45 Matching Annotations
  1. Apr 2022
    1. https://www.themarginalian.org/2011/06/20/inside-notebooks/

      There are a number of books which feature the sketchbooks and notebooks of famous writers, researchers and artists. However, most of their work is presented as art in and of itself. Rarely are the messiest and ugliest pages pictured. Most of the layouts in these books are laid out as art. Frequently missing are the structural parts and interviews with the original authors talking about their process. How do they actually use these notebooks in practice? How do ideas move from their heads into the notebooks and from there into their practical work? The notebooks only capture raw ideas as a scaffolding for extending the user's brain and thinking, but it doesn't capture the intangible ideas and portions of process which are still trapped within their brains. To be able to evaluate these portions, the author needs to talk or write about those missing portions of the process otherwise the way they create genius is wholly missing. A viewer of such notebooks would be no closer to creating genius for themselves by attempting to follow the same patterns without these additional structures. It's like the indigenous peoples who talk with rocks as part of their cultural practice—so much of what is happening is missing from the description of "talking with rocks" that most people wouldn't even know where to begin, but for the initiated, the process would be imminently crystal clear.

      Which of these books actually delves into the process and does interviews as well?

      This article actually lays out the notebooks as their own form of art rather than centering the idea of creative process as a means of helping others to follow these same patterns. We need the book that does for the art and design area what Sönke Ahrens' book How to Take Smart Notes does for the note taking space. It's interesting to see Niklas Luhmann's collection of 90,000 index cards, but without knowing how he used them and what purpose they served, the enterprise is lost. Similarly the depiction of Roland Barthes' index cards in Roland Barthes has a similar function. Showing them is not equivalent to actually understanding them.

      link to: https://hypothes.is/a/3SOmoMcMEey8n9dSUWhPJw

    1. As Calvetexplains, in thinking through the organisation of Michelet, Barthes‘tried out different combinations of cards, as in playing a game ofpatience, in order to work out a way of organising them and to findcorrespondences between them’ (113).

      Louis-Jean Calvet explains that in writing Michelet, Barthes used his notes on index cards to try out various combinations of cards to both organize them as well as "to find correspondences between them."

    1. On Zettel 9/8a2 he called the Zettelkasten "eine Klärgrube" or a "septic tank;" (perhaps even "cesspool"). Waste goes in, and gets separated from the clearer stuff.

      Niklas Luhmann analogized his zettelkasten to a septic tank. You put in a lot of material, a lot of seemingly waste, and it allows a process of settling and filtering to allow the waste to be separated and distill into something useful.

    1. Nabokov arises early in the morning and works. He does hiswriting on filing cards, which are gradually copied, expanded, andrearranged until they become his novels.
    2. Mr. Nabokov’s writing method is to compose his stories and novels on index cards,shuffling them as the work progresses since he does not write in consecutive order.Every card is rewritten many times. When the work is completed,the cards in final order, Nabokov dictates from them to his wifewho types it up in triplicate.

      Vladimir Nabokov's general writing method consisted of composing his material on index cards so that he could shuffle them as he worked as he didn't write in consecutive order. He rewrote and edited cards many times and when the work was completed with the cards in their final order, Nabokov dictated them to his wife Vera who would type them up in triplicate.

  2. Feb 2022
    1. Steven Johnson indicates that the word processor is a terrible tool for writing because it doesn't have usable affordances for building up longer pieces from one's notes or basic ideas.

      He discusses his specific workflow of note taking and keeping ideas in Scrivener where he arranges them into folders and outlines which then become the source of his writing.

      Different from the typical zettelkasten workflow, he's keeping his notes hierarchically organized in folders based on topic keywords and only later when creating a specific writing project making explicit links and orders between his notes to create longer pieces. It's here that his work diverges most dramatically to the zettelkasten method described by Sönke Ahrens.

    2. One subtle advantage of this approach is that it helps you avoid the “blank page problem,” one of the major drivers of writerly procrastination.

      Steven Johnson's "blank page problem" isn't as prosaic as Ernest Hemingway's "white bull", but is an encapsulation of the same problem writers face.

