Idea Files, or How to Make Every Little Flash of Inspiration Count

If you’re anything like me, your best ideas come to you at any time when you are not attempting to write, or not able to write at that particular moment. For example, while driving, in the shower, at work, at 3:47 am, while out with friends, while cooking dinner, or in a work meeting.  

I got the idea for this article after waking up with the solution to a tricky plot problem in my latest short story at 12:59 am, when I would rather stay in bed than spend two or three hours at my computer.

And the biggest lie that we tell ourselves is, “I don’t need to write that down, I’ll remember it.”  
As Edgar Allan Poe said:

 Edgar Allan Poe Quote 
And yet:

Cat Patrick Quote 
Our minds clearly need a helping hand at keeping track of what is important, so with that in mind, here are some ways to keep track of your ideas while on the go: 

Index Cards – I am a huge fan of index cards. They are small and portable, perfect for one idea per card, easy to arrange and categorise, and still have enough room to expand on the idea later or scribble a little sketch on the back if you want to.

Index Card Apps on your phone or tablet (Such as “Index Card” or “Stickyboard”) – the virtual version of index cards with many of the same benefits but also a few drawbacks – they are not as portable (they can’t be added to physical project files or other apps), and not as flexible (you generally can’t add little sketches or maps – they’re text only).

Memo apps on your smartphone – handy for on the go or at work, these apps are usually limited to a certain amount of characters and are ideal for jotting down quick ideas while pretending to check and respond to texts or be doing other work-related activities.

Voice recording apps on your smartphone – perfect for while driving, these apps allow you to record your ideas verbally and transcribe them later.

Notebooks – the traditional writer’s accessory, used for generations. The only advice I would add is keeping it to one or maybe two ideas per page, allowing room to expand on each idea and making sure your thoughts don’t become one big blur on the page where it becomes easy to lose ideas by skimming over them.

Document files on your computer or tablet – unlike a physical notebook, it can be more time consuming to utilise electronic document when you need to jot ideas down in a hurry, but like a notebook, it can be easy for ideas to become lost when jotted down in one long list, particularly when your idea file reaches several pages long.

Scribbling shorthand notes on the back of your hand (and up your arm, on your leg…) – yes, this is something I do fairly frequently. Of course it isn’t permanent, and you have to transcribe your notes later, but it works in a pinch.

Everyone has their own favourite way of keeping track of their flashes of inspiration. The important thing is not to let these little gems slip away.

 Jack London Quote 
Do you have a method that I haven’t mentioned here?


6 thoughts on “Idea Files, or How to Make Every Little Flash of Inspiration Count

  1. I have a notebook with me at all times because I will otherwise forget so many things! Sometimes I fall into the trap of, “Oh! As soon as I’m done with this task I’ll write that down so I don’t forget,” and then I walk around the rest of the day trying to remember what it was I was going to make a note of so I wouldn’t forget. *sigh* I’ve gotten better with writing down what comes to me when it comes to me, though. I usually have sticky notes within reach if I need to remind myself to remind myself.

    Liked by 1 person

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