Anna Havron gives tips on managing your note-taking and calls out:
The magic is in the fact that writing is a transit system, which transports little electrical sparks in your synapses into things that affect shared reality.
Keeping a focus on what purpose a note serves — logistical, inspirational — can help you discard less useful information:
Be picky about what goes into your systems.
I have several paper notebooks I just scribble down ideas in. Each day I look them over for actionable notes, and scoop those out. Otherwise, when they are full, I scan them over, and only a few more notes get entered into my systems.
(My poor digital gathering practices means this article’s been open in my tabs for six+ weeks 🤦♀️ The actionable bit is the sticking point for me: I leave tabs open as a reminder because I don’t trust my systems or backlog.)
Cory Doctorow enumerates his blogging process and how he uses his blog as a digital garden:
Far from competing with my “serious” writing time, blogging has enabled me to write an objectively large quantity of well-regarded, commercially and critically successful prose…
The genius of the blog was not in the note-taking, it was in the publishing. The act of making your log-file public requires a rigor that keeping personal notes does not. Writing for a notional audience — particularly an audience of strangers — demands a comprehensive account that I rarely muster when I’m taking notes for myself.
Every now and again, a few of these fragments will stick to each other and nucleate, crystallizing a substantial, synthetic analysis out of all of those bits and pieces I’ve salted into that solution of potential sources of inspiration.
I love thinking of information as a nucleation site.
In the (my) blogging method, the writer blogs about everything that seems interesting, until a subject gels out of all of those disparate, short pieces.
Matthias Ott elaborating on Doctorow’s piece:
[Rick Rubin’s] approach is to not limit his input at all, meaning that he curiously allows to enter his mind whatever draws his attention, regardless of whether it might seem relevant or “useless” in his current situation. There is no such thing as useless information, because you never know which new ideas will emerge as a synthesis of all the individual fragments of creative input you were exposed to in the past.
(I bailed on The Creative Act because I didn’t like the way he framed his ideas around “Source” but I keep encountering interesting thoughts gathered by others who persevered 😂)
The thing is: This process isn’t a science. The only thing we can do is to be curious, keep a record of the things we deem to be significant, and constantly look for clues pointing to new ideas, for fragments of thought suddenly turning into something bigger.
See also: Foraging for insights