Kicking and screaming into the digital age


A small but representative sample.

I’ve been taking notes for a long time.  And I keep everything, so I could tell you exactly how long, if necessary.  I have Garfield notebooks from the early 1980s with all my grade school ideas for cool science fiction adventures or superheroes or video games I’d invent if I knew how.  All these bits of paper have accumulated into quite a pile: two full file cabinet drawers painstakingly sorted into hanging files, plus a big bin full of spiral notebooks and sketchpads, plus a few loose file boxes for special projects.  It’s an amazingly diverse hand-writted record of my creative thinking over three decades or so.

It’s also an utter mess.  It takes forever to find anything, and I tend to forget 90% of it exists.

So, thanks to Evernote and my premium account (which gives me 4GB/month in uploading), I think it’s finally time to zap all this written material into the cloud where it’s actually useful.

Evernote’s iOS app does a reasonably good job of scanning hard copies into notes.  In document mode, it automatically adjust contrast and brightness to make writing (even in pencil) stand out.  That alone would be reason enough to digitize a large library of notes; having access to them from anywhere with an internet connection makes them a thousand times more useful than sitting in a file cabinet.  Evernote takes the process a step further however, and sends all scanned images through their own OCR software, which then makes your notes searchable (in theory).  I’ve tried it a bit and found their handwriting recognition to be reasonably robust.  I write in print lettering (rather than cursive) and my penmanship is fairly good most of the time, so my writing is probably easier than most for a computer to decode.

Now that I’ve scanned 30 pages or so of notes, it’s apparent I’ll need to set up some kind of apparatus to streamline the process.  I have a stand for the iPad and a document holder; hopefully, a combination of the two with a strong light source will make the process quicker and smoother.

Ideally, having a digital copy of my mental meanderings will spur further creativity.  Whenever I dig through the archives, I always come across tidbits I jotted down years ago and promptly forgot, and occasionally those tidbits serve as fodder for new ideas.  I’m sure that, as I’m scanning papers I haven’t touched in years, I’ll be drawn back into projects that briefly fascinated me ages ago.  If one page in a hundred yields creative fruit, then taking the time to digitize the whole archive will have been worthwhile.

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  1. How do you handle all the drawings?

    And why can’t I click to zoom on your photo? I wanted to read some of those notes!

    • Drawings scan just as well, they just aren’t searchable (obviously). When I’m actually using a sketch in a design, I tend to use a dedicated scanner so the resolution is higher.

      Read my notes? Heavens! My genius is too highly concentrated for public consumption. Someone might get hurt!

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