When I began trying to understand how a Slipbox would work for me, I think I was most stuck on the idea of entry points: Where and how would I find myself going “into” the Slipbox?
Turns out, I’m “in” the Slipbox a lot simply because I’m often adding things to it. So of course I run into other slips and ideas inside the Slipbox.
But I’ve had a lingering concern: What happens when I want to locate something in particular within the Slipbox?
All the instructions and guidance I see caution one to not try to structure the Slipbox from the beginning; cautions against trying to incept the perfect categorization of all the stuff you don’t yet realize you are going to want to add… They are correct; that way madness lies. And so I set off creating top-level slips.
But still that lingering concern: What happens when I want to locate something in particular within the Slipbox?
And so I’m stealing a trick from the even-older-than-Slipboxes/Zettelkastën methods of creating commonplace books: How to create an index on physical media (journals, blank books, or little paper cards going into a Slipbox!)
slip 4c is “Slipbox indices”
slip 4c1 is “people by last name”
Here I’m hacking the Slipbox addressing system. Yes, I’m leaving room for a later 4c2 that could be another index, by topic. But mostly, I’m making sure that the slips under 4c1 can then be letters— 4c1a, 4c1b, 4c1c and so on.
And here’s the hack from commonplace books: To Build an index that doesn’t get out of hand, take the first letter and the next letter which is a vowel.
Constantine > “co”
Washington > “wa”
Easy. But the following are not under “an” …
Anka > “aa”
Antisthenes > “ai”
Armstrong > “ao”
Curie > “cu”
Einstein > “ei”
Epictetus > “ei”
Gracián > “ga”
Irvine > “ii”
Twain > “ta”
And so on.
If you’re wondering, that means there could be 26×6 slips in this index. (a-z gives 26 first characters, times a, e, i, o, u, y gives 6 second characters.) But in reality I’ve reached about 40 slips and I’ve not had to add another for a while now.
What’s on each slip? Just references to other slips in the Slipbox…
Ward, William A — pj4.28
Wayne, John — 4a7
Ward, Bryan — 4b21
Washington, George — 4a19
It’s not sorted. It’s simply in the order I added those names. If the card overflows, I’ll add an identically addressed 4c1wa since the items on those two 4c1wa cards aren’t in any particular order.
What? Is it worth it? …yes. I’ve already gone in to add a person, only to discover they are already in the Slipbox somewhere completely different and that’s a connection I hadn’t noticed before…
BOOM! There’s the other part of the Slipbox I wondered about: How is this thing going to make new things fall out of my thinking.