Build a note-taking system to create content with Ev Chapman

Tune in on:
Apple podcast iconSpotify iconGoogle podcast icon

Ev Chapman is a writer and creative entrepreneur. She helps creators to build a note-taking system to make content creation more enjoyable and sustainable. In today's episode of Creators on Air, Ev shares her system, the tools she uses, and how she leverages her system to stay consistent.

Follow Ev:

🐦 Twitter

📸 Instagram


🎥 YouTube

🎙 Podcast

Episode Transcript

00:00:00] Ev: But there's about 600 notes in that, in that inbox. I get to sit down and just really be inspired every morning, and I kind of treat them like it. It's less like a processing time and more like a prompt.

[00:00:14] Akta: Ev Chapman is a writer and creative entrepreneur who helps other creators to build a note taking practice. Hey guys, I'm Akta, and in today's episode of Creators and Air, I spoke to Ev about the mindsets and systems that helped her to write 300 essays in 300 days.

[00:00:39] Ev: You know, I've been kicking around for a long time.

[00:00:41] Ev: I, I think I tweeted. I don't know, a few, few months ago, like I, I saw her on Facebook, an old post from like seven years ago of like, Hey, I put my first podcast episode out, and it was like the, the one and only like . I never did another episode. And I think that really [00:01:00] sums up most of my creative projects.

[00:01:02] Ev: Like for, for that kind of like eight years before that. I think that I, I really, I, I called myself like a wannabe, really, like I was a wannabe creator. I knew. I kind of knew I wanted to put something out there and I knew I had a message and, and, and something that I wanted to do, but I just hadn't found the right thing.

[00:01:21] Ev: Um, and about two years ago, I. Found notion and, um, it was during lockdown here in Sydney and uh, I was looking for something to replace Trello. And so I kind of went down that rabbit hole like, uh, like in a big way. And I thought, you know what? I kind of, I like this and I like building things. And I used a lot of apps and kind of helped a lot of my friends.

[00:01:45] Ev: It kind of adopt different apps like Trello and, and that kind of thing. And so I thought, oh, I could do something here. And um, and so I thought I'm gonna start a blog cause that's what you do, you know? And, um, then, uh, I wrote three [00:02:00] blog posts and then I didn't do anything else. And, uh, so a, a few months later I, um, came back onto Twitter.

[00:02:08] Ev: I started seeing all of these, uh, little like essays, um, like, uh, image essays, like are really short and I kind of followed the trail all the way back, um, and found, uh, Dicky Bush and Ship 30 for 30. And I just started writing online on Twitter. And I really feel like I found my thing, like it was easy, uh, it was quick feedback.

[00:02:31] Ev: Everything I had done up until that point was more kind of, you know, into the void like. Creating things and thinking, oh, maybe everyone will come and, and listen to that podcast or, you know, watch these YouTube videos. And so, um, it was just a, a, I kind of, I feel like I found my thing. Um, and I definitely found writing and I fell in love with writing online and, um, and, and definitely with Twitter and uh, that's kind of what I've been doing for the past two.[00:03:00]

[00:03:01] Akta: So do you think that being consistent online requires you to kind of have figured out your thing beforehand? Or do you think there's also like certain mindsets or like shifts in what you're doing that help you to get to that stage where you've, you can actually find your thing? Like where do you start with all of that?

[00:03:19] Ev: I, I think that, Uh, like I wouldn't, I don't think I'd be here today if I didn't have all those kind of failed creative projects. I think that everything that you do contributes to where you are now. And so I think, and even now, I still, you know, I experiment, I do crazy things and, um, I, that's kind of her, that's kind of my mode of operating now,

[00:03:44] Ev: And, and I think that, you know, we are creators, we should be creative. Um, and sometimes that's hard because, The platforms that we exist on are algorithmic and you gotta kind of play the game. And there's a whole lot of like, stuff [00:04:00] around that's like that, that is really disconnected from creativity. And so I try and bring out my creativity as much as possible, um, while still kind of playing the game over here.

[00:04:12] Ev: But, um, yeah. Yeah. But I think, I think everything, everything that you do, I, I do think that you should experiment. You should play. , you know, we're in the greatest opportunity that we have ever been in, um, where anyone can really, you know, say something online or create something can, and people will listen.

[00:04:31] Ev: So, yeah.

[00:04:32] Akta: Yeah, you're completely right there. And I have to say, like, correct me if I'm wrong, but you have to be one of the most consistent creators I've come across. I feel like you tweet almost every single day, or like you come out with. Very consistently. How would you say that?

