Here’s a simple, aesthetic Notion template for writers participating in NaNoWriMo. If you enjoy writing in Notion, you’re all set for the first of November. And if you prefer other writing software (Scrivener, perhaps?), you can use this template as a backup or tracking solution.
What if you could hold a conversation with your book notes? This was the idea that first tempted me to try the Zettelkasten Method, developed by Niklas Luhmann in the 1950s.
The basic method is deceptively simple…
The Zettelkasten Method
Here is the Zettelkasten method, in its simplest form:
Assign each index card a unique number.
Write a “nugget” of information on each card.
Cross-reference cards using their unique numbers.
+ a few more nuances:
Title each card to make it easy to see the topic at a glance.
Insert a card between two numbers using alphanumerics (e.g. 1a, 1b, 1c…) or a slash followed by further numbers (e.g. 1/1, 1/2, 1/3…).
Create indexes (or “registers”) that collate multiple cards under a keyword or tag.
This article describes my (physical) implementation of the method. Niklas Luhmann’s Zettelkasten was, of course, more developed and intricate, and tended toward different aims. Please see Further Reading below for more information.
A Brief History of Note-Taking
“Early compilations involved various combinations of four crucial operations: storing, sorting, selecting, and summarizing, which I think of as the four S’s of text management. We too store, sort, select, and summarize information, but now we rely not only on human memory, manuscript, and print, as in earlier centuries, but also on computer chips, search functions, data mining, and Wikipedia, along with other electronic techniques.” – Ann Blair
The dream of organised book notes has haunted writers and readers for millennia.
In Too Much to Know, Ann Blair details the concerns of scholars facing the flood of information following the invention of the printing press, and the increased availability of books, and of paper. During this period, the art of memory was replaced by the art of excerpting, which consigned information to paper in order to forget rather than to remember it.