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 human memory is faulty, and nobody wants to lose a truly great idea, so how do we save them before we forget them?
And what if we’re fresh out of ideas? How can we nurture new ideas and keep our inspiration and creativity flowing?
Don’t Lose Your Best Writing Ideas
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:
- Pocket-sized notebooks: If pen and paper are your preferred writing tools, then stock up on pocket-sized notebooks (Moleskine makes a good one) [aff link]. 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.
- Get technological: Download a voice recorder app on your mobile phone. Perfect for the car, a recorder is an ideal way to get a little writing done or capture your most brilliant thoughts when your hands are tied. Speaking of phones…
- Voicemail: If you’re stuck somewhere without a notebook or recording app, just give yourself a call. As long as you have access to a phone, you can leave yourself a voicemail and make sure your best writing ideas don’t disappear among the millions of thoughts you have during the day. You can call your mobile phone, home phone, or work phone!
- 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 and ensure that you can find them later. 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.
- 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!
Cultivate the Best Writing Ideas
Now you know how to save your best writing ideas, but what if you need more ideas? What if you struggle with creativity blockage? Here are some tips to keep inspiration and ideas flowing:
- Take in art, and make time to read. I sometimes find that reading just a few pages of poetry or an interesting novel is enough to get my creative juices flowing. But any kind of art will do, even perusing images on the internet (personally, I like to watch interviews of a wide range of artists on YouTube).
- Eat, sleep, and exercise. It’s hard to be creative if you’re hungry, tired, and out of shape. Creativity can reach its peak when we’re fit and healthy, because we have the energy we need to produce some of our best writing ideas.
- Review old stuff. Sometimes after I finish a big project and feel creatively wiped out, I set aside a few hours (or a few days) to go through my old notes and projects. It’s a good time to reorganize and update everything, but I also usually come across half-baked ideas that are ready to get popped into the oven. Maybe a line from a half-finished poem will inspire a novel, or a short story that I started years ago is ready to be developed into a novel.
- Be open and observant. If you’re trapped inside your own head all the time, you’ll miss countless ideas that enter your orbit each day. Foster a habit of remaining present and alert as you move through life. You’ll find ideas in the news, in your neighborhood, even while you’re procrastinating on the internet.
- Do something else. If you write a lot, you might get burned out. It’s important to balance your life, so set aside time to engage in other activities, especially creative or intellectually stimulating ones. Visit a museum, make a drawing, go out dancing. Spend time with other people.
Your Best Writing Ideas
Most writers have lost dozens if not hundreds of writing ideas just because they had a stroke of genius at an inopportune time. And others missed a moment of inspiration altogether because their creativity wasn’t properly engaged. But that doesn’t have to happen to you. As long as you’re prepared at all times, your writing ideas will abound and you’ll be able to keep them safe and sound!
Got any tips to add for saving your best writing ideas or keeping those ideas flowing? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
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!
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?
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!
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.
Ideas come at the funniest times. I have little notebooks stashed everywhere too.
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.
You definitely found an innovative way to solve your problem. I don’t think I could sign up for ten days with no writing instruments!
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.
I use the Notes on my iPhone as well. The best thing about it for me is that I use an iMac computer. Now it doesn’t matter if I’m on my computer or if I’m out somewhere (always with my phone) they will sync up. I will automatically have the note on both.
I don’t think I have my Notes set up to sync, but I will try to remember to look into that. Thanks fr the tip, Julie.
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!
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.
Sounds like you have a great setup, Chris. I like it!
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.
Love the part about how to cultivate ideas.
And I seem to have a huge collection of notebooks of every type and size. I just can’t resist! And pens as well. Love this, thank you for sharing!
I have so many notebooks and pens; it’s getting ridiculous, actually. But I want more!
Great article Melissa. The comments are also awesome. Thank you for always moving our writing forward.