[00:04:47] Ev: Consistent? Uh, you know, I'm so glad you say that, cuz actually kind of, I think we're always really hard on ourselves, so I'm just like, oh, you know, like I'm not, as, you know, consist these days.

[00:04:58] Ev: I'm not as consistent as I [00:05:00] was in the beginning. Like, and I, I kind of have this theory, like every new level requires something different. So when you're in the beginning stages, I do think it requires a. It requires a lot to get that momentum happening. And I think even just to understand the practice of it and understand kind of where all of that, like how it works and you kind of, there's a little bit of obsession I think in every good creator.

[00:05:26] Ev: Like you just get obsessive onto that thing and you're like, okay, I'm everything that I can. Um, but I, I was really bullish in the beginning about showing up every day. I, I do think that the internet moves fast. Um, and not that people forget you, but I think that the fastest way to learn and to grow is to show up every day and to just do, do your thing every day.

[00:05:47] Ev: And I still kind of, I still have that mentality. I don't, I, I wrote 300 essays in 300 days. Like, that was a lot. Wow. Um, I don't do that anymore. And I do, I kind of miss, I miss writing every [00:06:00] day, like, It was, it was like, I think it was like pent up, like all of this, like, you know, like stuff that I'd been like building up for 10 years was like, okay, I'm gonna get all of this out.

[00:06:12] Ev: Um, but it was a great kind of start and a great kind of platform to then jump off and then, and then decide, okay, what works and what doesn't work, and like really working out, um, and experimenting with things. I think. And like then saying, so in my first year, I kind of call it like, you know, it's like, Just, you know, get in there, do a lot of things.

[00:06:32] Ev: In kind of this second year, I've really tried to think about leverage and like, okay, like how do I leverage all of this that I've done over the time and not have to kind of. Have so much kind of output, um, but what's the right kind of output to have and kind of think thinking a little bit more strategically, I suppose, in the

[00:06:52] Akta: second year?

[00:06:53] Akta: No, I, I love that strategy and that approach to being a creator. Yeah. Um, I find it incredible that you did 300 essays [00:07:00] in 300 days. I feel like I would really worry about running out I of ideas and things like that. What sort of systems did you have in place to make sure that you were able to

[00:07:09] Ev: actually do that?

[00:07:11] Ev: Yeah, so I, I feel really lucky because right before I kind. Started my blog and then started writing. I read the book How to Take Smart Notes, which is now like a cultish book kind of online about zeto, castin and, and note taking and all that. And it is actually part of what I write about and what I teach people to do.

[00:07:33] Ev: But I, I feel lucky because I read it and I, I started to take notes about everything. Um, and I think before that, you know, I was just a normal note taker, like highlight something. Categorize it, like put it in some kind of quotes database, but not really look at it again. And so I just started kind of this practice, I called it the writing inbox practice, where if I was, uh, if I was reading anything [00:08:00] or consuming anything online, I, um, saved it.

[00:08:03] Ev: I get like, gave it a little, I call them breadcrumb notes, so, Kind of reminds me like, what, what was I thinking? Or why did this kind of spark me? And then every morning I get up and I look into my writing inbox, which is all of those different breadcrumb notes and I choose something to write about. Um, and not necessarily like something to publish, but just, I just wanna think and write.

[00:08:25] Ev: And that has been the biggest kind of inspiration driver for me. I feel like I started to really. Have knowledge rather than just have information and kind of a whole lot of stuff coming at me. Like I started to really, um, kind of understand things and think through things and make sense of. All the stuff that's coming in all, all the time.

[00:08:51] Ev: And that really then gave me inspiration to write about things and, um, publish something every day. , how do

[00:08:59] Akta: [00:09:00] you organize that then? Because how, how do you make sure that's not just like an endless. List of notes, is there like some sort of structure to that ,

[00:09:09] Ev: or not really? It is an endless list of notes.

[00:09:11] Ev: Really? Wow. I, yeah, so there's about, okay, so one of my friends, actually, I was screen sharing the other day and she's like, oh, this gives me so much anxiety. But there's about 600 notes in that. Wow. In that, in. And I kind of see it like we treat inboxes a lot these days as like inbox zero, I've gotta process everything.

[00:09:32] Ev: For me, it's more that. Every, everything in there sparked me at some point, and so I kind of treat it as kind of a spark, like sparks of inspiration. And so every day I get to dive in to so many, like I could never actually get through all of them. And so I get to sit down and just really be inspired every morning.

