On a failed Zettelkasten by Robert Minto
I had a very similar experience like Robert. The Method needs adaption. So, don't just take notes but create mental models and topics with dilligance if you actually want to produce texts.
The whole thing went swimmingly until the realities of grad school intervened. It came time for me to propose and write a dissertation. In the happy expectation that years of diligent reading and note-taking, filing and linking, had created a second brain that would essentially write my dissertation for me (as Luhmann said his zettelkasten had written his books for him) I selected a topic and sat down to browse my notes. It was a catastrophic revelation. True, following link trails revealed unexpected connections. But those connections proved useless for the goal of coming up with or systematically defending a thesis. Had I done something wrong? I decided to read one of Luhmann’s books to see what a zettelkasten-generated text ought to look like. To my horror, it turned out to be a chaotic mess that would never have passed muster under my own dissertation director. It read, in my opinion, like something written by a sentient library catalog, full of disordered and tangential insights, loosely related to one another — very interesting, but hardly a model for my own academic work. Rank and File by Robert Minto
I am a Zettler
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