What's your writing workflow for pulling ideas out of your zettelkasten?

What’s your workflow for pulling notes from Obsidian into a blog post, book, or other document?

I started using Obsidian after reading Sönke Ahrens How to Take Smart Notes which has a lovely passage (Ch 2, p21) musing about

  • how much easier it would be to write a paper if you already had a draft
  • how much easier it would be to write a draft if you already had key arguments, quotes, and sources assembled in an outline
  • how much easier it would be to prepare an outline if you could browse through a library of notes that show how sources and ideas are linked to together
  • how that just requires that you get in the habit of writing in complete sentences as you read and reflect, and a system for cross-referencing notes

The mental process is clear to me, the logistics of composing documents in Markdown are not. Please share your workflows and tips, or point me to other threads where this has been discussed!

Do you do the outlining and drafting in Obsidian or other software? Do you embed other notes into your outline ![[Another note]] or copy and paste their contents? Do you make use of folding? Do you use footnotes [^1]: Source or BibTex? How do you strip out wiki links? Do you have a template for your permanent notes that makes them easier to work with when it comes time for writing?


I have the same questions/thoughts too and don’t know how others typically do it. But here’s a video that might be relevant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFRp6QS8z8w

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I have the same question. I have all the notes I need and the idea for an article. Wondering how I can easily pull them all together and arrange them to create a draft in a separate note. Ideally, I’d be able to copy and paste this test for publishing or further editing somewhere else.

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You do exactly that: You copy and past the information/ideas/thoughts from the relevant notes into a separate doc, and begin the editing, connecting, fleshing out portion of your writing. In other words, you start writing the text.

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This is very helpful and seemingly obvious. But really the copy pasting part of it is surely not intuitive within Obsidian where the tendency is to keep everything in a singular location and attempt to utilize links and embeds to fill the void that a simple copy paste can accomplish.

Thanks for this! It helped me very much.

  • I have two artifact notes of my writing in the vault: the final draft and the finished piece (if there actually is one).
  • The final draft is a messy thing with links, copied text and thoughts; using Obsidian outlining. It is where research and thought combine to either warrant a final piece or the draft is left as the only artifact.
  • There comes a point in my drafting that I am done researching, thinking, and linking. If it is a longer piece, I pour it into Scrivener for editing, revision & submission or publication. I don’t use Obsidian for longform editing and revision in the vault; easily distracted me finds way too many rainbows to chase in there.
  • I determine a title for the notes, one has a “- draft” suffix and any published content has a “- manuscript” suffix.
  • For shorter blog and other media posts, I boil it all down into the last several paragraphs at the bottom of the draft and then simply paste the content into web destination.
  • I try not to dwell too much on atomicity and the formality of the various PKM methodologies. With Obsidian links and search, I can always find what I need.

Not sure what you mean by keep everything in a singular location. Obsidian is essentially a file-editing software based on MD files, folders, and links. You can make as many separate notes as you like. If you want to write something based on yr notes, copy and paste the relevant ideas in the note into a new doc and begin writing. You could of course just link the notes, but that’s not really gonna help you with the actual text. You need the text present in the new doc.


This is very helpful. Thanks. I totally agree. In terms of what I meant by singular location, I often try to keep my ideas in atomic notes or at least in tight well defined sections delineated by headings. This way, I could rely on embedding as opposed to copying. But without editable embeds, you are absolutely right that you need the text in the note when writing.

Even if editable embeds were possible, it would still often be the case that the source material should be kept in its original form. The copied and pasted text can be freely edited and manipulated, with the security of easy recall via links placed adjacent to the pasted text. In a video a while back, I remember @EleanorKonik mentioned that while writing she will sometimes fence her links with %% in order to retain the connection to the source while still being able to have these distracting links hidden in reading mode while moving towards a more finished piece of writing.

Anyways, long story short I really needed your advice about copy pasting because I had become semi stuck with my methods, fearing that getting in the habit of copy pasting regularly would eventually dilute and muddy my future search results. While still a somewhat reasonable fear, the ultimate goal of using Obsidian for me is to organize and finish pieces of writing; so anything limiting or slowing that process deserves immediate attention.

Edit: I just remembered one relevant method that I occasionally use when building atomic notes. For example, I take a segment out of a note that is a transcription of a voice recording and break it up into subheadings and then both copy and embed the desired sections into the new note. This way, I can edit out some of the extraneous content while avoiding damaging the source while having the whole embedded version within a heading in the note to be easily unfolded for viewing. For some reason I never transferred this workflow to my technique of producing the final document, and for that, I very much appreciate the suggestion from @bobdoto.


Curtis has some good stuff that’s no frills. Thanks for suggesting it to the conversation! I learned a lot from it and am looking forward to implementing a lot of what he did.