I received an email last night saying that Frank Cedric Smith, choirmaster at Grace Church from 1960 to 1992 died on Tuesday at his home in Cape Cod.
It’s given me pause, the email, more so than most of these types of messages. We all stop for a moment at an obituary listing. An obligatory reflection on mortality surfaces, always a bit selfishly because the thought ends up circling back around to our own situation; then we push those “me” thoughts away, and with forced reflection a memory stirs, we move back in time.
Frank Smith made me Head Chorister at Grace in 1974. (My name is up on the wall in the church memorializing my term as “Optimus”) He put the heavy ribboned medallion from Canterbury’s Royal School of Church Music over my head during an induction ceremony on a spring day. This was as had been done previously a hundred or so times, retiring the head chorister before me, investing me with the duty to uphold the musical ministry of the church and the implicit assumption I’d keep the mob of adolescent tussling boys of the choir in line long enough for practices and services to actually occur. No one had ever succeed in doing this before. It was curious why he thought I would be any different. Tradition was important to him.
I’ve updated the notations I use for note taking during meetings and conversation. Others have named these systems Org-Fu, or Meeting Ninja systems, and they can get elaborate — I assume to overcome the static nature of physical notebooks. Mine is simple and vestigial, the remainder of my days when I used paper notebooks, a lot, and went to meetings, a lot.
All the Org-FU systems rely on a set of codes prepending an information item, or formatting it in a standard way to convey additional meaning to the item noted. The best systems make categories of information stand out, the worst of them need ever present reference cards to make sense of all the glyphs. My system is mostly a mix of Markdown (MMD) and TaskPaper standards. The list varies in paper format because different graphics stand out.
It is unsustainable, the forever writing. Fanny in chair, write till you drop – advice we were all given in our first year of literary apprenticeship. You must maintain your body or there will be no art. I’ve learned that the hard way. The fingers are tingling, the back stings hot under my scapula, there’s a wire shorting out.
Starting the day with stretching or cardio is not avoiding writing, it is a writerly thing, so long as it is distraction free. That means no emails on the bike, avoiding the CNBC reports of the crashing Euro, not taking the newspaper to the orbital. Peaceful spiritual yoga like exercise. Even though your day is not bolloxed up yet with other’s ideas and demands, even though you do not need, yet, the peace and quiet, keep the just-up-from-bed freshness through your exercise, then use it for a day of drafting.
Theres’ a nice chat going on the Scrivener boards about File System Information Managers. I wrote a long reply to a post and thought I’d share parts here.
Metadata and tagging
A lot of my work flow is text based (it was once rtfd, then rtf, and if you go way back, doc and whatever AmiPro file extensions were) These days I’m using a lot of in-text hash tags in the text file for sub-characterizations; kind of like MMD tagging conventions. They used to scare me, in-text tags. I ended up with a bunch of them after exporting data out of Journler (it put a ‘Tag: xxxx’ line in the header of exported files) and I found them annoying because editing them was a process of open file> edit> save file one at a time. Somewhere along the line I learned about MassReplaceIt and my fear of tagging in text files disappeared (TextWrangler works well too). I think amberV mentioned it years ago in a post, but I had to figure it out on my own.
So, if I need to (which I’ll say is rare) I’ll add #LitCrit #TNStsg or some other CamelCase thing to the first few lines. The are easy to change, easy to delete, not quite so easy to add if there is no other existing tag, unless you’re a grep wizard, which I’m not.
I’ve moved almost all my notes out of my SimpleText folder. A few seasons ago I put them all in there when Hog Bay launched its free syncing service to support WriteRoom and TaskPaper for the iPhone and iPad. I did it because I thought I’d be notating and editing all sorts of items in the newly freed, on the go, mobile existence of the “i” revolution — no need for a heavy laptop for me. I was wrong.
All that’s left there now are my TaskPaper agenda files. But all the notes, which number in the thousands, I’ve moved them to a folder named ‘NoteBook’, this all in anticipation of Hog Bay Software’s imminent release of PlainText for the Apple mobile platforms of iPhone and iPad. The NoteBook folder is in my DropBox path, so it syncs along with all the rest of my datasets, and when PlainText is released I’ll be able to edit them when I’m away from the my MacBook Pro or iMacs.
I’m baaack. It was fabulous. I was in Rick Moody’s masters section — life changing. I’ll write more as I process it all.