Someone once asked Phillips Brooks, "When were you born?" And he said, "I will tell you about it. It was one Sunday afternoon about 3:30 just after I had finished reading a great book."
The Majesty of Books, written by Sterling W. Sill, where I read this quote, had the same effect on me. I read it when I was 19 years old, and it was the first book that opened up a hunger and thirst for knowledge and understanding, that has stayed with me my entire life.
The author recommended reading with "a pencil in hand" to "underline, make notes, and add any ideas of his own," and I have done this ever since. On my shelves and office drawers, I have dozens of books and notepads filled with notes. Going electronic in 2005 with a mind-map based program called The Brain (https://www.thebrain.com/), I was able to expand my interests by capturing ideas on a wide range of subjects.
I don't work in academics; my brain is a work of pure joy. I started following this group after reading a review of the book "How to Take Smart Notes," which referenced the Zettelkasten method. I never bought the book but felt an instant kindred spirit in the posts and blogs written by Christian and Sascha.
I'll admit this has been a difficult concept for me to grasp. Or rather, taking the 30,526 notes that I already have existing in my brain software (see also The Collectors Fallacy) complete with 48,660 links, 23 tags, and 1559 keywords, and I was at a loss on how to implement this "next level" strategy into my study habit.
For the past year, I have read the blogs, I joined the forum a few months ago, knowing that I was missing a vital link. I continued my note collection, adding personal insights and relationships. But I never quite felt like I could call them a Zettel note or that I was converting my process into anything closely resembling Niklas Luhmann's Zettelkasten.
In December 2019, Christian posted "You Should Read David B. Clear's Summary of the Zettelkasten Method," and David's great graphic examples of Luhmann's approach to capturing, then connecting these fragments of ideas, to create a web made a lot of sense. But I still couldn't make the connection.
It soon dawned on me I had seen a similar graphic recently and reviewed Zettelkasten member Gerrit Scholle's blog article entitled "The Zettelkasten as a Lattice of Thought Strings" that everything finally clicked into place. Gerrit's illustration of "emergent structures" I realized is the same illustrated by David Clear in his web reference. However, Gerrit's simple extension of thought to form a "combinatory note" from the various "pooled" sources together into one document was the clarity of insight I needed to boost my brain to the next level.
My existing research notes contain bits and pieces of information collected over years of reading, cutting, pasting, journaling, and blog writing. Now I create new Zettel notes in my Zettelkasten using pooled sources gathered together by keywords. I find that writing the new Zettel note in the "Blog" format helps my thinking process and that I can convert my notes and insights into a running "white paper" of thoughts around a subject. I have already been able to use my prose from one topic as an explanation in another. And because it is my prose, I can change a little text here and there to match the new theme. Exciting.
A shout out and a big thank you to all who post thoughts and ideas for everyone to learn from and a special thank you to Gerrit for his post, which quite literally will change my life. Thank you.
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