    3. In the research phase, you’re just creating a disorganized pile of cards, with quotes, ideas, links, fragments, hunches. There’s no order, no sequence; just a non-linear collection of vaguely related ideas. But as the project takes shape, certain themes begin to emerge, and those become folders housing other cards. Eventually those themes start to map onto actual sections of the book, or individual chapters. At this point, sequence does begin to matter, but you can change the sequence just by dragging cards and folders around in the left hand outline view.

      Example of writing advice that builds the links in after-the-fact instead of cross-linking ideas into initial networks as they're finding them. Compare/contrast this to the creation of these networks in the zettelkasten tradition as well as Sönke Ahrens description.

      There's less upfront work in creating these links at the start than there is in reloading the context in one's brain to create these links after the fact. Collecting ideas without filing, linking, or organizing them upfront also means that one is more likely to only use these ideas in the context of specific projects which one already has in mind rather than keeping them for a lifetime's work which might also create generative projects one hadn't expected.

    4. In fact, my allegiance to Scrivener basically boils down to just three tricks that the software performs, but those tricks are so good that I’m more than willing to put up with all the rest of the tool’s complexity.Those three tricks are:Every Scrivener document is made up of little cards of text — called “scrivenings” in the lingo — that are presented in an outline view on the left hand side of the window. Select a card, and you see the text associated with that card in the main view.If you select more than one card in the outline, the combined text of those cards is presented in a single scrolling view in the main window. You can easily merge a series of cards into one longer card.The cards can be nested; you can create a card called, say, “biographical info”, and then drag six cards that contain quotes about given character’s biography into that card, effectively creating a new folder. That folder can in turn be nested inside another folder, and so on. If you select an entire folder, you see the combined text of all the cards as a single scrolling document.

      Steven Johnson identifies the three features of Scrivener which provide him with the most value.

      Notice the close similarity of these features to those of a traditional zettelkasten: cards of text which can be linked together and rearranged into lines of thought.

      One difference is the focus on the creation of folders which creates definite hierarchies rather than networks of thought.

    1. The linear process promoted by most study guides, which insanelystarts with the decision on the hypothesis or the topic to write about,is a sure-fire way to let confirmation bias run rampant.

      Many study and writing guides suggest to start ones' writing or research work with a topic or hypothesis. This is a recipe for disaster to succumb to confirmation bias as one is more likely to search out for confirming evidence rather than counter arguments. Better to start with interesting topic and collect ideas from there which can be pitted against each other.

    2. Give Each Task the Right Kind of Attention

      Ahrens talks about the variety of different tasks that underpin writing and the varieties of attention that each can take. He suggests that for increased productivity that one focus on one sort or type of tasks at a time in each part of the process.

      This sort of structural planning in one's work is possibly the most important planning one can do.

    3. We need to getour thoughts on paper first and improve them there, where we canlook at them. Especially complex ideas are difficult to turn into alinear text in the head alone. If we try to please the critical readerinstantly, our workflow would come to a standstill. We tend to callextremely slow writers, who always try to write as if for print,perfectionists. Even though it sounds like praise for extremeprofessionalism, it is not: A real professional would wait until it wastime for proofreading, so he or she can focus on one thing at a time.While proofreading requires more focused attention, finding the rightwords during writing requires much more floating attention.

      Proofreading while rewriting, structuring, or doing the thinking or creative parts of writing is a form of bikeshedding. It is easy to focus on the small and picayune fixes when writing, but this distracts from the more important parts of the work which really need one's attention to be successful.

      Get your ideas down on paper and only afterwards work on proofreading at the end. Switching contexts from thinking and creativity to spelling, small bits of grammar, and typography can be taxing from the perspective of trying to multi-task.


      Link: Draft #4 and using Webster's 1913 dictionary for choosing better words/verbiage as a discrete step within the rewrite.


      Linked to above: Are there other dictionaries, thesauruses, books of quotations, or individual commonplace books, waste books that can serve as resources for finding better words, phrases, or phrasing when writing? Imagine searching through Thoreau's commonplace book for finding interesting turns of phrase. Naturally searching through one's own commonplace book is a great place to start, if you're saving those sorts of things, especially from fiction.

