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Use vim to Keep One Journal For Life

by Mike Levin

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

You should journal.

You should learn vim.

You should use vim to journal.

You should journal by using vim.

If you need something to ease you into journaling, you should write about your experience learning vim to journal.

If journaling about yourself and your life and your problems and your thoughts all triggers you, keep it impersonal for awhile and just get down the mechanical skills of easy-peasy writing.

It will not be easy-peasy at first. Vim is one of the hardest pieces of software to get started with initially, because it is unlike anything else you have ever encountered.

The ways vim are different are the reasons it is better. It was made for another time when all life’s assumptions were different. There were no mice or trackpads and every movement you made with your hands mattered. These movements mattered because it would cause expensive time-sharing operations to happen when computing and online communication was very expensive.

Using a tool made for such a time will change you and improve your life for the better in countless ways. It is better than an undergrad education. It is better than any programming language. It is better than any other skill or trade you could learn. Writing is everything. Data is everything. Text is everything. Every field of tech ultimately relies on text in some way. Mastering text is mastering tech. Mastering text is mastering self.

This may sound abstract and empty to you today while you read this. It is not. It is precise and right on the nose.

Not believing me is at your own peril. Your loss. You would not believe me if I told you all the ways this could change your life for the better.

And it can all start with journaling.

Journaling is such a small phrase but means so much. It means “come to know yourself”. Coming to know yourself isn’t easy. Journaling isn’t easy. And I do it all in the vim text editor which isn’t easy to learn. And so there’s a layering-up of thing after thing which isn’t easy… all of which you’re doing just to get to know yourself better.

The most achievable, practical and righteous feedback-loop of self-improvement available on this planet Earth today is learning vim by journaling, and learning to journal by using vim.

It beats blogging software. It beats paper journals. It beats journaling apps. It beats Google Docs, Microsoft Word, Apple Notes, SimpleNote, Evernote, spiral notebooks, composition notebooks, and Jupyter Notebooks (+nbdev).

Wait, what? I learned vim for journaling and getting to know myself better? Well, not directly but that was the result. Vim takes a lot of practice. I’ve kept personal journals on and off since I was eighteen years old. I still have most of them, but when I decided to switch to vim for coding, it occurred to me that I could get an awful lot of practice if I used it for journaling as well. That would give me an excuse to get in there and at least once a day, if I was being disciplined about it. And even if not, I’d be using vim hundreds of times more than if just for coding alone.

I think the world would be a better place if everyone learned vim. I think the world would be actually be healed if everyone learned emacs. But you can’t ask for everything.

Compromised solutions that are good enough, and then successively layered-up inch towards great solutions. That’s vim. It’s good enough. It will serve you for life. Advancements you make in proficiency, skills, muscle-memory and the like can’t get taken away from you, as they will be with vendor-driven products. Compounding returns kick-in in areas much more internal, practical and important than bank accounts.

Every time you learn a new vim keystroke or trick, your abilities are permanently and forever improved. Every time you edit your vim configuration file (.vimrc) to make one of your favorite vim-tricks even easier, you have developed a superpower. Those superpowers can be re-created from scratch in a pinch to recover them by reconstructing your .vimrc, but better-still, they can just travel around with you for life by being in a distributed version control system like Github. Clone a repo. Copy it’s .vimrc file to ~/.vimrc and the radioactive spider has bitten you.

Want more superpowers?

Get down the next vim-trick. Learn buffers and registers. Your superpowers will grow again a hundredfold. The first hundredfold for registers. The second hundredfold for buffers. And it’s not 100 + 100 = 200x benefit. It’s 100 x 100 for 10,000 benefit.

And in case you haven’t gotten the idea, you should make one file such as journal.md and use it for journaling for the rest of your life.