Today I finished How To Take Smart Notes. The book summarizes the system of notetaking of Niklas Luhmann, who was a prolific writer. How did he do it? He took good notes. He took literature notes on his reading, compiled separate notes on how the reading connected to the work he was doing and the ideas he was thinking about, and kept a detailed bibliography. The literature notes made it easy to find what he wanted, the notes that connected the reading to his own work forced him to think and make connections about both, and the bibliography saved him time. When he wanted to write, he went to his “slip box” (where he kept his notes) and ruminated on ideas and how they connected.
This is an experiment that I’m going to try for the rest of the year. I’m convinced that there should be better ways for me to write and find connections between what I’m reading. I’m also convinced that this extra work will pay off down the road. In fact it reminds me of how Austin Kleon uses his journal and logbooks and old writing from the blog. He goes back and rereads it and then makes connection. Alan Jacobs has discussed similar ideas of returning to old work and I’m determined to try it now.
I’m sure the beginning will be slow and clunky. But imagine what it could be in ten years.