Writing by Bob Doto

(Q&A) "I just finished reading a book and took lots of notes. Now what?"


"I just finished reading Dirt by David R. Montgomery and created a note for each of the hundred twenty one ideas I found interesting. But, I'm confused as to how I'm supposed to link these individual notes in my zettelkasten? Am I missing something?"


Hey, great start! And, so many interesting ideas! Here's what's missing: your interpretation of the ideas you're capturing.

The reason you're unsure as to how they all connect is because these aren't your ideas. These are the author's ideas whose done you a solid and linked them all for you. It's called Dirt. It's the book you just finished reading. Your zettelkasten should be made up of your ideas about the authors ideas. Linking these notes is what's meant to happen.

What I would have done instead is create a single note (often called a reference or lit note) and mark down all the pages where you found something interesting. Now you have a reference note pointing you to all the goods you came across. That note goes in a folder called "Reference Notes" (or "Literature Notes" or "Bib Notes" etc. They're all the same).

The next step, is to take only those ideas that are relevant to what you're working on (after all, the ZK is primarily a tool for helping writers develop their ideas) and make individual zettels for each one based on your interpretation of the author's idea. But, in order to do this, you have to know what you're working on!

Again, the zettelkasten is a tool to help you develop ideas so you can put those ideas into some form of outward expression. In short, it is a writing tool. Are you a writer? Are you blogging? Are you working on developing a theory of something? Without knowing what you're working on it's really hard for you to know why an idea is interesting to you. It has no context.

The linking comes when you interpret the ideas for your own work. While you're reading you'll think "oh, this reminds me of that other idea I had about xyz." That's when you write your new zettel, interpreting the work of someone else in light of what you're working on, and link it to notes of a similar thought line already stored in your zettelkasten.

Right now you're collecting someone else's ideas and trying to fit them together like a puzzle. But, like I said, the author already did that for you. Now it's your turn to see how this author's ideas are important to your work.


This piece is an edited version of a thread in the r/zettelkasten forum on Reddit. For the OP's full question and my unedited answer click here

#2022 #zettelkasten #Questions

- 85 toasts