Zettelkasten Forum


I honestly feel like I have no original thoughts....

Ive been struggling so much with the concept of a literature note vs a main note. I understand that literature notes are meant to capture other people's thoughts, whereas a main note is supposed to capture my own. The thing is that I'm always learning, and I myself know nothing. When I connect ideas together, I don't feel any "claim" to them; in my mind, I'm connecting other people's ideas together. Of course, this begs the question: where do ideas come from? Are we all not born a blank slate? Is there even such a thing as "an original thought"?

Im studying mathematics right now and I keep a journal to record my "feelings" about whatever it is that I am learning. In this journal, I often connect mathematics with ideas from different, seemingly-unrelated fields. I also draw pictures, write poems, create stories.... I want to do this instead with a zettelkasten because I like the idea of atomic notes that I can link together (as opposed to the linear structure of a journal) - but there seems to be a formal approach to writing notes that doesn't exist with journaling. Apparently, well-written notes require references that indicate explicit distinctions between "my" ideas and another's idea.... How do I make the distinction?

Also, is it appropriate for me to include "feelings" and poems and drawings in a zettel, or is it best to include only theories and ideas?

What is perceived cannot be Perceiving

Comments

  • edited November 6

    I guess I have had to struggle less with this because I enjoy writing in general and typing in particular so much, so I naturally tend to write something that comes to mind because it's fun to see characters on screen appear out of nowhere :)

    That's more or less the hurdle I see there. I can imagine capturing an inspiring quote, being awestruck by the poignant aphorism, and there's nothing to take away or add to the quote itself. It just is.

    So I quote it, add tags, title, and ID to find it later, and then I might record a short paragraph about the associations I had when encountering this.

    This is one of the oldest and shortest and also crappiest I can find:

    It's a quote attributed to John Milton, more or less literally saying "Free is he who obeys reason". I couldn't find this in English online, so I guess it's not actually from Milton, but there you go.

    My note below, in English:

    Fits Kant's view of autonomy, meaning self-determination and self-restriction/self-limitation.

    And that's it!

    Why? How? It doesn't say! It's not a good comment :) But I hope it's still encouraging you to leave a personal trace if you have the inclination to do so.

    The best thing this crappy old quote with the crappy old comment can do is bring up this note when I search for "Kant" and "self-limitation" or something. Adding more words here is like leaving breadcrumbs. It's not ideal, but it's something. So the utility of my comment is approaching 0, but at least I got better at commenting in the past decade -- precisely because I found my old stuff to be sub-par.

    As @Will so famously said: all notes are malleable, and so you can evolve your commentary, too.

    Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

  • @Esmeralda said:
    Ive been struggling so much with the concept of a literature note vs a main note.

    I recommend not worrying too much about what notes are called. I recommend think of every note as a note added to your archive. Some will be great and some will not. Just label or use format that makes clear for your future self rather the note includes a quote. Anything that is not a quote is your idea or translation of another's idea.

    This note is a pure capture of a quote, not yet processed into my own language. Maybe you consider this a 'literature note' but for me it doesn't matter - it gets an equal place with the other notes.

    Im studying mathematics right now and I keep a journal to record my "feelings" about whatever it is that I am learning. In this journal, I often connect mathematics with ideas from different, seemingly-unrelated fields. I also draw pictures, write poems, create stories.... I want to do this instead with a zettelkasten because I like the idea of atomic notes that I can link together (as opposed to the linear structure of a journal) - but there seems to be a formal approach to writing notes that doesn't exist with journaling.

    Personally, I keep both a journal in Evernote and I use The Archive as my note archive. There are some things that just don't seem to fit in my journal and some that might pollute the note archive. I have a setup that allows me to link the two when appropriate.

    Apparently, well-written notes require references that indicate explicit distinctions between "my" ideas and another's idea.... How do I make the distinction?

    Forget the idea of a "well-written" note and just make notes that move you, do the best you can at the time and your'll get better with practice. I use blockquotes and " " for quote and consider anything else mine thoughts and ideas.

    Also, is it appropriate for me to include "feelings" and poems and drawings in a zettel, or is it best to include only theories and ideas?

    Sure, absolutely, if they are labeled. I use the tags, #haiku for notes on the study of methods and other authors poems and #myhaiku for my own work.

    Will Simpson
    I'm a Zettelnant.
    Research: Rationalism, Zen, Dzogchen, Non-fiction Creative Writing
    kestrelcreek.com

  • edited November 7

    @Esmeralda said:
    Ive been struggling so much with the concept of a literature note vs a main note. I understand that literature notes are meant to capture other people's thoughts, whereas a main note is supposed to capture my own. The thing is that I'm always learning, and I myself know nothing. When I connect ideas together, I don't feel any "claim" to them; in my mind, I'm connecting other people's ideas together. Of course, this begs the question: where do ideas come from? Are we all not born a blank slate?

    Carl Jung would answer: No. :)

    Is there even such a thing as "an original thought"?

    I think that in my Zettelkasten 15% are my own ideas and 85% are other people ideas. However, even those 15% are influenced by my upbringing, readings etc. I do believe that there is such a thing like an original thought. But to me, it is not that important if a thought is original.