[00:09:55] Ev: And I kind of treat them like it. It's less like a processing time and more [00:10:00] like a prompt. Um, and I just go in, I start to think and I start to.

[00:10:05] Akta: Actually, I really like the way that you frame that as a prompt rather than like this endless list. Cause I feel like an idea of a list is really overwhelming versus finding a prompt to inspire you is actually really quite a great idea.

[00:10:18] Akta: Um, what's the best way to capture these ideas? Like what sort of tools do you use to do all of this?

[00:10:25] Ev: I use re wise. Um, and this is a really funny story. all the way back. When I first started, I wrote an essay called Why I Will Never Use Read Wise. Um, and then now it's one of the. Like the pivotal parts of my system.

[00:10:42] Ev: And so I suppose I don't use it like, like most people do, is like saving things and then having the emails come to you and different things like that. I use it as a conduit to get things from wherever I'm consuming them. Um, those highlights and those notes straight into my note taking [00:11:00] app. So, uh, previously that's been not Rome, now it is tar.

[00:11:05] Ev: Um, and so I like. That, um, read wise, kind of, I can connect anything that I'm consuming. So wherever that is, whether it's a Kindle book, whether it's an article, a YouTube video, wherever I take notes, all of those notes go into Read Wise and then read Wise, then puts them into my note taking app, and then they're there ready for me, um, when I get up in the morning to.

[00:11:29] Akta: Nice. What about things that aren't digital though? Like physical books or, you know, like if you're just going for a walk and you've just got a random idea that's not related to content.

[00:11:39] Ev: Yes. Like, does that ever happen? Constantly? Yes. , I, um, and I, you know, I love walking for that very, very reason. Like, and I can hardly.

[00:11:51] Ev: I feel like sometimes I can hardly even like just get around the block and like, oh, stop, I've gotta write this thing down. So I just, I just used the draft app on my phone for that. I like quick [00:12:00] capture, get things in. I can always use Siri if I need just to, you know, record, um, and transcribe something.

[00:12:06] Ev: Mm-hmm. . Um, but yeah, if I'm, if I'm out and about or if it's. Something, uh, like a paper book or something like that. Then I'll, I'll just use drafts and then when I get home, I can dump it into my note taking app and it's there ready to go. And when you

[00:12:20] Akta: are consuming, how do you make sure that you are kind of consuming in this almost intentional way where it's helping you to create versus just going down a rabbit hole, like just scrolling and consuming more passive.

[00:12:34] Ev: Yeah. Uh, that's a good question. I think, um, I think it does take practice and it actually is a, it's a different, uh, I think you do have to work on your mindset. I think that most people consume because they have fear of missing out. So there's a whole lot of information on the internet and we're thinking, if I don't capture this, I'm never finding it again.

[00:12:56] Ev: And so this, this, all this fear, and so you just get into this. [00:13:00] Rabbit hole of just consuming, consuming, consuming. Whereas I really had to change my mindset. Like, and, and this is the problem with like information coming at us now, is like we are never getting through it. Like we're never getting to the end of it.

[00:13:18] Ev: And so you kind of have to, you just kind of have to like bankrupt yourself to that. You're like, okay, that's fine. If I don't get to that thing, it's okay. , there's gonna be more information down the line. Um, and, and so I kind of have that, that mode. So I, I just think, you know, , I don't have to consume everything.

[00:13:38] Ev: Um, and I, I, I don't even think these days, like I don't finish books. Uh, like I just kind of read everything just as if like, it's like a flow of like, like a river kind of, you know, it's like I'm just jumping in wherever. I just like, uh, I might read a chapter here, then I might read an article over there.

[00:13:57] Ev: I've, I, I literally have no rules about [00:14:00] this and I think, you know, I, I follow, I do follow my interests and I follow what's interesting to me. And then I, I, I am okay if I miss out on some things. And I think, I think that's a mindset that we all have to come to terms with at some point, cuz we are not getting to the.

[00:14:20] Akta: That's really true. And do you take that mindset with capturing as well? So do you capture like everything that you consume or are you also quite selective about it to be like, okay, not all of this is relevant to me.

[00:14:33] Ev: I, I am really selective and I think like I capture as much as. What sparks me if I find it interesting, I think, oh, that's interesting.

[00:14:41] Ev: I think I might wanna explore that a little bit more. I'll just capture it and then I get to choose then if I do or not when I get into my writing inbox. But I think that. I like, I, I mean I, I'm not an academic or anything, so like, I think if you have an academic workflow then it's different. You've gotta [00:15:00] know concepts and, and all sorts of things like that.

