Zen and the art of using Scrivener

Robert Pirsig wrote one of my favorite books called “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. In his second book called “Lila”, he has a small section explaining his writing method. You can read about it at


What Pirsig stresses is random access of slips (cards or documents as they are called in Scrivener). Instead of doing what naive writers do, starting with an outline and only incorporating material that fits in the outline, he points out an alternative working method. Working bottom up and letting the slips dictate the outline and not the other way around. The most important words for me in the text are

Because he didn’t pre-judge the fittingness of new ideas or try to put them in order but just let them flow in, these ideas sometimes came in so fast he couldn’t write them down quickly enough.

I think that Scrivener can be used to support Pirsig’s method of writing using slips. Please let me know if you have any thoughts about his method using slips with random access.

I loved Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance when I read it as a student (which I guess is when most folk read it :slight_smile: ). I was never too sure about the Phaedrus stuff, but the epilogue about his son was heartbreaking. And thanks to that book I’m always aware of how the little things such as a tap dripping might be making me, subconsciously, a more irritable person.

I ought to buy myself another copy given that mine is old and battered and I Sellotaped my own typewritten spine onto it after it fell off, but I tend to like to keep the copies of books that I have actually read rather than having an untouched copy for the shelf…

Anyway. Thanks for posting this!



Interesting post. I have used various Beta versions of Scrivener, but only recently purchased for full time use - so my comments may be misguided through inexperience.

I think you make a valid point. Currently, if I think of an idea relevant to a writing project I would have to open Scrivener and the appropriate doc and perhaps use a scratch note to record my thoughts. I seem to have a particularly small brain and need to record thoughts as they tumble out - or they just go away. So I use SOHO notes. No matter what app I am using I can hit a couple of keys and a small window opens in which I can record my idea and then close the window. No mousing needed. By default these notes go into a general Inbox I have set up in SOHO. I then go through it once or twice a day and put the notes where they belong.

It would be useful to be able to access a general Scrivener inbox that I could access the same way. I generally have 3 - 5 projects going in Scrivener, but it would be simple enough to type a word or two into the note so I know to which project it belongs. Then when I am actually working on the projects I would drag these notes to be associated with the relevant doc.

I would NOT use this for my general To Do stuff, rather keeping it specific to Scrivener. I am a little terrified of Scrivener evolving into an app to compete with the likes of SOHO Notes: I would hate to lose the focus on writing.