      Link this to Robin Sloan's AI talk and using artificial intelligence and corpuses of literature to generate writing.

    4. On closer look, it becomes obvious how different the tasks are thatare usually summarised under “writing” and how different the kindsof attention are that they require.

      What are the constituent parts of writing and how do they differ based on their functions with respect to attention?

      • note taking
      • composing
      • invention
      • creativity
      • thinking
      • editing
      • structuring
      • outlining
      • proofreading
      • etc.

      Where do each of these sit with respect to the zettelkasten? How can one create flow with respect to each of these or with respect to one or two which may necessarily need to be bound together to accomplish them?

    5. The slip-box provides not only a clear structure to work in, but also forces usto shift our attention consciously as we can complete tasks inreasonable time before moving on to the next one.

      Ahrens provides a quick overview of some research on distraction, attention, and multi-tasking to make the point that:

      The simple structure and design of the zettelkasten forces one's focus and attention on small individual tasks that cumulatively build into better thinking and writing.

      (Summary of Section 9.2)

    6. Who can blame you forprocrastinating if you find yourself stuck with a topic you decided onblindly and now have to stick with it as the deadline is approaching?

      Students may potentially built up enough context within a particular course to be able to luckily stumble upon an interesting question or idea about which to write, but the procrastination and wait times required to get lucky means that they don't have enough time to research and read additional material to move towards ultimate solutions. As a result, their work product is boring and dull and doesn't advance the space in which they're working. And these are the lucky ones which will stumble upon something interesting or be able to remember it. The results of the rest will be even less interesting.

    7. There is one reliable sign if you managedto structure your workflow according to the fact that writing is not alinear process, but a circular one: the problem of finding a topic isreplaced by the problem of having too many topics to write about.

      Writing is a circular generative process and not a finite, linear one.

    8. Every intellectual endeavour starts from an already existingpreconception, which then can be transformed during further inquiresand can serve as a starting point for following endeavours. Basically,that is what Hans-Georg Gadamer called the hermeneutic circle

      (Gadamer 2004).

      All intellectual endeavors start from a preexisting set of ideas. These can then be built upon to create new concepts which then influence the original starting point and may continue ever expanding with further thought.


      Ahrens argues that most writing advice goes against the idea of the hermeneutic circle and pretends as if the writer is starting with a blank page. This can prefigure some of the stress and difficulty Ernest Hemingway spoke of when he compared writing to "facing the white bull which is paper with no words on it."

      While it can be convenient to think of the idea of tabula rasa, in practice it really doesn't exist. As a result the zettelkasten more readily shows its value in the writing process.

    9. no underlinedsentence will ever present itself when you need it in the developmentof an argument.
    10. Everything You Need to Do

      Ahrens looks at the discrete steps of writing a paper or book in reverse order... all the way back to creating the initial notes and ideas. By framing it this way, he shows the value of note taking as a means of making the entire enterprise so much easier.

    11. A good structure is something you can trust. It relieves you fromthe burden of remembering and keeping track of everything. If youcan trust the system, you can let go of the attempt to hold everythingtogether in your head and you can start focusing on what isimportant:

      Whether it's for writing, to do lists, or other productivity spaces, a well designed system is something that one can put their absolute trust into. This allows one to free themselves from the burden of tracking and dealing with minutiae so they can get serious work done.

    12. They struggle because they believe, asthey are made to believe, that writing starts with a blank page.

      Writing does not begin with the blank page!

    13. What can we do differently in the weeks,months or even years before we face the blank page that will get usinto the best possible position to write a great paper easily?
    1. Transferring my notes from notebooks into nvALT is a process that I always enjoy. When I fill up a physical notebook, I'll go through it, acting as a sort of loose, first filter for the material I’ve accumulated. I’ll cross out a few things that are obviously garbage, but most of my notes make the cut, and I transcribe them into nvALT.When that’s done, I throw away the notebook.

      Robin Sloan has a waste book practice where he takes his notes in small Field Note notebooks and transcribes them into nvAlt. When he's done, he throws away the notebook.