    Im studying mathematics right now and I keep a journal to record my "feelings" about whatever it is that I am learning. In this journal, I often connect mathematics with ideas from different, seemingly-unrelated fields. I also draw pictures, write poems, create stories.... I want to do this instead with a zettelkasten because I like the idea of atomic notes that I can link together (as opposed to the linear structure of a journal) - but there seems to be a formal approach to writing notes that doesn't exist with journaling. Apparently, well-written notes require references that indicate explicit distinctions between "my" ideas and another's idea.... How do I make the distinction?

    I see it that way: I don't care where ideas are from. I care about ideas. I love good ideas from other people. And I love (some) ideas I have. But it is never about the source of the idea. The reference is only to honor ones work. But it has no role in my work with the idea.

    Also, is it appropriate for me to include "feelings" and poems and drawings in a zettel, or is it best to include only theories and ideas?

    It is totally appropriate. The question is if you achieve your goals with your practice.


    To me, it seems that you have the issue of being self-conscious. It might help to just focus on the beauty of ideas and see what happens. :)

    Post edited by sfast on

    I am a Zettler

  • I wouldn't worry about it that much. No one is that original. This is a good video on the subject matter https://www.everythingisaremix.info/watch-the-series

  • Your question reminds me a recent book I read:

    +begin_quote

    We are histories of ourselves, narratives. I am not this momentary
    mass of flesh reclined on the sofa typing the letter a on my laptop; I
    am my thoughts full of the traces of the phrases that I am writing; I
    am my mother’s caresses, and the serene kindness with which my father
    calmly guided me; I am my adolescent travels; I am what my reading has
    deposited in layers in my mind; I am my loves, my moments of despair,
    my friendships, what I’ve written, what I’ve heard; the faces engraved
    on my memory. I am, above all, the one who a minute ago made a cup of
    tea for himself. The one who a moment ago typed the word “memory” into
    his computer. The one who just composed the sentence that I am now
    completing. If all this disappeared, would I still exist?

    +end_quote

    • Rovelli, C. (2018). The order of time.

    Who am I? I often ask myself and I sometimes feel that I am not exist.
    All my thoughts are just a particular pattern in my brain and they are
    determined by the environment my body experienced. It constantly
    evaluates the surrounding environment and makes decision based on the
    previous mode that my brain constructed. In this particular moment I
    am writing down this post, my brain changes something that is possibly
    affect the future decision.

  • @Esmeralda I believe that I have a (very) few original ideas. Many that I think are original turn out to be re-workings of what I've learned from others.

    But as @sfast says, who cares whether or not they are original. @Will made the point as well. If you like an idea and want to capture it, expand on it, connect it to other ideas, etc., then put it in your Zettlekasten. Don't be fussed about whether it is purely "your" idea or not. If it is clearly a quote, then make it a quote. But above all else, capture it!

  • I once read somewhere (and I have never been able to find the source again!) that someone asked Einstein what one should do with an original idea, and he replied that he didn't know because he had only ever had one.

  • @MartinBB I don't know about that quote (which I like), but how about this one:

    If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.

    That has application to me calling an idea "crazy" (I didn't say - good crazy or bad crazy) on another post. You can find the above quote here:

    https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/110518-if-at-first-the-idea-is-not-absurd-then-there

    Here's another Einstein quote that my wife and I both love - not relevant to this discussion, but definitely funny:

    Women always worry about things that men forget; men always worry about things women remember.

  • @Esmeralda said: Is there even such a thing as "an original thought"?

    Sure........until you find out it isn’t.

  • @Esmeralda said: Is there even such a thing as "an original thought"?

    The protagonist in Stephen Fry's "The Liar" muses:
    "An original idea. That can't be too hard. The library must be full of them."

    In this post (under the heading @newzettelkid), I've outlined a number of (hopefully actionable) creativity tools to come up with, well, "new" ideas in a ZK setting - perhaps you find something useful.
    And here are some ideas on using ZKs for math problem solving.

  • @Esmeralda said:
    Ive been struggling so much with the concept of a literature note vs a main note. I understand that literature notes are meant to capture other people's thoughts, whereas a main note is supposed to capture my own. The thing is that I'm always learning, and I myself know nothing. When I connect ideas together, I don't feel any "claim" to them; in my mind, I'm connecting other people's ideas together. Of course, this begs the question: where do ideas come from? Are we all not born a blank slate? Is there even such a thing as "an original thought"?

    Im studying mathematics right now and I keep a journal to record my "feelings" about whatever it is that I am learning. In this journal, I often connect mathematics with ideas from different, seemingly-unrelated fields. I also draw pictures, write poems, create stories.... I want to do this instead with a zettelkasten because I like the idea of atomic notes that I can link together (as opposed to the linear structure of a journal) - but there seems to be a formal approach to writing notes that doesn't exist with journaling. Apparently, well-written notes require references that indicate explicit distinctions between "my" ideas and another's idea.... How do I make the distinction?

    Also, is it appropriate for me to include "feelings" and poems and drawings in a zettel, or is it best to include only theories and ideas?

    If you struggle with this often, you may enjoy "steal like an artist" by Austin Kleon.

Sign In or Register to comment.