Üllar Seerme

The thing with taking notes

March 8, 2020

As a person who tries to read a fair bit—be it articles, blog posts or books—I’ve always had the fantastical thought in the back of my head that I really should be taking notes of the things that I read; writing down key insights and thoughts that occur. It’s probably the same part of me that thinks that if I pulled myself together then I’d be the person who journals every day. Those feelings all the more exacerbated by the modern hustle culture where it’s as if everyone has their own personal knowledge-base system for maximizing retention.

It never happens though. Whatever the medium, whatever the motivation, I always fall back on just getting through without any notes, and I want to believe (thanks to the contrarian in me) that I’m not missing out on as much as the current Zeitgeist would have me believe. I won’t deceive myself that I have prowess in (m)any fields, but I do think that due to reading a lot I have built up knowledge about the surrounding world that I wouldn’t otherwise have; despite not taking notes.

Sure, having an extensive Zettelkasten system in place would allow me to reference many ideas and questions I have had throughout the many hours spent reading, but at the same time I think taking the time out to stop, write down an idea, continue, stop again and so on, would lessen the experience if instead of enjoying the process I am prioritizing the upkeep and increased inventory of my knowledge-base. I think that a lot of people have the same fantastical thoughts about themselves: that they are people who journal, who take notes, and who will have a library of facts to rely on at a moment’s notice.

It’s never been about it being useful, but rather joy in the act of reading itself. I may not remember even half of what I have read, but I honestly do believe that they’ve changed who I am even if I can’t pinpoint the how or the why, and I find that just incredibly interesting in and of itself.

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