How Austin Kleon can teach you to use a notebook

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post written by Austin Kleon….

Austin Kleon is the Texas-based New York Times bestselling author of three illustrated books and a prodigious blogger. I particularly admire his book Steal Like An Artist, in which he outlines his advice to young creatives. I especially like his tip to be boring — “it’s the only way to get work done,” he says — which I agree is excellent advice.

While I don’t read his blog regularly, my friend Eve does, and she forwards it to me whenever he writes something particularly interesting. His post, “The importance of revisiting notebooks,” rang all sorts of bells for me, probably because I’m such a huge fan of lists.

I like the way Kleon (pictured above), tracks the systems and styles of other creatives and then flat-out copies them whenever he thinks they have an idea worth emulating. I’m going to have to do that with writer Ryan Holiday‘s notetaking system that Kleon mentions. Here’s how Kleon describes it:

One of the things I like about Ryan Holiday’s notecard system… is its emphasis, not just on taking notes, but on going back and revisiting your notes: after you take notes in a book, you let the book sit for a week, and then you go back through the book and transfer your notes to notecards, and then you go back through your notecards and find themes, and then you go back through the themes and assemble a book, etc. There’s a kind of constant creative revisiting that goes on, one that leads to new ideas, and new writing. (Re-vision is re-seeing.)

Isn’t that smart? I read a lot of non-fiction every year and — to my enormous chagrin — many of the terrific ideas go in one ear and out the other. If I can adopt — no, make that steal — Holiday’s strategy then I’m going to remember a whole bunch more useful information.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Dec. 18/17.

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