In which I ask myself: does building a second brain distract from doing hard work in my real brain?
In @ctietze comments here: https://forum.zettelkasten.de/discussion/comment/335/#Comment_335 was the phrase
dozens of hours of processing notes.
This phrase strikes home for me:
Up till about six months ago I would take ridiculous amounts of notes on every kind of media I encountered: podcasts, videos, books, articles, papers... if I read, watched or listened to it I would take notes and "process" what I had learned into my growing "knowledge base". I would go back through my notes and re-write them, edit them, sort them, work with them, thinking about how they related, and how they linked together. I was determined with a vengeance to build a second brain. (I even spent countless hours building, testing, and improving tools for myself, both software and hardware!)
But all to what end? I had never questioned my motivations for such intense cataloging of knowledge. I just assumed integrating all this knowledge outside my head would "free up my brain to think". I accepted as "common sense" that building a second brain would prevent me from forgetting important information, and would enhance my cognitive abilities.
I was a little startled one day when it occurred to me the kind of thinking I was doing while processing notes and working with my Zettelkasten might not be the same kind of thinking I was doing when actively trying to understand something in my own head. This concerned me.
I began to wonder if by not really working to do all the thinking in my own head I was slowly degrading my ability to think in certain important ways? As in: "If you don't use it, you lose it" -- Was I over-practicing a specific kind of "processing" and under-practicing a specific kind of deep thinking?
Then another question occurred to me: How competent am I to determine the contents of my second brain in the first place? Do I have the necessary knowledge in my own head to be able to determine what should and should not be included in any specific note? How does my current point of view influence how I write any specific note? Would a future-me summarize that note in a different manner? (If so, does this imply I should re-visit source texts in future to compare them to the notes in my Zettelkasten?)
Put another way: if I am incompetent in "processing" notes into my second brain because of a poor point of view in my first brain could I unknowingly create a bias in my second brain and thus set me in a track of thinking I might never find my way out of? (This of course made me wonder if a generalized non-project specific second-brain Zettelkasten shouldn't be deleted and built up from scratch again every few years to give a clean start?)
And of course the ultimate question, rather bluntly put: What is the point of developing a second brain at all if one has the opportunity to develop a first brain? Why spend time at all working in my second brain if it takes time away from working in my first brain?
These questions ran completely counter to my original perspective and understanding on note-taking. I assumed I had all the answers. But I didn't! and still don't! And I have other questions too, more poorly formed than these. (And these are rather poorly formed to be honest. Re-formulations welcome!!)
So I find myself in an odd place at the moment. I still take lots of notes out of habit. But increasingly my notes begin to take the form of expressive writing of some kind: externalization of my own interior rumination. (They take the form of "thinking on paper" or "scratch pad thoughts" -- (mostly they are half-ideas and partial-concepts and hardly something I would include in a zettelkasten.) I find myself increasingly less likely to write notes summarizing someone else's writing. Why should I, when I can just re-read what they already wrote and think about it a little more deeply?
As you can see I have more questions than answers right now. I'm curious to hear any and all responses. I have no personal stake in the matter, as I'm just trying to think about ways to think better. To that end, any criticism is welcome!
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