Writing by Bob Doto

How I Use CLOGs to Organize My Writing Files

Folder-free organization is almost always talked about in regards to notes. Zettelkasten, Evergreen Notes, Linking Your Thinking, even the most well-known "linked thought" platforms—Obsidian and Roam—all speak in terms of notes. And yet, when it comes to writing, notes are only one, preliminary aspect of the content we create.

PKM for the Document (Not Just the Note)

Writers manage dozens if not hundreds of works-in-progress at any given time. These aren't notes that need to be linked. They're files. And, these files, because they were stored in a series of nested folders all stacked one on top of the other, had, for years, been stressing me out.

My notes, on the other hand, have always been exciting. Linked, rhizomatic, and organized according to content, they feel almost alive. My zettelkasten, an enigmatically attractive corner of my vault. Perpetual joy and inspiration. The rest of my vault? The parts filled with files? Totally different story. The word "uninspired" comes to mind.

Eventually I asked myself, "Would it be possible to engage with my files similar to the way I engage with my notes?" "What if files were also free from the confines of folders?" This is the question that led me to develop the cataloging system I now use to organize and engage all of my active writing projects. (h/t to Nick Milo's Linking Your Thinking course where I wrestled with this idea, and which spurred on this discovery)


The term "CLOG" is short for both "catalog" and "creative log." It's a term I made up. I find it funny. But, this funny is also functional.

Catalogs are resources containing information about a list of items. A library catalog is a list of books with relevant details as to where each book can be found. Published catalogs—the ones that get mailed to your home—are filled with products, descriptions, and pricing. A CLOG is a catalog of your writing documents. It's a list of active projects with important details about each one.

CLOGs are also logs. A log is a record of the day's events. Similar to a diary, the famous "captain's log" is a record of what transpired on any given day, a means of referencing the past and establishing posterity and protocol. A CLOG functions similarly.

In practice, CLOGs are the notes I use to catalog what I'm currently working on, log what changes I made to my writing projects, and keep track of what I've recently published. They're a place for me to close out a writing session by logging what did and did not work. When I'm ready to begin working again, they behave like a beacon, pointing me to what I might enjoy getting into. Like the shoes they're named after, CLOGs can be both practical and playful.

A Typical CLOG

A CLOG contains any and all information you consider useful for your next writing session. When I pick up where I last left off, I want to see a reminder of why I'm writing the piece, a time/date stamp to track how long I've been working, and personal notes detailing my process. These include: 1. what I last worked on and why, 2. what I'm thinking as far as how to continue the piece, and 3. any important reminders or issues to watch out for during the next session.

My CLOGs tend to look like this:

Image title

So much use value I could scream.

Folders are Servers

So, what's the point? Why not just store files the good ol' fashioned way in folders?

Folders are like servers. They're the places where all your information is stored. Files, working docs, notes, PDFs, resources, images, every digital thing you've collected is stored somewhere, be it in a vault or on a hard drive. In folders, this information is typically stacked alphabetically or in numerical order. The only real way to organize the contents of a folder according to what best suits you is to rename, number, or append a variety of clever emojis to the beginning of a file name. So many 🟢 🟡 🔴!

There's no reason you need to interact with the information in these folders in the way the operating systems have determined. You can design our own user interfaces in the form of master documents.

CLOGs are User Interfaces

If folders are servers, then CLOGs are user interfaces. A CLOG is the means by which I engage with my writing files so I don't have to engage with what's stored in my folders. Kind of like email.

Whenever you open Gmail, you're engaging with Google's UI. This UI allows you to curate what you'd like to see. When you're in Gmail, you're engaging with a representation of the information stored on the server. You're engaging with whatever you've allowed to pass through your pre-defined filters. When you delete an email, it disappears from your UI, but not necessarily from the server. CLOGs function in the same way.

CLOGs are a curated space for you to see what you want to see, when you want to see it, in the way you want to see it.

How to Set Up Your First CLOG

These instructions are based on the Obsidian platform. However, they could be repurposed for whatever platform you use that allows linking between files.

