.g #testingclub)
  • Send Tweets I have favourited to Evernote
  • Send starred Google Reader RSS items to Evernote
  • Send labelled emails from my gmail account to Evernote
I guess you can see here that I’m using Evernote as a central ‘database’, but I think the most important thing to highlight here is that these actions and what follows work with my natural social and geeky habits.


  • I take photos and add them to specific notes or folders in Evernote
  • I also have G+ Automatic Upload process all my photos from my iPhone automatically
  • Photos tend to come from my iPhone or iPad, I find it much harder to get into a habit of getting photos from a camera onto Evernote, it’s not technically difficult, it’s just not a habit.


When I’m interested in a specific topic I maintain a MindMap, I make a conscious effort to continoulsly add to the MindMap.  I especially like doing this for books, adding snippets as I read.  With books I find that this helps me maintain my focus as I easily switch off or fall asleep.  If I’m not taking any notes within a chapter I’m either not paying attention properly or the book isn’t worth reading!

I use SimpleMind+ for MindMapping on my iPhone and iPad.  It all syncs over DropBox and it’s pretty easy to add a MindMap image to Evernote, but I find that just keeping them all in a DropBox folder works well enough, at least for now.


As all this information keeps pouring into, it becomes essential to maintain some order.  I find it gets a bit messy at times and I need to spend some time creating new notebooks and just simply removing stuff that isn’t necessary.  But overall, it works well for me and it’s really helping me write that bit more.

The key is to find what works for you, if this is the mission you choose 🙂



6 comments on “Fieldstoning in the Digital Age

  1. -

    Jeez, Rosie, it made me tired just to read this. You are so well organized! I must adopt some of your good disciplined habits. I use Evernote occasionally and it just hasn’t really caught fire with me. Of course, I don’t have a smartphone, either, and I don’t always have my iPad with me. Hmmm.

  2. -

    Heard so many good things about Weinberg on writing, that I probably need to read it as soon as there is a slot open in my reading queue. Personally I just started using Kippt ( for organizing my links. So far it has seemed just what I have needed. You can quickly store the links via Chrome extension.

    I need to though try that IFTTT for storing important tweets to Evernote as it sounds useful.

    These kind of posts are good reminders of how unorganized I am 🙂

  3. -

    Using mindmaps to focus your reading is a GREAT idea! I can imagine maintenance over time will certainly become a headache though. How do you find out about all the great apps you use?

  4. - Post author

    @lisa I don’t think my husband would agree about being organised 🙂 In a way it is being lazy, finding the easiest way to process and organise stuff. I need to get better at being organised, the state of my laptop desktop will prove that 🙂

    @aleksis Kippt looks interesting, could be a good way to discover interest stuff. Evernote saves links for me already…so not sure I would personally use it for that. For me personally, the driver for me using web based services and apps are how they integrate with other apps (Evernote and DropBox are key).

    @simon MindMapping has been great for stuff I read, infact I use it as well when consuming interesting stuff – like the mobile testing training course we did, or videos I watch. It’s just so easy to forget and miss stuff.

    I find apps by keeping a log of apps that I come across and like, reading popular websites like TechCrunch and RWW, but also alot of it is just searching for stuff when I have the need.

  5. -

    I had a similar problem. The trouble is that if it takes more than a few minutes to note down that tangential idea or thought, you can end up spending too much time ‘fieldstoning’ and organising the stuff afterwards.

    Then I found emacs which not only makes mindmapping natural and fast using its ‘org-capture’, you can have a hotkey to instantly capture any thought or idea in an organised way with no interruption.

    Emacs (which includes org-mode) are completely free too! Just google emacs and download it.

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