Le beurre et l’argent du beurre*

* This is the French version of “have your cake and eat it, too”. I like it better. More snooty, of course, but also easier to understand. It means “to have the butter and money from (selling) the butter”

My notes to write this post. Mmmm, meta.
My notes to write this post. Mmmm, meta.

My zealotry to lose piles of unwanted paper can easily be confused for an anti-paper stance. Thing is, though, I love the feeling of writing on paper, and I dislike writing on my iPad. Writing with a good felt-tip pen (I’m currently partial to sharpie pens) on high quality paper (dot-pattern Moleskine or, even better, a Clairefontaine) is qualitatively different than trying to do the same on a screen. Not only will the experience be much more enjoyable on paper – no random lines where your wrist was resting, for example – but complex relationships are much easier to show on paper. And marginalia is great. I’m a big doodler, which puts me in excellent company. Sadly, while I love writing on paper, I hate having to then find notes on paper. Inevitably, what you need is not in the notebook you have on hand. I’ve wasted many hours searching for notes only to give up.

Some may think you’re stuck with either notebooks and likely lost notes or the order but lack of joy of writing digitally. Not so. Even without a smartpen or other expensive tool, you can do pretty well thanks to the magic of OCR. Optical character recognition has come a long way, and it doesn’t even have to cost you much. For instance, my cloud-note-storage of choice, Evernote, has very effective OCR. I’m a premium user, so this feature may not be available with the free version, but alone it’s enough to make membership worth it for me. With Evernote’s OCR, I can take a pic of my notebook page, and everything I wrote – even with my chicken scratch – is now searchable. MAGIC!

To me, this is the best of both worlds: I can write and doodle in my notebook, and actually be able to effectively find and use those notes months later. Hence: j’ai mon beurre et l’argent du beurre. You may want to do the same, even if it’s the cake version. Nothing wrong with cake.

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