Friday, June 21, 2013

Notetaking: Yesterday and today

Are you old enough to remember learning to "outline" as a child in English class?

As I scribbled notes for an article last week, I suddenly felt I'd never make sense of the fragments I jotted down.  I picked up the notes today and found I was right. My brain works better at laptop-speed. My notes are caotyred qyucjkyt, oops, that was supposed to be 'captured quickly,' make more sense, and are legible. If I failed at outlining in school, at least I excel at fast typing.

Yet before computers let our ideas fly with instant transfer from thought to document,  people sat with paper and pen and gave great thought to each word written. After all they could not highlight and delete a paragraph of longhand, so better preparation by outlining might have been the only way to organize the flow of words from mind to hand.

To my delight, I found Creative Nonfiction's weekly email led me to evidence of the very thing I was contemplating: notetaking.

Here, for example is Sylvia Plath's outline for The Bell Jar. This one-page outline is hard to read, but you can clearly see her math showing it would top out at 280 pages. Published in 1963, Wikipedia lists the book's published page count at 288. Isn't that impressive?

Okay, just one more -- J.K. Rowling's outline for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

You'll find these and a half-dozen more at FlavorWire here

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