Monday, August 3, 2015

Gay Talese on Note-Taking

The American journalist and a nonfiction writer, Gay Talese tells us that, "instead of a notepad, I use shirt boards from the dry cleaner. I take a shirt board, and then I get scissors and cut it into note cards that I use like a notepad. I should patent the idea. I usually don’t take notes in front of my subjects; I sneak off and jot down things on these cards. They fit in my suit and don’t stick out like the wires on stupid little journalism pads."

"Exactly. I cut the shirt board into four parts and I cut the corners into round edges, so that they can fit in my pocket [breast pocket of his jackets, that is}. I also use full shirt boards when I’m writing my outlines. I’ve been doing this since the fifties."

Yes, and at night I type out my notes. It is a kind of journal. But not only my notes—also my observations ... my personal observations, what I myself was thinking and feeling during the day when I was meeting people and seeing things and making notes on shirt boards. When I’m typing at night, on ordinary pieces of typing paper, I’m not only dealing with my daily research, but also with what I’ve seen and felt that day. What I’m doing as a researching writer is always mixed up with what I’m feeling while doing it, and I keep a record of this. I’m always part of the assignment. This will be evident to anyone who reads my typed notes."

Besides the cut-up shirt-boards he carries a Montblanc pen or two ... of course.

An interesting way of recycling something that most of us put in the bin in one piece. I am as little tempted to imitate this way of note-taking as I am interested in following his way of dressing.

Does he use a computer? "No, not much. I move my longhand writing to a typewriter, then, at the end, I do use a computer like a typewriter. The only thing I like about the computer is the ease with which I can correct typos. I never begin writing on a computer, however. I want to “feel” the words as I put them on paper with the pointed edge of a sharply pointed pencil."

Too much "feeling" for me!

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