Finding book and article ideas isn’t the problem for most writers – retaining those ideas is! Here are some of the best ways for writers to remember ideas, and keep them alive long enough to develop them.
We’ve all had it happen: you have a great idea while you’re in the shower, but all you can remember when you get out is that you had a great idea. As composer Hector Berlioz said, “Every composer knows the anguish and despair occasioned by forgetting ideas which one had no time to write down.”
Writers share that frustration.
If you’re a writer who struggles to find ideas that are “good enough to publish”, you may find Living the Creative Life: Ideas and Inspiration from Working Artists helpful. And, along with the usual advice to keep pen and paper with you at all times, here are several tips to help you remember your book and article ideas long enough to shape them, polish them, and maybe even get them published.
Got Article Ideas? 6 Best Ways for Writers to Remember Ideas
1. Use a digital recorder. I have an inexpensive digital voice recorder that I use for recording interviews, and I keep it in my pocket. My particular model lets me keep four separate streams going. I have one of them designated for idea reminders. This is particularly useful when I’m driving – which is a great time for “creative pause.” Creativity expert Edward de Bono, author of Serious Creativity: Using the Power of Lateral Thinking to Create New Ideas, talked about the “creative pause,” saying “some of the best results come when people stop to think about things that no one else has stopped to think about. I can pick up the recorder and push the button easily without taking my eyes off the road. It’s handy later, because the digital recorder can be connected to my PC for transferring the audio file.
2. Use your cell phone voice memo feature to record the idea. Just about everyone has a cell phone these days, and just about every cell phone has a voice memo recorder. If I don’t have the digital recorder handy, the cell phone’s voice memo is another way for writers to remember ideas. I’ve made it easier by tying the voice recorder to one of the shortcuts I can program on my phone, and I don’t want to risk a crash by either writing in my actual notebook or keying into the cell phone’s notepad.
3. Leave yourself a message on your phone. If your cell phone doesn’t have a voice memo feature or you can’t access it easily while driving, just dial your home phone–you do have an answering machine, right? Douglas Adams wrote about a character in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency whose job involved transcribing long, rambling answering machine messages from his employer. You can do that for yourself (although your book or article ideas won’t be long or rambling, right?).
4. Jot a digital note. If you’re in a meeting where you can’t talk out loud, you can still use that ever-present cell phone. Most of them have notepad applications built in. When I don’t have anything else to write on, I usually have that. It can be frustrating keying in a note on a telephone keypad, but it’s better than losing the book or article idea, and I don’t lose the phone the way I lose random pieces of paper.
5. Pick a card. Notecard, that is. I always carry two or three index cards with me for jotting quick notes. They work better than paper because of their weight, and I find them to be easier to keep track of than a spiral-bound notepad with 50 sheets. If I lose the notepad, I could lose a couple of weeks’ worth of ideas. The index cards demand attention when I empty my pockets at the end of the day, and I transcribe the information into my computer before I go to bed.
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6. Take advantage of the shower. I really do get some of my best ideas there. Writer Cameron Moll considers a shower to be a kind of “creative pause”, saying, “There’s something about showering that tends to spawn new ideas which may not occur otherwise.” One of the ways I remember book and article ideas is with a waterproof notepad called AquaNotes, which my wife bought me. Last week when I needed to come up with article ideas for a potential market, I took to the shower. I came out with eight solid ideas, preserved on a waterproof slip of paper.
Written by Donn King, a writer and college professor from Knoxville, Tennessee. Learn more about him at donnellking.com or follow him on Twitter.