Zettelkasten Forum


Starting Out ...

Hi all,

Apologies for probably the millionth "newbie" question on the forum ... but ... for the past ten years or so I have been keeping a note on the Notes app on my iPhone of interesting thoughts / quotes from books I read. That note now runs to about 250 A4 pages and I want to convert it to a zettelkast.

I know I will need to take the time to copy each note across to The Archive, but does anyone have any thoughts / ideas on what I should be doing from the outset to make the process as pain free as possible?

Thanks!

Comments

  • @weeties, my advice to you is to consider the notes on the iPhone a sort of v.1 and start fresh with v.2. Keep v.1 handy and as the inspiration hits while working in v.2 add nuggets from v.1 but don't fret on it too much. A Zettelkasten is much more than just " interesting thoughts/quotes from books".

    This is what I did. I have 11,000 notes in Evernote and I just left them all there and started fresh in The Archive. I still use Evernote for Evernoteish things but I've not let the old baggage weigh me down. I've not looked back and am always trying to lean forward.

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

  • @Will said:
    @weeties, my advice to you is to consider the notes on the iPhone a sort of v.1 and start fresh with v.2. Keep v.1 handy and as the inspiration hits while working in v.2 add nuggets from v.1 but don't fret on it too much. A Zettelkasten is much more than just " interesting thoughts/quotes from books".

    This is what I did. I have 11,000 notes in Evernote and I just left them all there and started fresh in The Archive. I still use Evernote for Evernoteish things but I've not let the old baggage weigh me down. I've not looked back and am always trying to lean forward.

    That is really helpful, thanks Will! :-)

  • @weeties said:
    Hi all,

    For the past ten years or so I have been keeping a note on the Notes app on my iPhone of interesting thoughts / quotes from books I read. That note now runs to about 250 A4 pages and I want to convert it to a zettelkast.

    I think @Will had the right idea. If you read about the concept behind creating a Zettel (note) in TA, you will find that it should mostly be original thoughts or at least you paraphrasing (and in the process condensing, simplifying, and learning from) some concept that you read or heard. If you trust and follow that process, you learn something new and get a head start on thoughts for connecting your Zettels.

    This is quite different than capturing quotes or ideas from other people. For example, I have been accumulating in a Bear note, for a couple of years, a list of quotes that impressed me. I have no intention of moving any of that into my ZK.

    My bear notes also contain pages of material copied and pasted from various sources (appropriately referenced). Again, I have no intention of bringing that material into a Zettel.

    I'm trying to keep each of my Zettels succinct, simple and mostly in my own words. If I feel the need to include material in some article or book, then I just reference it; I don't copy anything into the Zettel.

    Go to the main Zettelkasten.de web page, click on Blog and then on the Get Started link near the top of the page. There are lots of good links to follow there. But one under Principles, called "Principle of Atomicity" might be useful to you, as @ctietze talks about how he progresses from reading notes (written on paper) to Zettels in his ZK.

    As an aside, it is sometimes confusing when a person uses the term "notes" in several different ways. I find myself more and more using the term "Zettel" when I mean a proper note in my ZK, just so I don't confuse myself.

  • I suspect that different disciplines, or different fields of work, might require (or at least encourage) different approaches. Luhmann was a social scientist, and I feel sure that must have influenced his approach. In my case I read material in history (the first discipline in which I did substantial research), psychology (my field of doctoral research), and counselling/psychotherapy (in which I am just nearing the end of my training). Naturally, there is some cross-fertilisation between these subject areas, and each is capable of illuminating the others. But on the other hand, an observation by an officer of Napoleon's army, which might be gold dust in my historical work, and which I need to record verbatim, because I might want to quote it, is rather different from material about ego defence mechanisms. Yet it is not impossible that ideas about ego defence mechanisms might be useful in explaining the behaviour of some historical figure. In short, I think making a Zettelkasten may be more straightforward for some people than for others. I've never found a solution I am wholly comfortable with.

  • @weeties Here's a purely technical tip in addition to all the very useful comments regarding the actual content: how to split 1 file into tons of files, one for each book, in accordance with the isntructions by @mediapathic

    • export the long note as a single .txt file
    • add Markdown headings (# Like this at the line start) to separate each part/book/"atom"
    • split the file by the heading using the command from the post I linked to

    When I shared this on my blog, someone commented they needed to escape the command a bit differently:

    gcsplit --prefix='index' --suffix-format='%03d.mdx' index.mdx /'^'#'\'s/ "{*}"
    

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

  • @GeoEng51 said:

    @weeties said:
    Hi all,

    For the past ten years or so I have been keeping a note on the Notes app on my iPhone of interesting thoughts / quotes from books I read. That note now runs to about 250 A4 pages and I want to convert it to a zettelkast.

    I think @Will had the right idea. If you read about the concept behind creating a Zettel (note) in TA, you will find that it should mostly be original thoughts or at least you paraphrasing (and in the process condensing, simplifying, and learning from) some concept that you read or heard. If you trust and follow that process, you learn something new and get a head start on thoughts for connecting your Zettels.

    This is quite different than capturing quotes or ideas from other people. For example, I have been accumulating in a Bear note, for a couple of years, a list of quotes that impressed me. I have no intention of moving any of that into my ZK.

    My bear notes also contain pages of material copied and pasted from various sources (appropriately referenced). Again, I have no intention of bringing that material into a Zettel.

    I'm trying to keep each of my Zettels succinct, simple and mostly in my own words. If I feel the need to include material in some article or book, then I just reference it; I don't copy anything into the Zettel.

    Go to the main Zettelkasten.de web page, click on Blog and then on the Get Started link near the top of the page. There are lots of good links to follow there. But one under Principles, called "Principle of Atomicity" might be useful to you, as @ctietze talks about how he progresses from reading notes (written on paper) to Zettels in his ZK.

    As an aside, it is sometimes confusing when a person uses the term "notes" in several different ways. I find myself more and more using the term "Zettel" when I mean a proper note in my ZK, just so I don't confuse myself.

    Thanks for the feedback :-)

  • @MartinBB said:
    I suspect that different disciplines, or different fields of work, might require (or at least encourage) different approaches. Luhmann was a social scientist, and I feel sure that must have influenced his approach. In my case I read material in history (the first discipline in which I did substantial research), psychology (my field of doctoral research), and counselling/psychotherapy (in which I am just nearing the end of my training). Naturally, there is some cross-fertilisation between these subject areas, and each is capable of illuminating the others. But on the other hand, an observation by an officer of Napoleon's army, which might be gold dust in my historical work, and which I need to record verbatim, because I might want to quote it, is rather different from material about ego defence mechanisms. Yet it is not impossible that ideas about ego defence mechanisms might be useful in explaining the behaviour of some historical figure. In short, I think making a Zettelkasten may be more straightforward for some people than for others. I've never found a solution I am wholly comfortable with.

    Thanks for the feedback MartinBB! I suspect this is going to be a process of trial-and-error to try find a way that works for me :-)

  • @ctietze said:
    @weeties Here's a purely technical tip in addition to all the very useful comments regarding the actual content: how to split 1 file into tons of files, one for each book, in accordance with the isntructions by @mediapathic

    • export the long note as a single .txt file
    • add Markdown headings (# Like this at the line start) to separate each part/book/"atom"
    • split the file by the heading using the command from the post I linked to

    When I shared this on my blog, someone commented they needed to escape the command a bit differently:

    gcsplit --prefix='index' --suffix-format='%03d.mdx' index.mdx /'^'#'\'s/ "{*}"
    

    That's incredibly helpful Christian, I will give it a go! :-)

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