Zettelkasten Forum


What to do with concepts or ideas not fully assimilated?

Hi - in the course of reading, I come across a few concepts or ideas that just don't seem easy to grasp. I am not sure whether to create a zettel anyway and then keeping a way to come back to them later, or to just "hold" this idea in my temporary notes until I do figure out what it means. For example, let's say you come across a definition of a concept in finance that seems totally impenetrable no matter how many angles you approach it from. But you know eventually you will need it and use it. How do others handle this? Many thanks for your inputs!

Comments

  • Never thought about it systematically before, but an ad hoc description of what I seem to do is:

    • I am reading about about X and don't understand X yet: Continue reading and in the end assemble all notes pertaining X; I seldom create Zettel notes while I read, even less so when I don't yet have something to tell my future self about.
    • I finished reading about X but am still puzzled: I take note of whatever I got. Instead of calling the note The grand explanation of X, I call it What Y says about X and add my interpretation of what I have read. I also create a note that points to the various explanations and try to provide a summarization there. The links to the detail notes, each an incomplete interpretation, are important to trace this work-in-progress.

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

  • @ctietze , thanks. That gave me two pieces to think about. Like the process on the "unclear" concept - thanks!
    Also it seems like you are really economical with the zettels you choose to create? I was erring on the other side and creating them as I move forward in the book taking care to capture concepts in my own words and with the angle that I found most relevant or interesting to me personally. On the other hand it seems like you make temp notes, wait until the book is done, them revisit your notes and boil them down to whatever you think is worth telling your future self about? Is that correct? IF so how do you determine what is worth telling? Just gut feel? or some other objective criterion? Many thanks! This is very helpful

  • On the other hand it seems like you make temp notes, wait until the book is done, them revisit your notes and boil them down to whatever you think is worth telling your future self about? Is that correct? IF so how do you determine what is worth telling? Just gut feel? or some other objective criterion? Many thanks! This is very helpful

    Yeah, that's closer to the truth. When I am on page 10 of a 400-page treatise, there's no point in taking the time to make Zettel notes on my computer. Engagement notes to digest the material are different, and I do keep them on paper; but I rarely need those at all. The reason to wait longer is that my time is limited: I could write notes as I go, but then reading would take forever because I have to stop all the time. Also, in the end I'd probably have revised a ton of notes over and over because I learn more details as I continue to read. So I prefer to wait till the end and then extract the gist. Still similar to https://zettelkasten.de/posts/reading-putting-it-all-together/

    As for how I select things: I know what's relevant for a particular research subject and discard the rest. That's the mode I employed at University. But if I read books for their own sake, without a particular topic, I extract whatever I find interesting, be it anecdotes, sidebars, or even the way the author structured his sentences. Or whatever I find interesting about the topic of the book, of course :)

    My gut is where my relevancy detection device is located, I think. It took time and practice to get better at selection. I can recall my first year at university: everything was interesting! It took ages to read short papers, to digest the weird way academic writing is done, and then remember anything that could be important. I wasn't good at this, not at all. Took me years to adapt to the writing style, and to get comfortable enough with the terminology of my fields to speed up my reading. I couldn't have trusted my gut in my first semester at uni. But I can trust it now, to select at least some things of interest, if not all.

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

  • @ctietze thank you for the detailed explanation - it helps a lot. I think I need to feel my way into the right system for me. I'd like to end up where you ended up, I think. It seems the most logical to me. Also, I am finding that the translation from paper notes to permanent zettels almost has its own inner logic - for some books I am finding that it makes sense to do as I go along - perhaps when I am new to the subject. Others I an already finding that waiting is the better strategy. I'll continue to experiment and get to the right balance. Thanks!

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