Notes I took on a video by David Perell.
Kendrick is a self-proclaimed note-taking GOD. But how does he take notes, and why does he?
"I have to make notes because a lot of my inspiration comes from meeting people, or going outside the country,... or my old neighborhood". - Kendrick
Taking notes is how Kendrick condenses his ideas and lets them gestate over a period of time before they become useful.
Now I ask you, how many GREAT ideas you have lost because you never bothered to write them down when they were still fresh in your mind?
How much advice and quotes have you forgotten over the years?
The Entropy Filled Memory
Memory is perishable, it deteriorates over time. So we need a countermeasure.
With notetaking, we can build blocks to improve our craft, so that we can always go to those blocks when we are feeling stuck or forgot what we wanted to say.
But to have that safe vault, you need to have your ideas written down first. "Ink preserves what memory forgets".
Taking notes allows us to compound knowledge over time. And big boy Kendrick has been compounding his ideas since childhood.
This is Kendrick in high school. He has been living in the realm of ideas since 7th grade.
He had his poetic awakening at Vanguard Learning Center when he met Regis Inge. Regis was not your common teacher, he brought poetry into the classroom as a way to allow students to express their frustrations by writing them down, instead of by fighting.
"If the kid wrote their frustration, they wouldn't need to express it through physical violence". - Regis
Kendrick found in poetry what was needed to talk about his life and struggles.
"That's how I get my thoughts out, instead of being crazy all the time" - Kendrick.
He wrote and wrote rap lyrics in his notebook instead of doing homework for other classes.
Where's the Kid now?
Kendrick is in his mid 30s, 160 awards (including 13 Grammy Awards), and was the first rapper to win a Pulitzer Prize with the album DAMN(normally goes to the jazz community).
How does he do it?
If you had to guess I believe you'd think it was him grinding down with a pen and paper 24/7 right? But it's not, it's not even sitting down nor writing it all in one long session (like newbie college grads try to do).
His creative process is a perpetual one, slowly cooking his ideas over time.
"I write stuff all the time, it can be pulled from anywhere, that can generate some rhymes as soon as I walk out this door".
Rather than using timers and working in carefully selected sessions every day from 9 to 5 using some pomodoro system (like I do hahahha), he describes his work as "Vibing out and soaking energy".
He then takes that energy the moment it arises and takes a note on it. These notes get stored and converted over time to platinum singles.
Notetaking has a bad Rep
Our educational system trains us into taking notes that we are never going to use again. Just random pieces of things that aren't personal to us.
Ask yourself, do you still have notes from college? Have you looked at them recently? If not, what was the last time you did?
Great writers actually know how to capture their ideas. Paper and hardware are better at storage than the human mind. But the human mind is the best for generating ideas.
So to consistently do creative work you must also capture great ideas as they come to you.
That way you build a library of ideas that help you think better and make connections between different ideas. (I highly recommend you check out my Little Bits - Zettelkasten Method post to have a more in-depth view of this).
Notetaking is like having a second brain where you store information and it helps you connect different ideas and think better about them.
How to Actually start?
Stop trying to just be creative in front of your computer/work desk.
Abandon the idea that creative work happens at a specific time of the day and the rest is just "not working/relaxing". Don't think of life as in "Time for creativity" x "time to live your life". Creativity flows through life, don't kill it when it touches you.
Once you start taking notes you'll realize that the best ideas happen when you are living your life, be it taking a shower, at a party, etc.
The universe will give you ideas when you least expect it. So be ready to capture them, and save them while they are fresh.
But you need to give the universe your themes, think about what you want to explore, and let questions exist in the back of your head. Let your brain gestate on them. You'll be surprised by the amount of great ideas it will come up with.
Kendrick took a list of themes and open-ended questions that he wanted his subconscious mind to gestate on. He used to listen to the beats that his crew came up with and let them live inside his brain for months until the themes + notes added up to his rhymes.
It's all about working in slow burns, where you pick ideas you already wrote down when they were fresh, and combine them with different ideas. The output of a project is not only the project but its byproducts, and they become the seed of another future project.
So what should you take notes on? My personal list:
- Inspiration: Something that made you excited when you saw it (something you'll want to write about in the future)
- Useful: Building blocks for future projects.
- Easily Lost: Something you wouldn't be able to find it again in the future.
- Personal: Unique or hard-won knowledge you'll want to review over the years.
That is all folks, stay put for the next post.
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