[00:15:03] Ev: Whereas I do not need to know that. And so I have the luxury of being able to jump around and go down rabbit holes if I want to and, and that kind of thing. So my only prerequisite is does this spark me and do I find this interesting? Yeah. And I'll capture it. No,

[00:15:20] Akta: that sounds like a good way of doing it.

[00:15:22] Akta: Um, when you do sit down to write, what happens if you are kind of in that creative rut or does this system kind of overcome that?

[00:15:31] Ev: Yeah, I mean, it's a good question. I mean, with 600 prompt notes, it's hard to be in a creative route. Right? And that's why I'm okay with having a lot of notes because there's gotta be something in there that sparks me, right?

[00:15:46] Ev: Um, and but, but that doesn't mean I don't get into a creative route like, it, it is, you know, it's, it's normal. And so I find in those times, I try and be kind to myself. Like you can't [00:16:00] always be writing the wave of creativity. Um, and so in those times I might kind of just pull back a little bit and I have that luxury now because I have a lot of content out there.

[00:16:10] Ev: Um, I still try and have a minimum viable kind of output that I do. If I can't do anything, I just tweet. That's it. That's why you see me show up, stays on Twitter, , um, even if I'm not creating anything else. And I think that's okay, but I also. There is power in actually just doing the ritual. Um, even sometimes when you feel like, well, I'm not inspired today.

[00:16:34] Ev: Well, even just like, I mean, my ritual is like, wake up, make coffee, sit down and ride. And so that's what I do. I wake up, I make my coffee, and I sit down. And if that's, you know, five minutes or if that's an. The, the ritual still happens and I think that's really important just to, to not abandon it all together.

[00:16:52] Ev: Cause I think, I think that's a big thing that a lot of, like, I, I think that's why I failed a lot of times. It's like you get into that [00:17:00] creative rut and so you think, oh, maybe I'll take a break or maybe I'll stop doing kind of the things that give you inspiration. and then you stop altogether and you don't, it's hard to get started again.

[00:17:10] Ev: Yeah.

[00:17:11] Akta: Yeah, that's true. Um, and you have quite a lot of moving parts. So you have, like Twitter, you have your blog. You are constantly creating these really cool templates for creators. How do you manage your time as a creator to make sure you are giving focused to all the things that you want to be doing?

[00:17:28] Ev: It's really hard. Like I, and I'm not a full time creator, like, so I also have a job. Uh, and people, people find that really surprising. Really? But I work from home. I know, right? But I went from home. So I found during the pandemic, I went from working in an office, traveling, doing all that kind of thing. To not doing that.

[00:17:47] Ev: And I'm like, oh, I've got time now. So I, um, I tend to, I tend to create in the mornings and then, you know, do, do my work and, and that kind of thing. So, um, [00:18:00] a lot of the time, yeah, I, I just, I know take a few hours in the morning, do a whole lot of work, that's when I'm most alive and active and, and feel, you know, able to create things.

[00:18:11] Ev: Um, and then on the weekends, I, I do some stuff, but I think. . I think having the systems in place has helped me, so like, I'm very systemized. I, I always like, you know, like even when I wrote the essays, I, I had it down to a really fine art, like I could just. You know, get it done about 20 minutes, get it out there, published.

[00:18:33] Ev: And like one of my friends said to me, you're like one of the best scrappy creators I've ever seen. Like, you're like, just making it like, like, and for me it's always like minimum viable everything. Like if I can just get it out and just get it out there online, like it doesn't have to be perfect. It can just be there and at least then it's published and it's out and, and I don't ever.

[00:18:56] Ev: My published work as the End, I see it as the beginning. [00:19:00] So for me, any essay, article, video, whatever it is, I can then go and like. Keep developing that idea and even change my mind. I've changed my mind on so many different things over the time, and I'm okay with that as well. And so I think like that's, that's kind of the fun thing about like creating in public is that you can change your mind.

[00:19:20] Ev: You can, you know, double down on something, can people like. Okay, great.

[00:19:26] Akta: Yeah, no, that's really true. And I wanna go back to what you just said about that because you said earlier in the call that you're kind of, Back seat a little bit from showing up every single day, and now you're focusing a little bit more on leverage.

[00:19:37] Akta: What does that actually mean? What does that look like?

[00:19:41] Ev: Um, uh, it's really great question. I don't actually know if I know what it looks like. Um, I suppose I'm trying to find. Um, I'm trying to find ways to get my content out, let's say like older content back out there or, um, you know, even [00:20:00] different plat, like using different platforms and different formats.

