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On Note Taking

Road Narrative Update for January 2019

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On Note Taking: 02/17/19

On Note Taking

A friend of mine asked if I used "any sort of note taking system" for my Road Narrative Project. The short version is yes, I take notes. Is it a system, not exactly.

Let me back up about thirty years. When I was in college in the days before I owned a laptop (or my first year, a computer), I wrote my notes on notecards. That way I could sort them into topics when it was time to either study or write the term paper. By the end of my undergrad, I had about a dozen boxes of notecards. Talk about clutter!

For this project, I have two portable computers near me most of the time. First is my laptop. Second is my phone. What I don't have is a desk. I'm not a student any longer and the few times I need to write letters by hand, I can write at the kitchen table or on the fold table I use for painting and drawing.

At this point in the Road Narrative Spectrum project, I am primarily reading fiction to find at least one exemplar for each of the 216 categories I've described. I am also writing essays describing each of these categories, either as narrative analysis of works read or just as hypothetical descriptions based on the three elements making up that category.

The 216 category list is my road map to the project, if you will. I see it bit like the grid on the placemats at Pea Soup Andersons that show the distances between major cities in California. Mine is more like the major distances, represented by colors, between different kinds of narratives. The version I use most is a spreadsheet where I list books I've read, am reading, or think I qualify and therefore should read.

The spreadsheet has at this time 444 entries, though not all of the categories are filled with titles. Some categories have duplicates. I should probably do a scatter plot to see which are my most popular ones.

To see how these stories relate to each other, I also have a diagram of the six types of traveler. That is available online and clickable from any page from the left navigation.

So for the fiction I'm reading, I read them in three forms: print, ebook, and sometimes audio. For the print books if I need to take down a note of an important passage or jot down my initial reading of a particular scene, I maintain a Pages file for each title. I note down the page number, transcribe the quote, and then if needed, make my notes about the context of the scene or my analysis of it.

Sometimes though I don't have access to Pages. When that happens, I resort to making my notes as cryptic status updates on GoodReads.

If I feel a particular book has enough to offer that it needs a closer, deeper reading, I will then transcribe my notes, one entry at a time into my Tumblr. Then below the transcription I will annotate with my thoughts or analysis or add a relevant photograph or illustration. Older ones, pre-spectrum, are tagged as "roadtrip" and more recent ones are tagged as "road narrative spectrum" as well as the book's spectrum color.

Everything else, the reviews and the essays, go onto my book blog. The essays are indexed under "Road Essays." The reviewed books are indexed under "Road Reviews.

In the future when more of the essays are written and most of the categories have at least one exemplar, I plan to organize things into bigger sections, namely chapters. These will probably have to be offered as PDFs and epubs to keep page formatting better as they will be too unwieldy for blog posts. That step will be in the next five years at the rate I'm going.

Comments  (2)

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Comment #1: Sunday, February 17, 2019 at 20:57:55

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

This sounds like an intricate and intriguing project. I want to know more about it.

Comment #2: Sunday, February 17, 2019 at 18:07:00


Thanks! I was going to send you over the introduction, but I see you've found it. Please also take a look at: Road Narrative Spectrum and There are 216 road narrative stories (that I'm interested in). Essentially what I'm doing is look at the way the road and travel (or the metaphor of travel) is used in North American literature.

As I'm a visual person, I've assigned a color to each type of narrative using web safe colors (a throwback to my web design experience). The red channel represents one of six types of protagonist or traveler. The green represents one of six destinations. The blue represents one of six routes or roads. I am trying to focus my reading on narratives by women, indigenous authors, and writers of color because the vast majority of academic studies of road narratives have focused on white male authors.