Ryan Holiday’s Notecard System

I like taking notes. It helps me to remember stuff.
But I am not very methodical about it. And I don’t do it frequently.
But somehow I like the process.
In my previous two blogs, I talked about note taking habit Francis Ford Coppola and Akira Kurosawa.
And now I have found this amazing article by Ryan Holiday.
Ryan Holiday is a writer and media strategist.
He has written several best-selling books including “Ego is The Enemy“, “Trust Me I’m Lying” and “The Daily Stoic
In this article, Ryan Holiday talks about the system – how he takes notes and keeps track of everything he reads.
Ryan Holiday learnt this from Robert Greene when he was Greene’s research assistant.
This system changed his life and helped him to write five best-selling books.
Here is the system in his own words…
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“If I have a thought, I write it down on a 4×6 notecard and identify it with a theme–or if I am working on a specific project, where it would fit in the project…”

“…the key to this system is the ritual: Read a book or an article and diligently mark the passages and portions that stand out at you. If you have a thought, write it down on the page (this is called marginalia). Fold the bottom corner of the page where you’ve made a note or marked something (alternatively, use post-it flags).

-A few weeks after finishing the book, return to it and transfer those notes/thoughts on to the appropriate note cards. Why wait? Waiting helps you separate the wheat from the chaff. I promise that many of the pages you marked will not seem to important or noteworthy when you return to them. This is a good thing–it’s a form of editing.

-In the top right hand corner of each card, put a theme or category that this card belongs to. If a card can fit in multiple categories, just make a duplicate card. Robert uses color coded cards for an extra layer of organization.”   
“Some categories I currently use:

*Stoicism

*Life (General advice about life)

*The Narrative Fallacy (Something I’d like to write a book about one day)

*Strategy (Examples of strategic genius or wisdom)

*Post Ideas (Many cards here have been turned into articles you’ve read)

*Animals (Weird stories about animals. For instance, according to the book One Summer by Bill Bryson, the hotel that Babe Ruth lived in for most of his career had a live seal living in the lobby fountain)

*Trust Me, I’m Lying (Media manipulation)

*Writing (Wisdom about the craft)

*Education (Wisdom and ideas about learning)

*Misc (Naturally)

“-Originally I would do one set of note cards for a whole book (numbering the cards 1,2,3,4,5 etc–but I found that limited my ability to move the pieces around because unrelated but important ideas were wrongly joined together.”
And what I like the most about it? It is not a digital system!
He perfectly nails it here…
“Wouldn’t digital be easier? Yes. But I don’t want this to be easy. Writing them down by hand forces me to take my time and to go over everything again (taking notes on a Kindle is too easy and that’s the problem). Also being able to physically arrange stuff is crucial for getting the structure of your book or project right. I can move cards from one category to another. As I shuffle through the cards, I bump into stuff I had forgotten about, etc.”
“But wouldn’t Evernote be better? Maybe for you but not for me. If that’s what you want to use then go for it. But I think there is something irreplaceable about the physical aspect. Physical books, physical notecards, that’s the best in my opinion.”
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True. There’s something about physical books, physical notecards.
After reading the article I am inspired to do the same.
But I don’t know whether I’ll follow through on it or not!
Read the full article here.

Francis Ford Coppola Advice

Legendary film director Francis Ford Coppola talks about his habit of note taking in this interview with ’99u’.

“With a novel, what I can recommend is when you first read the novel, put good notes in it the first time, right on the book, write down everything you feel, underline every sensation that you felt was strong. Those first notes are very valuable. Then, when you finish the book, you will see that some pages are filled with underlined notes and some are blank.In theatre, there’s something called a prompt book. The prompt book is what the stage manager has, usually a loose-leaf book with all the lighting cues. I make a prompt book out of the novel. In other words, I break the novel, and I glue the pages in a loose-leaf, usually with the square cutout so I can see both sides.
I have that big book with the notes I took, and then I go and I put lots more observations and notes. Then I begin to go through that and summarize the part that I thought was useful. And quite naturally you’ll see that the parts fall away, or that you have too many characters, so you know that you have to eliminate some or combine some. Working on it this way, from the outside in, being more specific as to what you think… then when you finish that, you are qualified perhaps to try to write a draft based on that notebook.
In the case of “The Godfather” I did that, and although I had a screenplay, I never used it. I always used to take that big notebook around with me, and I made the movie from that notebook. In the case of “Apocalypse,” there was a script written by the great John Milius, but, I must say, what I really made the film from was the little green copy of Heart of Darkness that I had done all those lines in. Whenever I would do a scene, I would check that and see what can I give the movie from Conrad.” 

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Akira Kurosawa Advice

This advice comes from the book “Something Like An Autobiography” written by Akira Kurosawa.
One of the most revered film director in the world Akira Kurosawa is still relevant today.
Here he talks about the importance of note taking for active learning, record keeping, studying, skill building, writing and creating memorable works.
Some of his acclaimed films are Rashomon, Seven Samurai and Ran.

“I‘ve forgotten who it was that said creation is memory. My own experiences and the various things I have read remain in my memory and become the basis upon which I create something new. I couldn’t do it out of nothing. For this reason, since the time I was a young man I have always kept a notebook handy when I read a book. I write down my reactions and what particularly moves me. I have stacks and stacks of these college notebooks, and when I go off to write a script, these are what I read. Somewhere they always provide me with a point of breakthrough. Even for single lines of dialogue I have taken hints from these notebooks. So what I want to say is, don’t read books while lying down in bed.”

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