This week I handed in an essay and also made progress setting up 2 new comics. I’ve been thinking about notes, so here are some notes on notes.
My personal notes seem to be one of three, maybe four, things. Here comes a list:
1. on post-its then typed then annotated, if I’m reading a heavy academic book.
I’m about a year into my part-time PhD in Education, focusing on comics and values and Britishness. Overall it’s great. Sometimes it’s particularly hard. It’s already improved my thinking about the comics I want to make and help others make, which is a large part of why I chose to do it. At this stage I’m reading A Lot. Taking notes in this way helps me digest and remember what I’m reading, and also means I type (write) my opinions and arguments on what I’m reading. So reading and thinking and writing aren’t separate processes. Mind, we’ll see how that goes as it creeps closer to my 2022 (yup, 2022. Part-time takes for-ev-er) completion date.
2. messy and doodley and with pictures, if I’m trying to link things I’ve read (eg to write an essay or plan a comic).
I enjoy planning the content and the form of a thing. Then the actual making or writing of that thing has its ups and downs, then finalising the thing is enjoyable too. My essay plans and comic/project plans are fairly similar. Lots of arrows to show connections between bits and development of ideas, and a mix of words and pictures. Lots of abbreviations. If I need to show these plans to people, it’s typically either with me to talk it through or alongside a more formal version, as evidence of process. Not on their own. Essay, academic, and project plans are just about always carried out. There are a fair few comic plans that are in sketchbooks in boxes – either until time and skills and interest allow, or because in the planning I concluded that they’re not so hot.
3. increasingly minimal, if I’m taking notes on someone else’s talk and will probably show other people the notes afterwards.
Other people’s talks are tricky. Unless the speaker requests otherwise, I think it’s good to make and share notes. I’m cautious not to share too much, particularly if it’s a ‘work in progress’ talk. I prefer drawing-writing during a talk and sharing afterwards, rather than trying to livetweet comments. I like drawings that reflect the content of the talk rather than drawing a portrait of the speaker, though crediting the speaker by name is important. I’ve had good and bad experiences of people making notes on talks I’ve given (good: people follow up with questions afterwards, bad: they’ve misreported the facts of the work I’ve done, never mind different interpretations of arguments). Being nominated the Official Notetaker for an event can be a beast as there are so many possible interpretations of what’s been said – try to be neutral, switching off academic brain? report my own take on it? draw cute things and hope for retweets? – but can be worthwhile both personally and for the event community (attendees, organisers, people who couldn’t make it) too.
There are also sketchbook pages, doodles, and diary comics that are probably notes, but more in the sense of remembering things I’ve seen and trying out ideas than trying to understand and share specific content. Though that’s a blurred line. These notes matter too, and they take whatever form I darn well please.
So yeah. Whether text, text and pictures, or mostly pictures, notes are good. Now I need to revisit plans for my next chunk of PhD reading, and get some proofs printed for new comics. That’s good too.