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Reading with a Pen - How I Get Ideas From Books

Reading with a Pen - How I Get Ideas From Books

Stewart Hillhouse
Stewart Hillhouse

For many years I was scared to write in my books - it felt like I was destroying them.

But a few years ago, I tried reading with a pen and it's completely changed how I read.

From Consumer to Contributor

When you read without a pen, you're a consumer.

You're taking everything the author is saying literally because they're the only who gets to have an opinion. It's the equivalent of listening to a lecturer drone on and on about their topic without asking the class if they need clarification.

But when you read with a pen, you've now turned that resource into a conversation with the author. You're more inclined to actually think about what it is they're saying and reflect on whether you believe it or not.

By reading with a pen in your hand, you get to scribble thoughts into the margins, underline ideas that resonated at the moment, and ask yourself "How does this apply to me?".

Now, rather than a lecture, imagine you get to have a chat with the author over a coffee or beer. When they say a point, you get to ask other questions. You get to slow things down that you don't understand. But most importantly, you get to challenge the ideas of the author.

Reading with a pen has helped me tremendously in developing my own thoughts because I now am actively engaging with the ideas, rather than letting them flow through my fingers.

By reading with a pen, I get to steal the best parts of the book and add my own twist to it.

Reading With A Pen In Practice

The term Reading with a Pen can take on many forms in practice. Of course, if you're reading a physical book, it's very literal. You could also use a pencil if you prefer.

I currently read most of my books from a Kindle. In this case, I'm able to highlight quotes and write short notes.

One app that I use to capture ideas and ensure they re-surface is called Readwise. As I highlight on my Kindle, the highlights appear in my Readwise library.

It sends me an email every morning with a few quotes for a random assortment of books in my library. I find it to be the perfect tool to help me write daily because that quote acts as a prompt for me to begin writing from an idea, not from a Blank Page.