  3. Dec 2021
    1. “focus mode,”

      The idea of a "focus mode" or "distraction free mode" is exactly the wrong framing for writing. You don't want to focus on the nothing and emptiness of a page or a screen. You want to start by focusing on an idea and preferably many ideas. Do this first and then proceed from there.

    2. The main feature of iA Writer is not having many features. The program is, essentially, a white rectangle, where the user can do little else but type in a custom monospaced font. There are no headers, footers, drawing tools, or chatty paper-clip assistants. The bare-bones interface uses special characters in a simple formatting language called Markdown to bold, italicize, or otherwise transform text—a way of encouraging writers to keep their hands on the keyboard and their minds on their work.

      Using a completely blank page as the start of any creative endeavor is a miserable choice for writing. Start with some other object and annotate either on it or next to it. Look at something else as a base. Starting with blank nothing is a recipe for loneliness and disaster. So-called distraction free writing tools are the worst.

      Didn't Ernest Hemmingway analogize staring at a blank page like facing a white bull? There is a litany of quotes about writers facing the blank page.

      Why not, instead, use the advice of ancient rhetors by starting with the best? Become a bee and collect the best materials for your honey first. If we don't look to them, then perhaps follow the lesson taught by Benjamin Franklin on writing or the same lesson repeated in the movie Finding Forrester. Start with someone else's work and rewrite that until you find your own words. This is what makes writing while annotating so easy and simple. You've got a nice tapestry of textures to begin your work.

      Giving birth to something fully formed as if from the head of Zeus is a fallacy. It only works for the gods.

    3. Medium, a writing app that is also a publishing platform and a social-media network, represents the logical extreme of this vertical integration.

      Julian Lucas indicates that tools like Microsoft Word, WordStar, WordPerfect, and Google Docs, are writing tools which ultimately result into the vertical integration of Medium. The mistake here is that while they are certain tools and one can write into them and use them for editing, they are all probably best thought of as tools in the chain of moving toward publishing with Medium being the example that allows one to present their work as well as a distribution mechanism with a cheery on top.

      What she is not focusing enough (any?) attention on is the creation processes at the start. How does one come up with an interesting idea? How does one do the research? How does one collect ideas moving toward some teleological endpoint? Tools that address these ideas of invention and creation are the real writing tools that writers so elusively search out.

      Far better to look at note taking tools or tools like Hypothes.is that go to the roots of the creation process. Tools that can take fleeting ideas and collect them. Tools that can take those collections and interlink them. Tools that allow for combinatorial juxtaposition and rearrangement. Tools that allow outlining.

      It is only after this that one may use a tool like Microsoft Word to do the final arrangement, editing, and polish before sending it off to a publisher.

    1. “One of the vital things for a writer who’s writing a book, which is a lengthy project and is going to take about a year, is how to keep the momentum going. It is the same with a young person writing an essay. They have got to write four or five or six pages. But when you are writing it for a year, you go away and you have to come back. I never come back to a blank page; I always finish about halfway through. To be confronted with a blank page is not very nice. But Hemingway, a great American writer, taught me the finest trick when you are doing a long book, which is, he simply said in his own words, “When you are going good, stop writing.” And that means that if everything’s going well and you know exactly where the end of the chapter’s going to go and you know just what the people are going to do, you don’t go on writing and writing until you come to the end of it, because when you do, then you say, well, where am I going to go next? And you get up and you walk away and you don’t want to come back because you don’t know where you want to go. But if you stop when you are going good, as Hemingway said…then you know what you are going to say next. You make yourself stop, put your pencil down and everything, and you walk away. And you can’t wait to get back because you know what you want to say next and that’s lovely and you have to try and do that. Every time, every day all the way through the year. If you stop when you are stuck, then you are in trouble!” ― Roald Dahl
  4. Aug 2021
    1. How can you be surprised by your own writing, though? If you’re the author, how could you not know what you’re about to say?

      Discuss: Have you experienced this type of surprise in your own writing? If so can you provide a specific example? Are you the type of writer that prefers to know where you'll end up in a piece of writing OR the type of writer who can be comfortable with uncertainty? Are you a different type of writer altogether?

