Writing to Clear Up your Thinking (100daystooffload)

Roel M. Hogervorst


Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

I started a month ago with a different kind of note taking. I’m using a slipbox or ‘zettelkasten’ (which is slip box in German, but sounds way cooler). The cool thing is that you create notes for concepts and link them together. There is no hierarchy, there can be tags but meaning is found mostly by connecting the notes together. I’m creating a second brain.

It has given me mental freedom to take serious notes while reading informative content. And at the same time it gives me freedom to read other things just for pleasure.

The notes for an item go into a reference manager (zotero in my case) and only after I finished a book I go through the notes in the reference manager / or paper and extract the pieces I want to add to my second brain. And while doing that I search if I have pieces already there, if so I add details or only a reference. Or if I’m disagreeing with myself I create a new note linked to the other one explaining why and how I disagree. And sometimes none of the notes end up in Zettels.

But that is not really what I wanted to talk about. The main goal of a zettelkast is to be a conversation partner for writing. The endgoal is always to write about what you read. So I try to take notes as if I’m going to write about it. When you want to write something you go through the notes and follow the links. You collect everything that is relevant from your second brain and start to outline from there.

I always enjoyed writing for fun, but hated academic writing. I couldn’t focus or didn’t find the subject interesting enough. I had to decide a subject and than after a few weeks of work found out that it wasn’t interesting after all.

What’s cool about having a second brain, is that you don’t have to start from scratch. There are lots of open questions in my second brain. And I find that trying to organize them into a coherent story really clears up my thinking.

So I think that becoming a clearer thinker is a matter of practice, practice by writing.

I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting https://100daystooffload.com, post - 3/100

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