Zettelkasten Forum


Greetings!

After reading so many threads full of thoughtful and in-depth responses, I thought its was finally time to introduce myself. Greetings!

I have kept a paper zettelkasten for the past six months or so, which has benefitted from everyone's discourse and guidance here. So, thank you all! I hope to contribute a meager offering now and then to this already robust discussion forum.

Related to my zettelkasten, I use 3x5 index cards filed in an Amazon prime shipping box--it quickly became too unruly for a small file box. I also have experimented with some GTD task management systems in there as well, though my zettelkasten is still the star of the show. I file them using folgezettel numbering, which has proved to be a dangerous business, although I am beating it into submission slowly but surely. The folgezettel debates and related articles are quite fascinating.

The subject matter in my zettelkasten began, as is customary, with zettelkasten itself, but quickly branched out to catalog all of my various other record keeping systems: bullet journaling, morning pages, hobonichi 5-year, and filing methods. It's true that I am a stationary person first and foremost, and that's probably why I chose a paper system.

I also am particularly interested in how one might use the zettelkasten to chronicle their own personal experiences in the world to create meaning. I found How to Take Smart Notes rather confining in that it had a strong bias towards synthesizing academic research. I'd like to pivot away from academic towards the subjective. I hope maybe by using my zk to record stories and experiences, it could one day contribute to a work of fiction or memoire.

Anyways, looking forward to continuing to follow this forum and learning from everyone's expertise! Cheers!

Comments

  • Welcome in the forums! It's always interesting to hear how people make paper based systems work because of physical limitations and the limited capability to revamp things you wrote years ago, so I do hope you'll share how you solve these challenges :)

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

  • Welcome to the forums.

    I also am particularly interested in how one might use the zettelkasten to chronicle their own personal experiences in the world to create meaning. I found How to Take Smart Notes rather confining in that it had a strong bias towards synthesizing academic research. I'd like to pivot away from academic towards the subjective. I hope maybe by using my zk to record stories and experiences, it could one day contribute to a work of fiction or memoire.

    This is perfectly possible. The only difference between academic research and personal introspection is the source of information. Other than that, the individual actions are identical using the Zettelkasten Method. :)

    I am a Zettler

  • I file them using folgezettel numbering, which has proved to be a dangerous business, although I am beating it into submission slowly but surely. The folgezettel debates and related articles are quite fascinating.

    Welcome and don't forget that the folgezettel debates are often in the context of a digital zettelkasten, which doesn't have the same limitations as a paper zettelkasten. I wouldn't consider using the luhmann numbering dangerous but instead the smart decision when it comes to creating a paper based zettelkasten.

    What I used for my physical zettelkasten was an index card storage case that you can pick up from office max. I'm curious if you've experimented at all with taking notes on different types of cards or using cut paper instead of the 3x5 index card?

  • edited July 7

    @sfast said:
    Welcome to the forums.

    This is perfectly possible. The only difference between academic research and personal introspection is the source of information. Other than that, the individual actions are identical using the Zettelkasten Method. :)

    I agree with @sfast.

    Example. Science fiction writer Lionel Davoust explains in this YouTube video how he uses a Zettelkasten to write fiction.

    @rachel said:
    I'd like to pivot away from academic [writing] towards the subjective.

    The canonical Western literature suggests (to me at least) that the non-academic (fiction) writer ought to pivot at least a universe away from academic writing:

    And a third kind of possession and madness comes from the Muses. This takes hold upon a gentle and pure soul, arouses it and inspires it to songs and other poetry, and thus by adorning countless deeds of the ancients educates later generations. But he who without the divine madness comes to the doors of the Muses, confident that he will be a good poet by art, meets with no success, and the poetry of the sane man vanishes into nothingness before that of the inspired madmen.
    – Plato, Phaedrus [245a].

    My attempt to make this point in another thread failed. Virtually every academic writer with whom I've corresponded resists the suggestion that Plato was right, perhaps because this is psychologically unsustainable. (It's not possible for Plato to have been mistaken, of course.)

    Post edited by ZettelDistraction on

    ZK implemented with Zettlr+Pandoc+MikTeX+Zotero+BetterBibTex.

  • @rachel

    Welcome to the forum. I've been creating a ZK for about a year now, for the specific purpose you mentioned - to capture personal experiences and what meaning I have found in them. I just use the regular ZK approach described on this site and in the forum - nothing "special". I don't get too fussed about the various kinds of notes that people describe - to me, a zettel is just a zettel. It gets linked to other zettels; it sometimes gets included on a structure note; it almost always gets tags (although I'm careful to create a lot of specific tags that don't get "overloaded" with zettels). That's about it.

