How to Save Your Best Writing Ideas

writing ideas

How to save and cultivate your best writing ideas

Doesn’t it seem like the best writing ideas come at the most inconvenient times?

It happens when you’re driving, in the shower, or eating dinner at a restaurant. Unfortunately, you’re not sitting in front of your computer and even if you were, you don’t always have time to stop what you’re doing to make notes about your latest writing ideas.

But nobody wants to lose a truly great writing idea either – so how do we save them before we forget them?

If your idea light bulb likes to shine while your hands are tied or when you’re away from your usual writing tools, then I have some tips to help you make sure you don’t lose your most creative writing ideas.

Five Tips That Will Prevent You from Losing Your Best Writing Ideas


  1. Mini-Notebooks: They’re cheap and small enough to stash everywhere: on your nightstand, in your purse, pocket, car, or desk drawer at work. Keep a pen or pencil with each one. Just make sure you don’t jot anything down while driving. It only takes a couple of minutes to pull over, write down your notes, and be back on your way.
  2. Voice Recorder: Keeping a voice recorder on you at all times is another great way to make sure that no matter where you are (or what you’re doing), you have a way to record your writing ideas. Perfect for the car, a recorder is an ideal way to get a little writing done or capture your most brilliant thoughts. Writers have used mini-cassette recorders for years, but now digital recorders are plentiful and affordable. Plus, many smart phones and mp3 players now come with voice recording capabilities. Speaking of cell phones…
  3. Voice mail: If you’re stuck somewhere without a notebook, then just give yourself a call. As long as you have access to a phone, you can leave yourself a voicemail and make sure that your best writing ideas don’t disappear among the millions of thoughts you’re having during the day. Plus, you can call your mobile phone, home phone, or work phone!
  4. Bulletin Boards, Baskets, and Boxes: If you’re one of those people who jots down notes on scrap paper and napkins, this is the perfect way to collect your thoughts. By setting aside a bulletin board, basket, box, or other container, you will have a place to deposit your scraps and scribbles. This will help you stay organized and you’ll always know where to look when you’re trying to dig up one of your latest, greatest writing ideas.
  5. Just a Pen: As long as we’re talking about napkins and notes, keep in mind that most of the time a pen is all you really need. There are materials to write on just about everywhere and in a pinch, even a square of toilet paper will do. If you have your trusty pen on your person, you probably won’t have to look too long or far for something to write on. You might want to go with a Sharpie though; it will open up a whole new world of writing surfaces, like thick cardboard boxes, but hey — stay away from bathroom walls!

Most writers have lost dozens if not hundreds of writing ideas just because they had a stroke of genius at a most inopportune time. But that doesn’t have to happen to you. As long as you’re prepared at all times, your writing ideas will stay safe and sound!

Got any tips to add for keeping track of your writing ideas? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.

Comments

18 Responses to “How to Save Your Best Writing Ideas”

  1. Beth says:

    I’m doing better; I keep pens and pencils in my purse, and a small notebook. There’s a also a notebook and pen on my nightstand.

    A voice recorder seems like a great idea, and I may splurge soon.

    I just love the voice mail idea!

  2. I’m addicted to pens. I have them everywhere.

    What I REALLY need however is a way to write on bathroom walls. ;-) That’s where I get all my best ideas! For some reason my creativity is most productive when I’m wet, showering, washing dishes, swimming, etc. Alas water and paper or electronics don’t mix. When will they invent waterproof paper?

  3. Julie Phelps says:

    With the bathroom being an exception, I generally have my cellphone with me everywhere. So I can jot an idea down on the electronic notepad, but most often I open the EverNote app and enter my ideas there. EverNote is accessible from any of my devices and updates itself constantly. I rely on it for keeping track of just about everything, from shopping lists, blog posts, recipes, useful links and more.

    • I am with you 100% on Evernote. Because it syncs to all devices, it’s efficient. I can make a note to myself when I get an idea in the store and it automatically syncs to my desktop computer, where I can copy and paste it into my manuscript. I love Evernote!

  4. Notebooks are my preferred ideas collector. I have them in the rooms I spend the most time in- bedroom, kitchen, living. I keep a mini notebook in the bathroom too. Ideas jump out of my head while I’ll doing stuff to my hair.

  5. CA Biexei says:

    Tiny Moleskine notebooks are my solution. They are small enough to fit into a hip pocket or a small handbag. And those little pencils one finds all over IKEA have been a useful addition.
    My favorite I MUST RECORD THIS GREAT IDEA moment was a time when I was attending a 10-day silent meditation retreat. All writing instruments, books and papers were supposed to be left with the office before the silence and meditating began, and I had complied with that rule. I was sitting in my cell in the pagoda when I was struck with an idea I could not let myself lose. I ran to the women’s dorm and found a dry-erase marker used for recording shared chores, but something to write on was a real dilemma. I finally found a toilet tissue wrapper in the garbage and used that to jot down my idea.

  6. Kelvin Kao says:

    I use a list-making app on my iPhone, the same one I use for to-do list and shopping list.

    • I make lists on my iPhone in Notes, but those are usually for shopping or stashing information I need while running errands. Before I started using Evernote, I used Notes for recording writing ideas too.

  7. Elissa Field says:

    Great list! We’re all kindred spirits on this one. I crack up when people tweet things like pictures of a scene written on the side of their coffee cup or one woman who wrote on her arm while stuck in traffic. I’ve used my son’s bathtub crayons to write on the wall when ideas came to me in the shower. :)

    • Bathtub crayons? I didn’t know there was such a thing. I’m always getting ideas in the shower, so maybe I should get some! Love the one about the woman who wrote on her arm :)

  8. Chris Smith says:

    Moleskine notebooks of various sizes are dotted around the house and in my car. My partner groans whenever another notebook arrives, but I justify it by showing him how much I’ve written in the others. My favourite pen travels with me. I bought a digital voice recorder recently, which is ideal for out and about and in the car and I often email myself from work to home if I have a great idea whilst sitting in the office.

    Traditionally, it seems some of the best ideas for songs and books were born on napkins and beer coasters – anything that comes to hand really.

  9. Peter de Pradines says:

    There’s a great app called iVoice https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/voice-assistant-just-use-your/id511757903?mt=8 that’s worth every cent of its $2 price tag.

    It’s so quick and efficient. It’s an easy-to-use voice recognition application that allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text or email messages. In fact, it’s up to five (5) times faster than typing on the keyboard.

    No, I’m not an affiliate or anything, just a happy user. Highly recommended especially if you’re like me and the memory is past its prime :)

    Best wishes,
    Peter deP.
    12-02h 24-Jul-2013

  10. Bryan Koepke says:

    Great post. I find that the more you write the easier it is to remember your great writing ideas. For me it’s like once I have an idea for a scene or plot point I forget about it and if it’s good I’ll remember it once I sit down to write.

    I do keep notebooks in the car and around the house, and do find it good to develop these thoughts and ideas once they’ve had time to percolate. I’ve also found great use of the subconscious – when I’m falling asleep I’ll think of a scene or idea that I’m having trouble with in my manuscript. I’ll drift off to sleep and the next morning in the shower, the car, or in a meeting at work a great idea will pop into my head.

    • I always imagine scenes from my current work in progress as I’m falling asleep. Usually, I explore backstories rather than the main narrative. The one thing I always try to write down is a name. I find that I don’t usually forget scenes that I come up with but names will slip my mind within a couple of hours.