  5. Jul 2021
    1. For example, for radio programs Hope engaged a number of writers, divided the writers into teams, and required each team to complete an entire script. He then selected the best jokes from each script and pieced them together to create the final script.
    1. Nevertheless, Heftel says, the notes tend to stick close to the major themes of Carlin’s work: “big ideas, the minutia of everyday life, and then language.”

      George Carlin's comic craft was to take broad themes and the minutiae of life and craft it together with careful language.

  6. Jun 2021
    1. A Gould proof rarely endeavored to influence in any manner the structure or thesis of a piece, and was not meant to. Its purpose, according to Miss Gould, was to help a writer achieve an intent in the clearest possible way.

      There's something interesting in this take on writing.

      It also brings up the looming question: "What is your intent?"

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  7. Apr 2021
    1. As I was gearing up to start my PhD last fall, I received a piece of advice that made a lot of sense at the time, and continues to do so. My colleague, Inba told me to 'write while I read', meaning that I should take notes and summarize research while I read it, and not just read and underline article after article. That way, not only do I not lose my thoughts while I'm reading an article, but I am actively thinking through the arguments in the paper while I am reading it and my writing is thoroughly grounded in the literature.

      This is generally fantastic advice! It's also the general underpinning behind the idea of Luhmann's zettelkasten method.

      I'll also mention that it's not too dissimilar to Benjamin Franklin's writing advice about taking what others have written and working with that yourself, though there he doesn't take it as far as others have since.

  8. Oct 2020
    1. Consider that no single step in the process of turning raw ideas into finished pieces of writing is particularly difficult. It isn’t very hard to write down notes in the first place. Nor is turning a group of notes into an outline very demanding. It also isn’t much of a challenge to turn a working outline full of relevant arguments into a rough draft. And polishing a well-conceived rough draft into a final draft is trivial. So if each individual step is so easy, why do we find the overall experience of writing so grueling? Because we try to do all the steps at once. Each of the activities that make up “writing” – reading, reflecting, having ideas, making connections, distinguishing terms, finding the right words, structuring, organizing, editing, correcting, and rewriting – require a very different kind of attention.
  9. Jan 2020
    1. writing process

      I love writing process posts. I am reminded of my work with high school students where I had them create "Instructables" to post on their blogs.

  10. Aug 2019
    1. Moreover, annotation is the agreed upon means of starting and sustaining that conversation.

      With this text appearing on bookbook.pubpub.org being an excellent example of just this. #meta

      I'm sort of hoping for some discussion of Kathleen Fitzpatrick's process behind her book Planned Obsolescence which was released in draft form for open peer review in fall 2009, much like Annotations. It's the first example I can think of a scholar doing something like this digitally in public, though there may have been other earlier examples.

  11. Jan 2019
    1. You don't need complex sentences to express complex ideas. When specialists in some abstruse topic talk to one another about ideas in their field, they don't use sentences any more complex than they do when talking about what to have for lunch. They use different words, certainly. But even those they use no more than necessary. And in my experience, the harder the subject, the more informally experts speak. Partly, I think, because they have less to prove, and partly because the harder the ideas you're talking about, the less you can afford to let language get in the way.
    2. It seems to be hard for most people to write in spoken language. So perhaps the best solution is to write your first draft the way you usually would, then afterward look at each sentence and ask "Is this the way I'd say this if I were talking to a friend?" If it isn't, imagine what you would say, and use that instead. After a while this filter will start to operate as you write. When you write something you wouldn't say, you'll hear the clank as it hits the page.Before I publish a new essay, I read it out loud and fix everything that doesn't sound like conversation. I even fix bits that are phonetically awkward; I don't know if that's necessary, but it doesn't cost much.
    3. If you simply manage to write in spoken language, you'll be ahead of 95% of writers. And it's so easy to do: just don't let a sentence through unless it's the way you'd say it to a friend.
  12. Apr 2017
    1. joy

      Her description of the writing process reminds of Douglass' recounting of when he first learned to read. Reading was painful for him at first, because he realized the extent of his oppression, but it becomes a tool for liberation.

  13. Sep 2016