Simple Markdown Zettelkasten 1.5

zettelkasten icon

I’m exploring zettelkasten-esque Creativity Systems. I am attempting to “own” my own data by building out the networked notes in markdown. I’m a vim fan, but I’m looking at other tools too.

I’ve been quietly using a new format of my zettelkasten1 for almost six months. I wrote yet another giant migration script… but I wanted my system to stabilize before I wrote about it again.2

In short: I’m doing the easiest possible thing that Obsidian recommends.3 🤷

  • I no longer use a “Zettelkasten ID” in the filename of every file.
  • I’m using YAML frontmatter instead of MultiMarkdown.

Simply:

Filename: Sentence style notes.md

Content:

---
tags:
- optional
---

# Sentence Style Notes

I'm using simple markdown notes for evergreen notes. This makes [[linking]] easier and doesn't mean I have to use aliases to compensate for a ZK ID in the filename… making [[Note-Making]] *much* easier. The YAML frontmatter is optional… mostly tags and aliases.

Related:
- I'll often have a block of related notes
- Maps of Content or hubs
- links to daily notes that make sense

[Optional link to a source or reference](https://fakesourceorreference.com/facts)

Zettelkasten ID in Filename

The reason I wanted to have the ZK ID in the filename was to preserve links throughout rewriting notes. While robust, this strategy sacrifices ease of writing… and creativity is what this is for!

If the filename contains the ZK-ID (something like 2021092723-fake-name.md) then you have three options to reference another file as a link:

  • know the exact second you created an unseen note from memory (impossible!)
  • have the computer autocomplete the title (difficult, since most file autocompletes start from the first character)
  • use the Alias feature in Obsidian to create a duplicate title… that you will mostly like use anyway. (extra useless typing!)

As soon as I made the conversion back… there was no going back. Composing a note with links was easy no matter what app I was using. I could even handwrite and scan a reference to [[Exodus]] or [[Border of the Known]] and know which note to which I was linking.

What about link robustness you may ask? Well… in part I am relying on Obsidian’s toolchain for now, but I’m also a software developer, and my whole Creativity System is now backed up in Git. If I find a link missing, I can do some spelunking and find the missing file. If I need to apocalypse-proof my knowledge system… I have shown myself to be perfectly able to write textfile migrations. I’ll generate a unique ID for each note and can append it to every link for printing.

YAML Frontmatter

Using YAML frontmatter instead of MultiMarkdown is a less contentious choice… most Markdown applications these days support a version of YAML frontmatter even before Obsidian… and few indeed supported MMD.

Where To Now?

I’ve been doing a lot more writing and thinking with my Creativity System now that the friction of creation has decreased. I’ve got a lot more thinking and tricks to post… but I figured I’d talk about it in bite-sized chunks… I’ve been rewriting the same 3k word post for six months.

The longer I learn about this world of PKM/ZK/Creativity Systems the more convinced I am that each person should be building their system to suit their needs and mind. It’s a deeply personal tool. You shouldn’t copy my methods or tools directly… unless you have similar goals.

Thank you especially to all the readers and internet friends who have sent me encouraging emails and questions. I don’t have analytics on this blog… so your kind words keep me going!


  1. Some will point out that this is no longer a “true Luhrmann Zettelkasten.” You’d be right. This is what has inspired my definition of Creativity Systems: a system designed to connect and create ideas. 

  2. I’m kind of regretting not originally writing a stand-alone “moc”-style essay page with a permalink. I had no clue the post would take off like it did. I may yet do that. 

  3. I’m reminded of the glorious word picture from Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton: 

    I have often had a fancy for writing a romance about an English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas.

    I too have set sail to find the best zettel format… and found myself back home at the original and simplest.


Changelog
  • 2021-10-12 16:07:07 +0000

    fix tag

  • 2021-09-29 22:50:05 +0000

    add metadata to example

    Thank you Edgar for pointing this out!

  • 2021-09-28 14:11:50 +0000

    Zettelkasten 1.5