1. Open up a new note This note will serve as the canvas on which you create your CLOG. It will contain many works-in-progress. I do not create separate CLOGs for each article I'm working on.

2. Title the note with the preferred topic I divide my CLOGs into separate topics such as "PKM," "Spirituality," "Social Issues," etc. This gives me a top-level distinction when I'm looking for a project to work on. To me, different subjects have different vibes, and usually I'll have a vibe I want to work with that session. Be sure to include "CLOG" in the title. Unless you have a lot of notes on wooden shoes, this will work wonders if you need to do a search for a CLOG.

3. Drop the files you're actively working on in the note Any platform based in linked thought will have the capability of linking one file to another. Put your working file links here.

4. Beneath each title, create a "What's the purpose" section "What's the purpose" helps me remember why I'm spending time writing a particular piece. I split this section into two bullets: 1. Why the article may be important to my readers, and 2. Why the article is important to me. I got this idea from Jakob Greenfeld.

5. Create a "Notes" section Drop a time/date stamp, and go! Here, you'll track the changes you've made to your works-in-progress. Feel free to include any thoughts or feelings you had about how the writing is going and where you'd like to take the writing in the next session.

6. Create an "Old Notes" section If you have the option to toggle headings, create an "Old Notes" heading so you can collapse old notes and make for a cleaner CLOG.

Here's the basic template:

# {{title}}

### [[]]
#### Notes
- ???



### [[]]
- **Date:** 
- **Pub Places:** 
    - **Reddit:** 
    - **Discord:** 
    - **Forum:** 
    - **Website:** 
    - **Twitter:** 
    - **Instagram**

Note: Underneath "PUBLISHED" I list all the places I published my piece and how it did on each platform.

Now, you're ready to go! My advice? Try beginning each writing session with a scan of your CLOGs and ending each writing session by logging your efforts. Get into the rhythm and see if it changes how you feel about working on your writing projects.

(Potential) FAQs

Why not log your changes on the documents themselves? Why the central location? CLOGs are places to go when you're starting your day or looking for something to work on. Rather than having to search through your files, needing to have a predetermined idea of what needs finishing, CLOGs let your own prompts direct you to what you might want to work on next.

Are CLOGS the same as MOCs? CLOGs are similar to MOCs in that they allow you to see your work and how it's developing without having to sequester yourself into folders. In other words, you can see everything right in front of you. CLOGs differ from MOCs in their intention. An MOC is intended to 1. Help note makers map their ideas in their PKM system, and 2. Help note makers enhance their knowledge through the engagement of ideas.

A CLOG is meant to help keep the ball rolling on active writing projects.

Can MOCs and CLOGs work together? Absolutely. I use MOCs for general, top-level notes related to writing in general. For example, my "Articles and Essays MOC" contains links to my most time-sensitive pieces, essays on writing I find helpful, a list of all my CLOGs, and a list of all the places I may want to upload my latest writing.

Why not use version control? Not all text editors have version control, and not all writers are coders and developers. In addition, CLOGs have the advantage of putting the changes made to a project out in front as a way to help writers decide what projects look the most enticing for that day. CLOGs are updates-forward.

How is this different than keeping a record of what you worked on in a daily note? You absolutely could do that! In fact, every day I make a note of what piece I worked on and may want to look into the following day in my daily journal. However, the difference is that with a CLOG I can see all the projects I'm actively working on in one place, along with all those I may have taken a break from. I've always worked on multiple writing projects at the same time, and take a cue from Niklas Luhmann himself who felt that when you work on multiple projects, you never end up with writer's block. You always have something else to work on.

Why the name "CLOG?" Aren't there enough catchy acronyms? Yes! Agreed. We don't need more acronyms. Originally, I used the generic term "log," but quickly realized that whenever I wanted to search for my logs, I would inevitably bring up notes related to "blogs," "logging," "logical," "logrolling," "slog," "flog," and basically any word ending in "-ology." It was a mess. Since I am not a wooden shoe maker, my vault is relatively free of "clog" derivatives.

#2022 #essays