Patrick Higgins, Jr.

The New Old School

In reflection on July 18, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Much research has been done on my part recently regarding how I work well.  Note, that is not how I work, but how I work WELL.  As much as I am fond, perhaps overly, of using digital resources for the scheduling, planning, mapping, sorting, sifting, and creating in my daily life, there is a threshold that I think I have reached in regards to what my limitations are with computing.  There are some things that pen and paper are just plain better for when it comes to my thinking.  Moving into this new space is going to require me to have some hard-copy places for my ideas and notes.  And, we don’t have universal wireless access where I am going yet–that presents a little snag.

When I was a freshman in college, I had these high school habits that were really hard to kick.  Transcribing every word the professor said into my three-subject, spiral-bound, loose-leaf notebook, retyping rewriting those notes the night before an exam, and absolutely tanking on any type of exam that wasn’t based on factual recall.

By the time my sophomore year rolled around, two things had changed.  First, I recognized that my talents did not lay in the field of medicine, veterinary or human, and therefore this pre-med charade I was running had to end.  No two-legged or four-legged creature was going to be better off with the guy who couldn’t even make it to organic chemistry, let alone pass it, as their physician.  Second, the way I was handling information was all backwards.  In short, it was confining.  Now, by no means was I ever a doodler, but I also had very little business trying to fit my thoughts between lines in a notebook either.  I understood then that I excelled at making connections, and having information in several different “buckets” was inefficient, and even detrimental to how I learned.

So to begin that year, I hooked up with some of my artist friends and asked them where they got their sketchbooks–those hard-bound, non-lined, beauties with no lines to speak of–and sought out one, and only one for the semester.  I was no longer going to take notes in five different places.  If I was in Medieval British and Irish History or English and Textual Studies 201, I was using that sketchbook. I also marched over to my home college and changed my majors to history and anthropology.  That helped things immeasurably.

The data proved me correct on all fronts.  My GPA skyrocketed out of the gulley chemistry had sandbagged it into, and the connections I was able to pull were amazing.  Being unbound from linear notetaking and catapulted into the ability to annotate with images (some self-drawn and some inserted from “photocopies”) transformed me as a learner.

What kicked this post off was the fact that while waiting for Aunt Kay’s 90th birthday party invitations to print off at Staples the other day I meandered into the ever-shrinking art supply section only to find a Bienfang sketchbook that brought me way back.  So I snagged it, and appropriately named it after that first one I had back in 1994:

It’s acid-free, man, so my stuff will be around for ages.  Dig that.

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