We've had a two-week break for goals and objectives, so I guess I'd better remind us all about what we're doing here. Especially since this is a blog post about retaining information.
As I said a few weeks ago, Ultralearning describes a method of rapid learning. (Saving time, see?) Research/learning new material is frequently a necessity in all kinds of writing. I use it not only to provide background info in fiction but to inspire plot and characterization. Saving time doing this could be huge for writers, particularly this one.
Refresher On Our Case Study: I am planning an ultralearning project related to history, because I have a character who is a senior in college with a history major. I want his knowledge of history and, more importantly, how to do research to figure into the plot. The main issue I've decided I need to learn about is historical methodology. This now relates to one of my goals for this year.
Principle 7, Retaining What You've Learned
This chapter of Ultralearning is all about remembering what you're learning. This is interesting on a personal level, because our family members have been dealing with relatives with memory loss for many years. By "interesting" I mean "interesting in a disturbing way." Professionally, I don't think memory/retention matters as much for writers as it does for those learning other things, like a language or a skill they'll actually be using regularly.
Retaining For The Long-Term
Our Case Study: In my particular case, I'm interested in learning historical methodology that I can use for a character and situation in one book. I don't need to retain a lot of this indefinitely. If I want to use this information another time and no longer have a good grasp of it, I can research it again, using whatever I do recall as a guide/jumping off point. A refresher.
I've done this before. Many years ago, I researched the Puritan era for The Hero of Ticonderoga. This past year, I wrote an adult book in which a contemporary figure is a Puritan fan. I used what I recalled from the original research to "inspire" sections, then quickly researched those points again.
If I learn something in my research/learning of history that I want to use again, after my initial project, I can do the same kind of relearning research.
Retaining For The Short-Term
I believe that retaining for the short-term is more important for writers doing the kind of learning I'm doing. By that I mean, remembering what we've learned during Week 1 while continuing to study into Weeks 5 and 6. Or to remember what we've learned researching prior to starting the writing project while we're into the actual writing.
Young says that procedural skills, which appear to be activities that involve learning a procedure (I had to research this, because Young doesn't actually say), are retained better than declarative knowledge, which is facts or information. So if there's some way we can turn basic facts into a procedure, there's a chance they will be retained longer.
Our Case Study: Ah...not a clue how I could do this. Or if it's even possible at all.
Personal Problem With Retention That I Wish "Ultralearning" Addressed
I have had a lot of trouble in the past organizing research in an easy-to-access-again way. All my notes have gone into a notebook in the past or, more recently, a computer file, where at least, I could use "find" to find something I recalled but would like some support for before using it. Young doesn't cover this aspect of studying.
Our Case Study: I'm thinking that if I use a course syllabus, I can create a notebook or computer file for that course, just as I would if I were taking the actual college course. In fact, I'd have to say my takeaway from Ultralearning so far is to try to treat my professional research the way I would a college major instead of just dumping info into the digital or notebook equivalent of piles.
In this particular case, I may also be more focused in my research. I am not randomly researching history but history methodology. That may help me to organize research.
Since I am actually into the research at this point, I can report that yesterday I carefully created a file for a particular article I was reading instead of just tossing any notes I wanted to make into a "methods" file. I hope that's an improvement.