How To Capture Ideas When They Come

Welcome to Toolbox Saturday where you’ll find tools for various things from writing to whatever.

files photoThere are times in every writer’s life when ideas will come flooding in — but not for the story you’re working on.  You don’t want to forget those little gems because they would be great in another story, yet they’re useless for what you’re doing right now.  So what do you do?

Here’s a few ways how to capture ideas when they come:

Something I learned a long time ago was to keep an idea file.  Ideas come in many forms from quotes we’ve read to pictures we’ve seen to that fabulous new movie we just saw (if you have the time ;)).  Whatever the form, it’s best to capture the idea as soon as possible.

For certain items, such as magazine articles, it’s easy enough to rip them out and file them away in a file cabinet.  For others we have to get a bit more creative.  An example would be a wonderful painting from a museum.  It’s considered a crime to grab the painting and run (and I’m pretty sure trying to explain it away as “needing it for my idea file” wouldn’t get you very far).  Thus we must get creative.  You may be able to photograph it or, barring that, perhaps sketch it.  If you’re art skills don’t go beyond stick men, then maybe you could write a description of it.

One nifty little tool I’ve discovered is Evernote. If you’ve got a smart phone, this application can be very useful. Snap a picture of whatever sparked your story idea, then share it to your Evernote with notes, tags, whatever. Your ideas are readily available to you via the web on any smartphone (with the downloaded app) or computer. You can even do this with magazine articles instead of ripping them out of the magazine. Simply take a picture and file it away.

Regardless of how you get the inspirational item into your idea file, remember to write down the idea that was inspired and attach it.  Sticky notes work great for hard copies (though the sticky does eventually wear off so be aware that your ideas may go wandering in your file).

Writing takes ideas.  Being an Independent Author means being creative in every area of your career.  And so, that’s why it’s important to collect the little gems that inspire you along.

What other creative solutions have you found to capturing story ideas?

Photo by mcfarlandmo

9 Responses to “How To Capture Ideas When They Come”

  1. […] Read the rest. Remember to subscribe to my new blog by RSS or email for LOL Mondays, Spirit Wednesdays and Toolbox Saturdays. […]

  2. Thanks for the idea, Virginia. I’m going to check it out.

  3. Evernote is a fabulous program. I have personal records, what’s in my safety deposit box, the dates the maintenance guarantees start and end, serial numbers of equipment, and a list of the monthly bills, for the family to check if something should happen to me.

    Beyond that, research websites for my writing, articles, pictures, and all things pertaining to manuscript titles.

    And it is searchable. Fantastic.

    Folkd who get it you will love it once the learning curve is navigated. Hayyp Evernoting!

    • vripple says:

      That is a great idea! Keep everything in one place “just in case.” Hate to think about the inevitable, but it’s better to be prepared to save unnecessary grief. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Sorry for the typo’s. Wrote this at an Everett RWA book signing on the waterfront in front of Lombardi’s Restaurant, and the sun is shining on my lap top!

    • vripple says:

      I’ve had the same type of problem using my smartphone. Typos sneak in whenever and wherever they can, little buggers. 🙂

  5. Natalie says:

    Fantastic idea. I just posted on twitter the other day how I lost a great blog post idea and I think this tactic is great for writing ideas for books, short stories, and blog posts. Thank you for sharing!

    • vripple says:

      Yep. I just used Evernote to draft my post for Wednesday. Great way to store all kinds of info — including new restaurants you want to try someday ;).

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