RFC: Oblique Strategies | writing prompts, reflection, creator's block

hello everyone,

Oblique Strategies (subtitled Over One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemmas) is a card-based method for promoting creativity jointly created by musician/artist Brian Eno and multimedia artist Peter Schmidt, first published in 1975. Physically, it takes the form of a deck of 7-by-9-centimetre (2.8 in × 3.5 in) printed cards in a black box. Each card offers a challenging constraint intended to help artists (particularly musicians) break creative blocks by encouraging lateral thinking.

for the past few months i’ve been drawing a card each morning, thinking about the text on the card (today’s was “repetition is a form of change”), and writing about each one in obsidian. i find it to be a rewarding and worthwhile practice, especially when it comes to getting mentally ready for work first thing in the morning or hammering through a creative block.

i’ve been working on developing my deck into a desktop application that i can fire up on demand with some shortcut, and after some thought i think i’d like to port what i’ve made over to an obsidian plugin. in the spirit of delivering something worthwhile i’m here looking for suggestions, thoughts, what have you, from the community.

here are some ideass i had earlier today for preliminary features:

  • some kind of syntax that triggers a “card pull” [[in this format]] whenever a daily note is created;
  • the ability to hit some hotkey and trigger a card pull;
  • a note containing a link to each card so you can track which cards you’ve encountered, all the dates you’ve encountered them, and the thoughts/ideas you had on those days;
  • the ability for users to create their own cards and have them appear at random.

i have some other ideas as well but these are the most concrete ones i have for the time being. does this sound like something you’d use? does something like this already exist? do you love it? do you hate it? how would you change it? what else do you want?

i’d love to hear from you and any ideas/comments/criticisms you might have.

thanks!

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As a writer, I love it. I would love to use something like this to trigger daily writing exercises for flash fiction. If you’re asking what I’d change / add, for me the main thing would be the

the ability for users to create their own cards and have them appear at random.

part: I would love a way to sort of pull from a variable list. For example, some of my favorite writing prompts tend to be formatted like:

  1. Include these ($3-5) words: $1 $2 $3 $4 $5
  2. Begin with a word that starts with $RandomLetters
  3. Take place at a $location or a $location.

…etc.

I find that “write your own prompts” en total tend to be less inspiring because you kind of already know them and if you’re the one who thought of it, you already generally have a thought about it? The randomness element or creativity prompts is important to me.

3 Likes

+1 for this and +1 foe @EleanorKonik addition

I run a community development project here in the UK as a therapist, artist and writer I would find this plugin extremely useful on many fronts. I would also be over the moon with the ability to make my own cards so they can be bespoke to different types of work I do and the people I do work with. Love the idea

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thanks both! really appreciate the insight. i’ll see what i can do to work in both use-cases and in the meantime if you have any further ideas then feel free to get in touch!

i’ll keep you posted on development.

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I like the sound of the idea a lot – I have the Oblique Strategies in markdown files in my vault and link to them sometimes, I absolutely love them. I have had brief thoughts in the past about some kind of website/software for randomly spitting out cards, but wasn’t sure how cool it would be to share without permission. The physical cards are out of stock at https://www.enoshop.co.uk/product/oblique-strategies (could do handwritten/homemade on index cards?). There are quite a lot of links at http://www.rtqe.net/ObliqueStrategies/ but as as far as I can see, they are all very old and broken.

Some strategies I think about/could relate to note-taking/linking:

A line has two sides

The most important thing is the thing most easily forgotten

State the problem in words as clearly as possible

Not building a wall but making a brick

Use fewer notes

(…or not :grinning:)

I love the idea. When I thought about it what came to mind was that this is the Random Note Core Plugin restricted to a directory or collection of notes. This made me wonder if it’s not better to customize this core plugin to accept different parameters. Perhaps it could be done via the Command Palette: Random /Oblique picks a random note in the directory Oblique.

This would actually be useful for any directory. If I had an extensive set of notes for a certain topic I would appreciate the display of a random note in that collection.

There’s already a great “Smart Random Note” plugin that opens random notes from search results. Works well for this :slight_smile: (edit to add link, not my work but am enjoying using it – https://github.com/erichalldev/obsidian-smart-random-note)

2 Likes

Hi all,

I thought Eleanor’s custom/randomized prompts would be cool to prototype.

I’ve created a basic plugin to play around with. It’s not yet in the directory, but you can get it from https://github.com/akaalias/obsidian-shuffle/releases/ - (It can also be used to simply randomize oblique strategies, just update the settings and the template)

Here’s a quick overview:

Example

Input template

## Prompt
1. Include one of these words: $WORD, $WORD or $WORD
2. Begin with a word that starts with `$LETTER`
3. Take place in $LOCATION or $LOCATION

Randomized output:

## Prompt
1. Include one of these words: Wall, Wind or Book
2. Begin with a word that starts with `g`
3. Take place in London or Los Angeles

Personalized variables and template

Example randomized prompt in a new note

Steps to install manually

  • Download the latest main.js, mainfest.json and style.css from https://github.com/akaalias/obsidian-shuffle/releases/
  • Create a new folder named ‘obsidian-shuffle’
  • Place the files in the folder
  • Place the folder in your .obsidian/plugins directory
  • Reload plugins
  • Activate the “Shuffle” plugin

Steps to use the plugin

  • Hit the ‘Dice’ button in the sidebar to generate a new prompt note
  • Customize your variable names, values and template to your liking in the settings

I’d love to hear y’alls feedback. I’m thinking we could put together different “prompt-packs” that could be automatically installed with a click of a button inside the settings.
A pack could be:

  1. Oblique Strategies
  2. Flash Fiction Prompts
  3. Writing Prompts from /r/writingprompts

etc.

What do you think?

1 Like

:email:PS: To demonstrate the idea of a ‘pack’, I’ve added Oblique Strategies to the settings. Just click the “Load Oblique Strategies” button and you can use them right away.

If you have a cool set of prompts, please share and I’ll integrate it as a new ‘pack’.

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I AM SO EXCITED FOR THIS.

You betcha I’m going to get started on a fiction prompt pack right away.

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Amazing, thank you for sharing! Eleanor’s :zap:Flash Fiction pack is now available with release 0.0.3 :smiley:

=>

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welp! this certainly wasn’t what i was expecting! :tada:

i’m really glad this thread led to something excellent. @EleanorKonik you must be over the moon!

@akaalias thanks for stepping in - i’m glad you liked the idea enough to make something of it! i’m a compsci student with a pretty solid workload so i wouldn’t have been able to work on this properly for a good while.

i suppose the only feature i really envisioned that appears to be missing (or perhaps i just missed it) is the ability to generate a [[note link]] in place to either the generated or found note if it already exists (e.g. if i ‘pull’ an OS card that i’ve already pulled before). although having said that it does feel a little cheeky asking for a feature request for something i was supposed to build :sweat_smile:

outrageously good work, one and all.

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I ended up creating an Oblique Strategy directory with one note per Oblique Strategy card. Each note’s filename is prefixed: “Oblique Strategy” , so I do a search for that term then use the Smart Random Note on the search result. It’s perfect, expandable and future proof.

1 Like