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On writing by hand and always keeping a written record of everything

Transcribing handwritten notes into the Everything Notebook Last week, I attended the 2022 Discards Studies Conference: Exploring Disposal’s Past, Present, and Future in New York City. As a scholar of waste, wastewater and discards, this was a really key conference for me to attend. This was also my first conference after 3 months of COVID, COVID sequelae and pneumonia. Though I am (and at the time, was) feeling incredibly healthy, I did not want to over-stress my body. So, I left my Everything Notebook back home and only took my ultra-light laptop. My laptop has a problem with the battery, so it does not recognise it. This means that it needs to ALWAYS be connected to power. Turns out the room where we were did not have power outlets everywhere. Guess what I was unable to do?


Normally, I would have taken notes by hand in my Everything Notebook (or even pieces of paper from hotel parafernalia). I was staying literally two blocks from a stationery store. I am, like anybody who follows me knows, a stationery storer.

But I decided to do a little experiment: NO NOTES THIS TIME. Just pay attention. I would simply pay attention to the speaker(s) without writing any notes.

I did take numerous photos and live-tweeted bits and pieces that I thought were useful. Those are my written records of what happened in the conference. HOWEVER… my brilliant ideas, those that came through the interactions with speakers, when thinking about my own work and how it related to any particular presenter, THOSE ARE GONE.

I did NOT keep a written record of what I was thinking (I could have done it in the Notes app of my iPhone, but my brain doesn’t work so). I am hoping that the organizers kept the recordings of the live-stream (it was a seamlessly hybrid, COVID-safe event), because that way I am sure I can go back and check what the presenters said.

But that’s twice the investment in time.

Truth be told, I should have brought a pocket-sized notebook. I have plenty of those. I even have a few that are so tiny that they can fit in my shirt’s pockets.

But the experiment of JUST paying attention to the talks without recording my own thoughts or specific great ideas I heard was useful, to an extent. I now understand a bit better those students of mine who don’t take notes in my classes.

But for me, I don’t work that way. I need to keep a handwritten record of what we discussed. That’s just how my brain works and that’s NOT going to change.

Moving forward, I’ll do one of two things:


1) I take my Everything Notebook with me,


2) I take a pocket-sized notebook with me, and then transcribe my notes to my Everything Notebook.

I will always and forever need handwritten notes, it’s very clear to me now.

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Posted in academia.

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