Monday, February 9, 2009

On Taking Notes

After reading Pragmatic Thinking and Learning, I've recently started keeping a notebook with me at all times, and writing down any interesting thoughts I have.

The underlying idea is that our mental processes have two distinct modes, one that is immediate and controllable, but limited and logical, and another that is asynchronous and unpredictable but extremely creative and good at nonlinear problem-solving and pattern recognition. Often these are referred to as left-brain and right-brain, though Pragmatic Thinking and Learning refers to them as L-mode (linear mode) and R-mode (rich mode). One of the biggest problems with R-mode though, is that the insights it generates can come at any time, and if you don't write them down you won't remember them, or be able to aggregate them.

At first, writing down interesting thoughts seemed like a bit of a stretch. I wasn't sure what qualified as 'interesting enough', and was a little hesitant to write things down. Once I got started, things started to improve.

First, writing a few things down about a thought seems to lead naturally into more details about that thought and more things to write about. I sort of knew this might happen; lots of activities have an activation energy where once you get started, they go a lot more smoothly.

The next effect was a complete surprise to me, though looking back, it was mentioned in the book. Once I started writing down the thoughts that the R-mode part of my brain was giving me, it started giving them to me a lot more! Its as if something has said, 'You're interested? Here you go!'. Thoughts about stuff for work, thoughts about philosophy, thoughts about thinking. They're all coming up more and more, and as patterns develop I learn both about myself and the world.

I had been feeling as though my general life learning curve had dropped off somewhat... but taking notes seems to have gotten me back in gear.

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