I just read an interesting info-graphic on lifehack.org about how writing affects the brain. One of the elements of the graphic mentions how writing information down stimulates a certain area of the brain to help you remember. I always thought that was the case, because taking copious notes always seems to help me remember things better.
When I was a journalist just starting out, I wrote down everything someone would tell me in an interview as quickly as I possibly could. The biggest problem was simply keeping up with them since I didn’t know shorthand. (I still don’t, though I have my own version that seems to work.) The notes were vital to helping shape the story later on, especially if you had to do something in between that delayed the actual story writing.
As I grew more experienced as a journalist, I began to listen more than I began to take notes. I listened for key phrases, quotes or information, and that’s what I wrote down. I knew all the extra stuff, while interesting, probably wouldn’t make it into the final story. I listened for context. I remember some of my sources telling me how amazed they were that I took so few notes and yet ended up with a story that was spot-on.
These days, I’m back to taking a lot of notes.
For instance, when I attended the Writer’s Digest and Screenwriters World Conference in Los Angeles this past summer, I took a notebook to a lot of the sessions. I scribbled notes into it at a fast and furious clip, even though I knew I would get the audio recordings sent to me at the conclusion of the event. I was among only a few people doing so, as many other participants simply sat and listened. Call me a geek, if you will, but I wanted to get the most I could from the experience. Taking notes in my own way, in my own format, is just what works for me.
When a thought flies into my head I try to jot it down. If it’s a story idea or an idea to add to a story I am already working on, I have to jot it down if I want any chance of remembering it later on. I don’t know if that’s because I’m on the verge of early Alzheimer’s or if it’s just because I’ve got so much on my mind. (I’m always working on a couple or three projects at a time, which might explain things.)
Are you a note-taker? Do you find yourself jotting down notes at seminars and workshops? What methods work best for you in remembering key information?