Applied note-taking taken to a whole new level

Your faithful blogger has recently become obsessed with the New Yorker magazine complete archive that you can purchase on a single hard disk. (Why it’s not just up on the web as a subscription service I’m not quite sure, but to have instant access to every New Yorker article ever published, I’ll take it.)

As someone who regularly fades in and out of various note-taking modes, I enjoyed this segment from a 1934 profile of Hollywood producer Darryl Zanuck and his one-time boss H. C. Witwer:

[Zanuck] then had the good luck to become associated with… H. C. Witwer, whose Leather Pusher [!] and Telephone Girl tales and pictures were famous a decade ago…

Witwer had an original method of composition. He carried small scratch pads and short pencils in his pockets. If a comic idea occurred to him on the sidewalk, at a party, in conference, in a taxicab, in a speakeasy, or anywhere else, he would thrust his hand in his side coat pocket, make a note on the pad, tear off the sheet, and leave the pad in readiness for the next idea. Whenever he heard a very bright remark or a very dumb remark, Witwer’s right hand would dart into his coat pocket.

From long practice he could scribble legibly and inconspicuously.

After accumulating a hundred of two hundred of these notes, he would seat himself at his desk, cover the floor around him with the slips of paper, and start writing. When his invention lagged, he would lean over and pick up a slip of paper. If the paper failed to suggest anything useful at the moment, he would toss it back on the floor and pick up another. Sooner or later he would find a note which would inspire him. Once used, the slip would be crumpled and thrown into a wastebasket.

Before Witwer had worked his way through all his notes, the script would be finished.

New aspirational goal for any aspiring lifehacker: write notes on a pad of paper without taking the pad out of your pocket!