[00:20:02] Ev: Um, I think that once you have a whole lot of content, then you can turn it into a lot of things. As much, um, effort as kind of the first time that you wrote it or the first time that it was kind of there. So I think, yeah, I, I don't really have an answer. I've been, I've been at the leverage thing for like, pretty much the whole this year, and I'm like, mm, I don't really know.

[00:20:27] Ev: But, uh, but I, I mean, I, I think, I think as well, like having content on the internet compounds, even if you. Doing anything with it, it's there. People are finding you and so I, I find. You know, as I, as I, let's say, as I grow on Twitter or as I get kind of more impressions and that kind of thing, more people then just kind of fall down the rabbit hole of e and so they, you know, get to the website and, and all that content is there.

[00:20:56] Ev: And so I think I, I do think it [00:21:00] kind of compounds itself. Um, and you have, you can write less and you can do a little bit less, um, or you can, you can kind of have these seasons where you kind of step back a. And let, let the, let the, the funnel work for itself and then keep going.

[00:21:15] Akta: I really like that because it's almost like taking that pressure off yourself.

[00:21:18] Akta: Like you, you've done the work already, you know, your content is gonna speak for itself almost. You know, you don't have to keep working so hard on that hamster wheel, you know? I like that.

[00:21:26] Ev: I think so. And I, I really feel like, like your content works for you 24 7. Once it's out there, it's true. You know, like, I mean, it can feel.

[00:21:35] Ev: It can feel like, let's say you're on Twitter, like, oh, it's gone in, you know, 90 minutes or whatever. Um, but if you are then taking that content and making it into some kind of like pillar, um, where you can have it on your website or you know, you're creating videos, you're doing all this stuff, then. I think that people naturally, when they find you, they're gonna go to your profile.

[00:21:57] Ev: They're gonna, you know, look [00:22:00] around, um, you know, people are curious and then, you know, all that content is out there working for you.

[00:22:04] Akta: Amazing. We're gonna move onto a quick fire around, so I'm gonna ask you five quick questions you just have to answer. The first thing that comes to mind is the five questions I try to ask every creator that comes on the air.

[00:22:15] Akta: So what's your favorite thing about being a creator?

[00:22:18] Ev: Uh, hands down the people that I get to meet. Love it.

[00:22:23] Akta: And what's, what brings you the most

[00:22:25] Ev: inspiration? Um, I think like, definitely like hearing people's stories and kind of actually just seeing, um, like seeing the people that you're, you're coming up with, like in growing together.

[00:22:39] Ev: I think that's, that's really inspiring. I like that.

[00:22:42] Akta: Yeah. And I feel like I know the answer to this, but what's your favorite tool that helps you as a creator?

[00:22:49] Ev: Uh, um, well, I would have to say my writing inbox. Like that's, it's not like an actual tool, but it is the, the tool that I use. Your

[00:22:58] Akta: system. Yeah, no, [00:23:00] definitely.

[00:23:00] Akta: And what's one thing that's helped with your creator work life balance.

[00:23:06] Ev: Um, I think thinking, thinking in seasons and being kind to yourself. Um, so yes, you wanna show up every day, but does that look the same every day? And thinking like, what does this season look like? You know, is it a step back? Is it a step forward?

[00:23:23] Akta: Yeah. No, I like that. And finally, what's one piece of advice you'd give to other creator?

[00:23:29] Ev: Get in the game like it, we are in the best opportunity of our lives right now. And, uh, even if you fail, like, you know, 10 times before you actually find your thing, that is part of the process. So just get in the game and start.

[00:23:47] Akta: Amazing. Thank you so much. E I feel like this has been such a reassuring conversation. Even for me, you've made the whole like concept of content creation somewhat less overwhelming. So thank you so much.

[00:23:58] Ev: Uh, thanks for having me. It's really been fun. [00:24:00]

[00:24:00] Akta: Usually there's so much pressure to stay consistent as a creator, and I honestly thought speaking to E I would feel more overwhelmed, but actually I've left the conversation feeling really reassured.

[00:24:11] Akta: I love that E thinks about being a creator in terms of seasons, and I think that's something that can really help us all to stay in this for long game. You can find Eve over on Twitter and her website. She's got loads of digital products for creators like yourself. And if you are a creator, check out Passion fruit.

[00:24:26] Akta: We help you to manage sponsorships, collaborations, and payments all in one place. Thank you for listening in to our conversation, and I'll see you soon.