What? I don’t have to take notes anymore?

Clearly this essay, “How Writing Leads to Thinking” is a break from the traditional wisdom when it comes to learning and writing.  As I sit here rereading my notes on this essay, I am second guessing what I’m writing because the author has so boldly condemned rereading of notes.  Ugh!  Double no-no.  So this type of writing takes time and practice.  But I kind of agree with her.  Although I don’t think I’m going to go to my organic chemistry class tomorrow and not take notes because re-reading them is useless, there is some substance to what she’s trying to say.  Notes are copying.  Writing is creating.  In my experience, writing a summary of my thoughts on the material I just learned, rather than mechanical note taking, is much more effective in remembering the material.  Getting the brain working, and putting down your own ideas, is what learning is all about.   After all, why learn if all you’re doing is memorizing the ideas of others? Writing is a way to take what you’ve learned and make it your own.  Also, as far as second-guessing yourself, I think the author nails it.  The last thing I want is to lock myself in an apartment eating ramen for six months and continually stare at a blank computer screen (i.e. Bradley Cooper in Limitless).  Sometimes, as we learned from “Shitty First Drafts”, the best way to write is to just go for it and not reign yourself in—then you can go back and do some gardening, weed out the bad, and nurture the little buds that are just barely peaking out of the ground.


The other claim that stood out to me is the author’s assertion that “writing is a magical and mysterious process that makes it possible to think differently.” I think part of that is because writing is truly independent. A piece of paper is one of the only blank slates you get in life, and you can express your thoughts and really get at the core of your personal opinions and feelings. In a setting with others, it’s easy to be influenced by people’s opinions, and your innermost feelings may never be expressed because they are subconsciously being quelled by the views of social authority figures. Donald Hall taught the author “most mistakes come from not being yourself, not saying what you think, or being afraid to figure out what you think”. Independent writing is the easiest place to be you, which is where the magic comes from.


In the first couple of classes we’ve read a few essays that guide us on how to write and explain why writing is so useful. There are some valuable ideas that come out of these essays, yet no two writing style guides are exactly the same. I hope that through the minor in writing program, I can sift through these guides, experiment, and find my own way to conquer the magical, mysterious process of writing. Also, Hunt’s essay has inspired me to set a goal to maintain “momentum” in my writing. Sometimes it’s easy for me to get distracted, but hopefully I can learn how to just go for it, and dedicate myself to maintaining the “radish garden”. A garden takes careful observance, attention to detail, and constant maintenance. I know that the result of that kind of dedication will be a fully grown, mature radish (writing) if I can seriously dedicate myself to doing these things in class and at home, everyday.


2 thoughts to “What? I don’t have to take notes anymore?”

  1. Cole, first off your blog post was a lot of fun to read! My favorite line was: “The last thing I want is to lock myself in an apartment eating ramen for six months and continually stare at a blank computer screen (i.e. Bradley Cooper in Limitless).” Ugh, love Bradley Cooper. Anyway, I completely agree with your points: no two writing styles are the same, and though we can respect Hunt’s points, we always have to remember what works for us. For you, it seems like taking the idea of “momentum” and applying it to your writing will be the most helpful. For me, I have the momentum, I just need to work on maintaining the radish garden. I think we can all work to remind each other of this piece throughout the semester, and remember to distance ourselves from our work, so that we can let it reach its full potential.

  2. Hi Cole!
    I love the first few lines of your post! I am struggling with the same thing- as I read your post I almost started taking notes on the side of points I wanted to comment on and then had to stop myself… haha I guess we will really need to work hard to overcome this urge. I love how simply you sum up Hunt’s ideas when you say “notes are copying” and “writing is creating.” That is so true- it’s a matter of the passive verses the active. Note-taking is often a mindless activity, which in and of itself does not lead to any form of learning. The only way to truly absorb and understand a text is by interpreting it, and writing facilitates this process…

    I also loved that line about writing being mysterious and magical. It’s true- there’s nothing like having a blank screen or page of notebook paper in front of you and on it creating something previously unknown. It’s a really difficult process, too, and I think this is why so many thinkers and writers find themselves without the necessary momentum. I similarly need to work on my own momentum. I think that this course will help us overcome this stumbling block by forcing us to write, to just go for it.

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