Slow-step is imagination? How to memorize books faster

Hi Guys,

I just memorized a list of 250 items while timing each step. This roughly corresponds to memorizing a book summary (100 to 250 items).

Here are the results:

  • 1hr finding and mapping palace
  • 1hr organizing & categorizing information + laying out in rooms
  • 2.5 hours creating images for each
  • n/a for review.

So to memorize a book it will take between 3 and 5 hours.

For me, creating images is the slow-step. Within creating images, what slows me down is coming up with a concrete image for a very abstract idea.

It seems like drilling image creation for abstract concepts could help speed up this process.

Does anyone have a word list of abstract nouns and phrases? Other than just memorizing more things, how would you guys go about improving this?



You get quicker at this with practice.

I believe this actually takes the longest.

Thinking in images helps.

A complete one will be very large, but there is not going to be much more time invested making one over learning one.


Do you mean just periodically visualizing whatever it is that you’re thinking of? Or do you mean something else?


Something else, kind of like a substitute for verbal thinking using images (videos included) and visual analogies.

At the point at which I could use this, to do logical actions or plan ahead, I was significantly better at turning abstract ideas to images.


Guide to memorizing a book

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That’s fascinating and impressive!

For me, that happens sometimes when a word comes up for which I have an Anki flashcard. (Sometimes I see the flashcard image in my mind’s eye.) Also, back when I was doing chemistry and engineering I would see or design the various shapes in my head. But that all came from “brain soaking” — just doing that spacial thinking so much that it started to happen on its own.

When memorizing, I seem to need to make a pit stop at verbal thinking before seeing.


Thanks for the book tips, I’ll check them out!


That is part of it but it’s a bit different. The images aren’t quite concrete the same as they would be when you manipulate equations or make a cup of coffee.

Take for example the word “ownership” I have pretty much two instant images which I haven’t directly learned.

  1. Black prism pad with a red dot and green input code, for ‘ownership’.
  2. A collective small split visual field of many different people owning something that is not of a single type hence ownership.

If I were to read “For me, that happens sometimes when a word comes up for which I have an Anki flashcard.” In that way I get :
A green to yellow split wave of creamy milk alike light dripping on the greener side as a panel/flashcard with the anki logo of words is updated (a little out of sync).
Which kind of gives : “this happens sometimes for me when a word for which I have an anki flashcard comes up.”

Green indicates your side , yellow someone else’s.
The wavy alike cream property indicates that it is you rather than the concept of self. I kind of feel that way due to the subconscious perception of proteins in milk. The light gives a sense of this being your mind as oppose to body. The dripping occurs to indicate that despite this being you it is only partly occuring, sometimes because you would be in control of this given it is you, hence there is no decrease in the wave. The board being a flashcard is immediately clear by a string of text on its front and the anki wallpaper on the back to indicate an anki flashcard. The off sync is to not modify the fact that this only occurs sometimes and not always since there is an eventual completely different phase with the dripping and the updated flashcard.

Is kind of how I see it


That is a good software that I use as well.


Wow! We’re you always able to do that? Did you train it somehow or just make friends with your subconscious?

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I definitely wasn’t always able to do that, though I did get better at it over the years. This was more in the form of seeing abstract meanings in an image. The actual thinking part happened relatively quickly after I gave it conscious effort.

I started out attempting to do it very slowly and it seemed like it was going nowhere (worked but was slow) then I left it on break for a few days and it just suddenly clicked. Now I can pretty much do it a little faster than I can read.

Before this, I frequented training subconscious responses such as on stimuli automatically moving my hand or receiving a processed verbal/visual cue and automatically associating it to a verbal or visual one so it doesn’t require conscious attention. Ironically this is also how I learned English (by being in the country and subconsciously grasping the intuition behind the grammar). However, I don’t think that this has anything to do with that actually.

