There's a great line in the first season of How I Met Your Mother (which we just recently discovered and watched on DVD) when Marshall is confronted with a tough decision and he says "I'm going to let future Marshall deal with that." GF and I have taken that up as a strategy on occasion and it's really helpful -- not, I'm going to keep on worrying over this choice ineffectually for the next three months; instead, I'm going to just turn it over to my future self who will have more information and be smarter. (Note, too, the congruence of this idea with GTD methodology - store your information and your decisions-to-be-made somewhere in your system so that you can deal with them as the time becomes right, not too early or perpetually.)
Lately, however, I'm working on a chapter about some poems for which I have various sets of older notes that I've been sorting through. I've presented a couple of conference papers that dealt with some of this material, but that's the extent of it. I've been delighted to find out that previous Mel was smarter than I thought! My memory of the two conference papers was muddied by my feelings about the panels (one in particular was the last session of the last day and had clearly been thrown together by the conference organizers as a grab-bag of barely-related topics). And my notes clearly show that the ideas I'm currently working with for the chapter have, in fact, been in my head for a long time. It's just that my conscious mind didn't know it.
This fragmentation of my thinking self isn't new -- I have a weak memory and I've only recently discovered notetaking techniques that might help me keep hold of some of the associative links more firmly. And so much of my early academic life was fragmented into particular tasks: write a paper for a seminar, write a conference paper, write an article for a deadline. Now that I'm trying to modify and enjoy my writing process in a more holistic way, I'm sifting through some of those past tasks and meeting up with my previous self. I used to be frustrated with the recursivity of my reading and writing process -- but I'm trying to cultivate a more open and friendly attitude, like Marshall's. Hey, past self, nice to see you in these notes, thanks for pointing out these subtopics already. (I know, it's not very academic, but I take my models wherever I find them)