When we read, another person thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental process. It is the same as the pupil, in learning to write, following with his pen the lines that have been pencilled by the teacher. Accordingly, in reading, the work of thinking is, for the greater part, done for us.
That’s not much of an invitation: if you read, you don’t think for yourself.
Fittingly, Shane rephrases Schopenhauer’s point in this way:
We need to digest, synthesize, and organize the thoughts of others if we are to understand. This is the grunt work of thinking. It’s how we acquire wisdom.
Reading alone doesn’t cut it. Reflecting is important.
Now guess what the Zettelkasten Method helps you do. Part of the knowledge cycle is to take the inspiration from a text and transform it into knowledge, which is acquired through a process of constructing. Don’t stick to the exact words of the author and try to memorize them. Write something on your own.
I plan to write a long term paper at University later this year. It’s going to be about the book Justice for Hedgehogs1 by Ronald Dworkin, and I’ll be able to mostly work with this single source exclusively. Consequently, there won’t be much additional research. How does the Knowledge Cycle apply if you read a book and don’t do research? I invite you to take the “Summer Knowledge Challenge” and find out with me.
It’s important to manage working time. Managing to-do lists is just one part of the equation to getting things done when it comes to immersive creative work where we need to make progress for a long time to complete the project. To ensure we make steady progress, we need to stay on track and handle interruptions and breaks well. A short Knowledge Cycle will help to get a full slice of work done multiple times a day, from research to writing. This will help staying afloat and not drown in tasks.
There’s a tendency in all of us to gather useful stuff and feel good about it. To collect is a reward in itself. As knowledge workers, we’re inclined to look for the next groundbreaking thought, for intellectual stimulation: we pile up promising books and articles, and we store half the internet as bookmarks, just so we get the feeling of being on the cutting edge.