  • Hi @Nick, thanks for your reply.

    @Nick said:

    Welcome and don't forget that the folgezettel debates are often in the context of a digital zettelkasten, which doesn't have the same limitations as a paper zettelkasten. I wouldn't consider using the luhmann numbering dangerous but instead the smart decision when it comes to creating a paper based zettelkasten.

    What I used for my physical zettelkasten was an index card storage case that you can pick up from office max. I'm curious if you've experimented at all with taking notes on different types of cards or using cut paper instead of the 3x5 index card?

    Thanks for your guidance about folgezettel. Perhaps I should look a bit deeper. The reason they seem dangerous to me is because I had a bit of a snafu recently, where I had many interesting cards nested within each others threads. It dawned on me that I had been categorizing, instead of connecting via card number references.

    Regarding the paper, no I haven't tried any other paper or sizes, although I recently had a thought that I might be able to print directly on an index card. Some brands have different thicknesses, and I find that the thinner ones are better (less bulk). What about you?

  • @ZettelDistraction What an interesting quote you have here!

    @ZettelDistraction said:

    The canonical Western literature suggests (to me at least) that the non-academic (fiction) writer ought to pivot at least a universe away from academic writing:

    And a third kind of possession and madness comes from the Muses. This takes hold upon a gentle and pure soul, arouses it and inspires it to songs and other poetry, and thus by adorning countless deeds of the ancients educates later generations. But he who without the divine madness comes to the doors of the Muses, confident that he will be a good poet by art, meets with no success, and the poetry of the sane man vanishes into nothingness before that of the inspired madmen.
    – Plato, Phaedrus [245a].

    Thank you for sharing that. I'm also looking forward to checking out the video you shared.

  • @GeoEng51 I am wondering--when you do find that you have gleaned some meaning from experience, what is your ultimate writing project like? Do you find they are easier or more challenging to write than something that is just a collection of facts? I have written a few articles that were just based on facts I learned from others, but the personal ones seem slower to cultivate.

    When you add personal knowledge/experiences to your zk, o you find you have to do any pre-processing, like free-writing or anything? I find that notes from this type of subject matter can become muddled easily, so I do some pre-writing to straighten my thoughts out. This might be an artifact of my paper system--pen on paper not very easy to edit!

  • @rachel said:
    @GeoEng51 I am wondering--when you do find that you have gleaned some meaning from experience, what is your ultimate writing project like? Do you find they are easier or more challenging to write than something that is just a collection of facts? I have written a few articles that were just based on facts I learned from others, but the personal ones seem slower to cultivate.

    Maybe it is easier or perhaps just simpler to write a zettel based on a collection of facts. Nevertheless, it takes effort, sometimes quite a bit o.

    Maybe it's more accurate to say that I have to be in the right frame of mind to create a zettel based on a personal experience. When the inspiration strikes, I find it is important to create the zettel (@Will 's Keyboard Maestro macro is great for that) and get whatever thoughts are rolling around in my brain, onto the (in my case, electronic) page. There's a certain portion of such a zettel that is alive in my brain and then the rest is just context/detail. The former needs to be captured when it expresses itself; the latter can be filled in at any time.

    Sometimes my writing of personal experience zettels is prolific but most of the time they are spaced out a bit. But there is a lot of other zettel writing (about what am I reading or learning today) that can happen any time.

    When you add personal knowledge/experiences to your zk, do you find you have to do any pre-processing, like free-writing or anything? I find that notes from this type of subject matter can become muddled easily, so I do some pre-writing to straighten my thoughts out. This might be an artifact of my paper system--pen on paper not very easy to edit!

    I would say there are a couple of steps for me:

    1. Getting any initial thoughts written down (something inspiration prompted me to start a zettel about a particular experience or learning, which is often capricious).
    2. Review these initial thoughts, followed by meditation / contemplation of their significance, of how to tell the story, and of what links I should create to other material in my ZK. This is a slower step, that might take an hour or two.
    3. Re-writing and editing of the initial zettel to craft the story and reveal the lesson learned (if there was one).
    4. Cycling through steps 2 and 3 a few times until the zettel feels "right" - that is, it is reflective of what I truly think and feel about the topic.

    I can see where this might be more awkward or at least more time/effort intensive to do with pen and paper than with a computer. That's how I used to write 40+ years ago - putting everything down in longhand, then cutting and pasting to re-arrange (or discard some material) and insert new material. I just find it's easier to do on a computer now (being a touch typist is essential to the process).

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