Taking notes (sort of)

Scrapping words, making sense. My world revolves around words, full stops, commas (and oxford commas), dashes, hyphens, colons, semicolons, ellipsis … Making notes are everyday breathing. I, at least, do it because I need to. I’m already beaten by English, so I need to take revenge, beating it down, jotting words I read in exact manner. The book dictates my hand, and I dictate back. I do not hate English, nor do I love it. Out of necessity and function. That’s our relationship.

I want to share a very technical and practical essay about how to take notes, so I’ve made bullet points:

  • Read and/or listen
  • Take notes

The more I think about how to take notes, the more I’m losing it. I don’t even know why I take notes this way (which is not necessarily a way). I try to be systematic and decorative. So I bought pretty notebooks. Made in Japan, bind aesthetically. Smooth gel pens, sturdy mechanical pencil, mildliner, extra colored pencils, cute washi tapes, stickers. I want to take and make notes; sprinkle my words with doodled flowers, or the chibi version of my favorite 2D boys. Visual decorations and ornaments are the incentive for my scattered mind. I want that systematized and pretty notes like those Instagram people #studynotes, but my flower looks like a kindergarten drawing. (Seriously, do they eat washi tapes?) My notes don’t look systematic or pretty; they look dumb.

P.S: I like it.

Taking notes of what we read is never about having a total freedom. We write in the sphere of what we read. We can explore many places, but we are also restrained. Of course, everything can be connected. No border of ideas. Yet, taking notes disciplines our imagination, broadening our views yet also narrowing it down. We pay attention to words coming from others, and we capture them with our hands. And then we start to select and think. Which words we can capture? Which ideas attract our attention? Which insights and details we omit, and why? Which parts do we grasp more: the big ideas or the details and trivia of knowledge? Which sentences matter? And then we start to put things down in various ways. Bullet points, fragmented phrases, question marks, or if we got bored in the middle of reading or listening, we draw a sleeping cat. Is this freedom? I don’t think so.

As a practice, taking notes requires skill and ability to grasp. This “grasping” other people thoughts and words is not as easy as it sounds, because directing your mind needs a training process. We have learned it since we were little, we sat in class, listening to adults, writing what they dictate, writing what they write, studying it. As we’re growing older, we know that sometimes what people say interest us, and most of the time, it’s just boring and dull. How to grasp when there’s no gasping? I call this: a serious issue of sitting in an academic talk by old white men in political science. I better eat donut.

“Have you ever finished your notebooks?”

“No, should I?”

If I get bored with one notebook or if I think I need to open a new page in my taking-notes-life, I change it. It’s a waste of pages, and recently I’m thinking, should I revisit those old notebooks and fill in the rest of the pages. Perhaps I should make an announcement in that old notebooks, a kind of contemplation—sort of “why I use them again even though I already use a new one.” I’m thinking about this seriously, because currently I cannot think of what words I should use for my research paper.

I’ve made another bulletpoints:

  • Sit, read, take notes
  • Drink water

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