For me it’s a little like music. When you listen to music even if the lyrics are of a different language you can sort of feel what it sounds like or the meaning its conveying to you, and that supersedes the actual lyrics. In this case I get the same kind of feeling with the visual images and their interactions. Just in this case I actually know the meaning of the lyrics (images and interactions). So if I were visualizing a pointed red star I get an impression of fatality or piercing (particularly if very sharp), whereas I don’t get an as extreme response when the star is rounded at the edges. If the color was instead green I would perceive it more as cutting than piercing or fatality (in the sharper case) , every little bit of detail will drastically change my perception. I don’t have to pay conscious attention to the explicit perception however. I know it in the same way that I know that a dog is an animal (for comparison)


I am guessing you are trying to learn this information for long term memory. I would suggest looking at Alex Mullen’s
Website Mullen Memory, and interviews of him explaining the tweaks he made for using memory palaces for his medical schooling. I believe this would save you some time.
The only tip I can give you is that I tend to think of a movie genre for my palace which not only helps me create the palace but makes visualization easier for me and helps me add emotion to my images. I treat different areas(palaces) like different movie scenes because in movies they will just jump from one location to another and yet are still tied together.
Hope this helps

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I am going to check the site, sounds interesting.

It is helpful, thank you.


Yeah, Alex’s site is amazing. I like how it does memory palaces in a “memory town” style on-the-fly without much organizing. It’s definitely more efficient, but there is a trade-off with the organization. … Maybe I should try it more.

The funny thing with all of this memory stuff is that it takes quite some effort to realy know if something works for you. Just trying it once doesn’t really tell you how much an idea could be developed.

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Good point. This video is interesting though.


This is interesting Nagime! Could you explain more on how would someone start doing this?
Is the idea to come up with a dictionary of meanings->images first and then exercise it as you read text? Do you disambiguate between “almost” synonymous words like say ‘happy’ vs ‘pleasant’?

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Attempting to do it extremely slowly so you don’t feed in with your verbal dialogue, is definitely the way to go. Once you can do it without the verbal dialogue you can pretty freely combine both or use them independently as you see fit.

I had some meanings which I associated periodically, but, where it really clicked, was when I actually tried to do this. So I would advise trying to do it slowly rather than making a dictionary of meanings first. Perhaps it would just click too, if it doesn’t then perhaps add in some meanings. The other reason I wouldn’t make a dictionary right away is because I am majorly not reusing images, often I use images I have never used before.

I do disambiguate between happy and pleasant. Happy seems more exciting and pleasant more relaxing, so how I encode them is very different subconsciously. However, I think the spots where disambiguate less do exist. I need to pay a little more attention if I want to disambiguate between ‘this’ and ‘that’ subconsciously. The reason for this is simply because, when I am reading someone else’s text and turning it into images I think about ‘that’(their side) as oppose to ‘this’ (my side), and such little details are kind of important. Especially since this doesn’t require me to read the text verbally, so my perception of it greatly affects things.


Thanks Nagime! If you don’t come up with dictionary of images, won’t we forget the actual information encoded? There are lot of times where i have come up with images and the images stick, but i totally forget what they mean. How do you mange that?


Perhaps some dis-ambiguity, but lets say you met the reverse (‘some images’) and had to turn them into text. Given the same image I will reliably turn it into the same kind of text because that is what it means. However, this is not because I have associated that image with a particular term, but the literal objects have a lot of overlaps in implied meaning.

The same way that you may see red drops of liquid dripping on white surfaces and think ‘bleeding’,‘paint’,'sullying, but if that drop turned dark, you may change the sullying to ‘corruption’ and favor that terminology over the others, perhaps also having ‘dried blood’, paint seems a lot less likely then. You don’t explicitly think about that but it just kind of translates like that. I suppose the right word to use is, you don’t have to worry about that because it is a logical (albeit visual) translation so you can follow the logic to translate back, rather than relying on your memory.

I suppose something important to state here is that, there is a large difference between doing this with ‘text’ and ‘thought’. What I was describing has to be done with ‘thought’ rather than ‘text’, otherwise you are not really in need of any kind of logic so it wouldn’t work well. After being able to do it ‘to think’, freely, the text translation is pretty instantaneous.


That’s a great idea! I’m going to try that. So, to get concrete I could imagine the Stephen King movie Misery happening at a certain palace. Then all the emotions of the scenes and the characters in the movie could be reused. Those actors would be doing various mnemonic things in that palace with the emotions you get in the movie. (e.g. fear, anticipation, and trying to escape).