Happy April, friends 🌟 I’ve been doing my best to get in some rest this month, and hope you have been taking good care.
I don’t have much to add besides: I am still tired, worried, and angry. If you are looking for Asian American focused groups to support and resources, here are just a couple:
Stop AAPI Hate: Report incidents of Asian hate crimes, and learn how to better support the AAPI community.
Red Canary Song: Focused on migrant and Asian sex-workers.
API Equality Northern California: Elevates queer, non-binary, and transgender folks of API descent.
As the George Floyd trial comes to a close, as the Sikh community grieves in Indianapolis, as the situation at the US border gets worse, I just have one request, from one random Internet stranger to another 🙏
A lot of folks want to know what they can do to support people they know who belong to communities that withstand violence and inequity.
Please do not read some blanket strategy on Instagram/Twitter/some article, and then execute that strategy on your friends, acquaintances and loved ones.
Not everyone wants a check-in message from someone they haven’t talked to in years, but it makes some folks feel seen. Not everyone loves to be highlighted as ‘[insert community] thought leader to follow’, others appreciate the bump.
Some of your friends will want to vent, or a safe space to express their fear. Others will want to be alone. Others will want to stay busy. Others simply want an acknowledgment that you see what’s going on.
Please do not further flatten your loved ones into tropes. People are not universally healed by the same nourishment. Different people need different things to feel supported, it’s the same idea as buying a gift that one particular person will love, or doing different activities with different friends.
My creativity is demands a constant stream of knowledge. I feel like I’m always studying and learning from others, whether it’s how to work with granulating pigments, the history of magic, or how to craft a better story.
While my creation process often feels euphoric and exploratory, my studying process is time-consuming, low-tech, and always the same. I developed my method late last year and have been using it successfully for many months now.
My methods are a relaxed combination of the zettelkasten method, tactics from Sönke Ahren’s How to Take Smart Notes, trial and error, and general geekery with my friend and fellow knowledge nerd Amélie Lamont (sign up for their newsletter, I’ve gotten a preview of the upcoming reboot and I can’t wait).
Whether it’s a recording of a panel on short stories, a book about finding artistic style, a podcast interview, or a particularly interesting Tweet thread, this is how I ‘study’:
Each step is an integral link in how I engage with knowledge:
I note down anything I find interesting. I always, always do this by hand, never on a laptop, tablet, or phone. There are lots of theories on why note-taking by hand helps with learning, but I find it forces me to pay attention to the text. Making the explicit decision to write something down means that I am engaging with the content, rather than just letting it wash over me.
Whatever the reason, my spicy(?) take is this: Yes. It’s time-consuming to take analog notes while you read, but if your primary intent is to retain any knowledge, reading instructional non-fiction without a pen in hand is a total waste of time. Reading without hand-writing notes is basically watching Netflix—which is fine, if reading thick non-fic books is your idea of entertainment!
I also make it a point to only save striking or important ideas. Not every idea is useful to every person’s wider learning, which is one of the major pillars of Ahren’s How to Take Smart Notes.
Not by OCR. Not by taking a picture. I manually retype what I wrote in my notebook. By retyping, I digest twice—once in the author’s words, and now, once in my words. I can double check that I understand a concept, and yes, this gives my notes that technological edge: I can now digitally search for keywords and keep my valuable little jottings safe in the cloud.
This is also when I highlight to-do’s: threads to follow up on and references for later, such as books to read or further topics of interest.
This step often takes me just as long as retyping notes. I skim through my typed notes and summarize a few key takeaways in succinct and atomic units. While I make these takeaways (which in zettelkasten tradition, I call cards), I manually link them to other cards I created in the past.
The best way to retain knowledge according to Ahrens is to connect it to past knowledge. Everything you know is a web, more than a dictionary. We only get meaning from knowledge and ideas when we understand their significance in a greater whole.
This is the most exciting part of learning and reading: every person is an individual curator. Different people can run their eyes over the same set of texts and produce vastly different new lines of thought. This is how style is developed, how theses are made, how thousands of authors can write books with the same setting and still produce thousands of poignant and interesting books.
(and that’s just one significant line of thought that has come from my very own studies this year!)
A real card from my knowledge base. Note the links to past cards.
How are you keeping track of all your learnings? Hit reply and share your methods!
Destined to be a classic, Salesses’ take on craft is a gamechanger. Craft in the Real World tackles workshop power dynamics, culture majority and equity with an unflinching eye, while also giving alternate definitions for craft that better serve a more diverse set of stories. It’s an easy book to graze through as needed. Each section and chapter can be taken individually (though of course the book is powerful as a whole).
While this book is mostly framed through MFA workshop and fiction craft, it contains valuable lessons for other artistic and design critique, and the assumptions we carry about viewers and users, the importance of context, and how to talk about work more equitably.
I’m teaching myself how to make jewelry! Each skill I learn will be structured like a unit, which means: practicing techniques, acquiring the right tools, and making a few pieces with what I’ve learned.
The first ‘unit’ was beading, which requires very few tools and takes up next to no space. It was so calming to hand stitch these one-off pieces. They’re on offer if you’d like to snag one and help me clear my stash.
There’s more beading in my future, but there’s no guarantee I’ll make any more of these particular pieces. There are three daisy chain necklaces in different colors, and four rings available. Y’all have first dibs, but I’ll be posting more publicly end of week. So, if you see something you like, grab it quick 😬
Stay tuned, next unit is: wax carving and casting.
xo, till next time, Ash