How To Capture Ideas

by Tammy Strobel on January 12, 2012

A few days ago, I chatted with a friend and she noted:

“The tech tools post you wrote last week was helpful. However, I’m interested in how you use Scrivener to capture ideas.”

My friend doesn’t consider herself a “writer,” but she was looking for ways to capture ideas in a more effective format. As we were talking, I thought it would be fun to share how I capture ideas with you! I’ve talked about my writing tools before, but in this article I’ll dive a little deeper.

Notecards & Journal

I carry notecards everywhere; along with my journal too. Usually when I’m out bicycling or walking, ideas seem to flood into my mind and notecards are the perfect way to capture ideas. Plus, a few notecards and a pen are lightweight and fit perfectly in my jacket pocket.

Here’s an example of what my notecards typically look like . . .

I learned about the notecard concept while reading Bird by Bird early last year; however I didn’t start using the system until December. The notecards I use are simple, 3 x 5, white cards that are blank on one side and have lines on the other. You can buy them at any office supply store.

For a long time I used tiny post-it notes to capture ideas. However, the post-it notes were hard to keep track of. Typically I’d post them on the cover of my journal, but they always seemed to fall off. Now my white notecards are a jumping off point for articles and longer writing projects.

Once I have the idea written down, I start a draft in my journal. For me, there is something comforting about putting a pen to a piece of paper. It’s less intimidating because I give myself permission to write a shitty first draft, to misspell words and repeat myself. Whereas, I have a tendency to go into editing mode on the computer.

Scrivener

Eventually, the ideas on my notecards and in my journal are transcribed into Scrivener. Then I start the editing process.

Scrivener is a wonderful tool to organize projects and perfect for someone like me because I don’t write in a linear fashion. The program has all kinds of fun features. For example, I use it as a cork-board, a place to edit multiple documents, and the collection feature makes it easy for me to see the flow of a longer project, like an ebook or course.

Last Words

I try to be open to new ideas and concepts; especially when it comes to capturing ideas. For example, Logan told me about a recent podcast on meditation and creativity; the guest discussed how people can gain creative insights from the practice. You never know how a book, podcast, or even meditation can enhance creativity and your ability to capture it.

Micro-action: Make a list of how you capture ideas for creative projects. Are there certain methods that work better than others?

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