Note-taking and Nested Inspiration

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Yesterday, I mentioned that one method of celebrating the day-to-day is to take notes. This advice was first introduced to me by Anne Lamott in her book Bird by Bird. The first time I read it, the message didn't necessarily sink in - what was I going to do with the mountain of notecards/notebooks/computer files that held my random thoughts? Surely not all of them would become full-fledged stories. At that time, I was concerned mostly with the goal of writing rather than the process. In a way, this was a metaphor for how I treated my life at the time.

It's hard to unlearn goal-seeking. It's also not something that should fully get taken away from your life. But one of the side effects of revisiting this mentality has been for me to realize: not every action must produce an intended goal.

And, with this in mind, I revisited the notes.

I always carry a notebook around (or use my cell phone text message/notes application in a pinch). Whenever an idea strikes me, I see or hear something inspiring, or I feel compelled to exercise my wrists, I jot down a few words about it. It's usually nonsensical to anyone looking at it, but the point is not necessarily to make sense. The point is to capture that inspiring moment, move it out of your mental space into the physical, and leave it for you to potentially look back on and smile.

When I look back at the notes, I not only remember the moment that they came from, but also the nested ideas I had within that moment. Therein lies the magic: a whole world of connections opening up from just a few thin words.

I encourage you to try taking notes. Start small - don't plan to do it, but keep it in the back of your mind tomorrow or the next day. When it strikes you, jot something down and let it sit. Don't judge it, don't review it until later. Just treat it as a small gift to yourself written down on the page.

Look over this post on habit formation for tips on making the note taking stick.