I first learned about the concept of distributed cognition when I was an undergrad studying linguistics, but I didn’t know what it was called until I studied it again in grad school. For an absolutely impenetrable “explanation,” read this.
For our non-academic purposes, let’s consider distributed cognition a way to extend our individual ability to keep stuff in mind. We might ask our spouse to help us remember to take our vitamins each morning – this is a way of extending our own memory to be aided by the memory of another person.
In today’s podcast, I wax on about lists. Making lists is, to me, the ultimate (and delightfully simple) distribution of my cognition. Without making lists, I am a constant victim of my routine failure to remember to do all kinds of things, from the trivial to the very important. Putting these things down into a list means I can rely on the list instead of on my flaky memory – I take each item out of my brain and put it onto paper (or into an app, or whatever).
When it comes to our creative projects and fantasies, getting stuff out of our heads can be just as useful as it is for us to get anything else out of our heads. When we use the tools we have to distribute all the myriad things that are constantly swimming around in our minds, we help ourselves to think more clearly, and to fit more things into our days – because we stop losing things to our fallible memories.
Have a listen, then hit reply and tell me about the creative lists you keep!
- Each episode this season begins with a short clip of a maker or artist talking about a recent project they were obsessed with. I recorded all of these in April of 2019 at Camp Thundercraft, a retreat for creative businesspeople held each spring and hosted by the folks behind Urban Craft Uprising. I’m very excited to be going back to teach two classes at the 2020 retreat coming up.
- This week, we hear from artist, designer, and crafts instructor Robert Mahar, whom I did not fangirl upon meeting, I swear to you. I had the pleasure of taking an embroidery workshop from Robert at camp last spring, and it was fabulous. I still pull out the massive project every now and then when I need a quiet thing to do.
- My list-making system of choice is a bullet journal; I carry mine with me wherever I go. I do not make fancy spreads in it. In fact, I do not make any spreads in it whatsoever. (I have in the past, but I never keep up with them, so I’ve just stopped wasting my time with them). In addition to my daily to-do lists, I take notes from meetings and workshops in there, jot down project ideas, and put in anything else I want to protect from the bottomless abyss of my unreliable memory.
- Also, my husband and I share a grocery-list app (also a Google calendar, and I don’t know how other people who live together can manage without one of those), and I use Todoist as an online list-maker (usually for things in the future I want to be reminded about).
- I mentioned my unrealistically long Ravelry queue. I do want to apply such an approach to other kinds of projects I want to make, too. In the podcast I said I’d do this in my bullet journal. But maybe it’d be more useful to keep all the lists on a Trello board…
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