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3/ Room to Roam

Idea Gardens and Wandering, Wondering Tools.

David Gane
David Gane
3 min read

For the past few weeks, I've been pushing out the newsletter and essay from a cabin up north. It's been a constant fight with the internet, requiring me to drive to a signal to upload and do corrections, before sharing it with you.

Despite all this, it isn't until I'm home with my high-speed connection, that I end up posting this late. But I know the culprit.

Despite saying last week that I felt Roam was too expensive and limiting, I tried it anyway. I spent the past several days working with it, hoping it would help me prep today's essay and newsletter. Although I saw the potential, I spent a lot of time trying to make it work and by Friday, I was pulling everything out and going back to the way I was doing things.

However, it wasn't all a waste, and I discovered a few interesting things along the way.

Interstitial Journalling

Why did I never think to do this?

I came across the idea from Anne-Laure Le Cunff, who is a big proponent of Roam:

The basic idea of interstitial journaling is to write a few lines every time you take a break, and to track the exact time you are taking these notes.

When I remember to do them, I will write a few sentences below my Morning Pages, whether to gather my thoughts or prepare myself for the next task on my to-do list. I find it helps me focus and be mindful.

It's still early on, but I love the act of doing it.


One of my biggest challenges to Roam was my love for my present note-taking tool Drafts 3.

I'll be honest: I hated it when I first used it. I didn't get it, and I thought it was ugly. But I need an affordable journaling app with decent search and a word counter that wasn't hidden away, and it served its purpose.

Then I discovered its superpower: it adapts to you. You can customize the crap out of it and download add-ons to extend its use even further. More importantly, it doesn't try and lock you in and helps you get your writing out into whatever form you need.

I still don't think it's for everyone, but it is a fantastic tool if you can get past the steep learning curve.


One of the aspects I liked about Roam is its deep search capabilities. It not only helps you find the pages a word or phrase is on but the exact line. And then it enables you to link it to other pages or lines. This is fundamental if you are doing research and trying to connect the pieces.

After giving up on Roam, I searched for something similar and found it in Workflowy. Best described as an endless list of bullet points, you can indent as you go, creating nested lists as deep as you want to go.

For example, I have bullet points for individual projects, newsletter ideas, essays. In each of these are separate topics that hold everything from research to rough outlines.

I've only had it for a few days, but it was the tool I used to prepare for this week's essay and newsletter.

Idea Gardens

This was an idea I discovered from Maggie Appleton, who uses Roam as her own little idea garden. The moment though that really struck me was from a different article where she says:

My Roam Garden is a place I spend between 2-4 hours puttering around in every day.

I've never been much of a gardener, but the notion of having a hobby of tending to my ideas regularly and growing them into beautiful creations appeals to me very much.

Cloud Convert and TinyPNG

Another powerful tool, again courtesy of Anne-Laure Le Cunff. Cloud Convert is an online file converter that handles +200 different formats.

I can't stress how much discovering this tool will help me going forward.

As a bonus, I'm sharing Tiny PNG, a compression tool for .png and .jpeg files. If you have a website and you need to squish that photo of yours down to a reasonable size to get it online, this is for you!

Teaching to Learn

Finally, this week I wrote how teaching scriptwriting has helped me learn more about writing and how it can help you:

Indeed, if you are a seasoned author, you have an understanding that others are desperate to learn, so don't be miserly with your knowledge. And if you are only beginning, you have a perspective that many authors have forgotten, and your journey is still important.

I hope you enjoy it.


David Gane Twitter

Co-writer of the Shepherd and Wolfe young adult mysteries, the internationally award-winning series, and teacher of storytelling and screenwriting.


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