How to Generate and Store Creative Ideas :: Part One

How to Organize and Store Your Creative Ideas

Ideas are one of the most exciting things in the world, don’t you think? And if you are regularly creative in any way, you’ll know that they need to be captured if they’re going to become anything more than something that floats through our consciousness, never to be seen again.

It’s very easy to fulfill the creative stereotype and live in an ongoing state of barely organised chaos, and I won’t deny there is a certain endearing charm to that. However, if you are serious about bringing your ideas into your reality, you do need some kind of system for ideas to rise into and be captured. And a really good system won’t just capture ideas but will help you to generate them, too.

I have a somewhat intricate set-up involving a month-to-view calendar and various other things taped to the wall, coloured pens of all sizes, post it notes, files and notebooks with homemade tabs, computer folders, Pinterest boards, physical pinboards, papers laid out in messy piles, blog drafts in Evernote.

It’s not the prettiest ~ or even the simplest! ~ thing you’ve ever seen, but mostly they work together so that I am usually in a state of flow in terms of ideas for writing, painting or otherwise creating. Having multiple methods of different types also gives me a good chance of finding the spark I need when I need it.

I am constantly refining my system to suit where {and who} I am at any given moment. Like anything, it’s a system that needs to evolve alongside what you’re doing and who you’re growing into. What worked last year may not work this year. For someone like me, who needs some sort of framework but will shut down when faced with rigid planning and structure, it needs to be flexible and convince me that I have freedom to change everything, if I wanted to.

Your best idea system has two parts that give you that freedom and also feed each other in an endless loop ~ ways to allow ideas to come in and places to note them down. We’ve all had the genius idea that escaped because we thought we’d remember it later, and then didn’t.

So first, we need to set up a place to capture and store our ideas.

Think about the kind of person you are. Consider:

  • Are you likely to respond better to images or writing, or a combination of both? {This will depend on the project, too.} If you like visuals, you might lean towards a Pinterest board, an actual pinboard, or a journal for collecting images. You might use your phone to photograph the things that spark ideas in you. If writing works for you, notebooks, post it notes, and a supply of scrap paper in your desk drawer may be more useful.
  • Do you need to have everything in front of you at once or would you be better off with a diary or notebook you can keep in your bag? I like to have as much as possible on the wall so I can see it all at once, especially for daily actions I want to take that I would otherwise forget. It may be more practical to have a small folder that fits in your bag if you’re out and about a lot during the day, for example.
  • Do you like to write things out by hand, or type or record them into something digital? I’ve tried the digital approach but I forget to check it. I also prefer to write by hand; it feels like more of a direct line to my inspiration, and means I get to use pretty coloured pens. If you’d rather dispense with the potential paper storm, recording your voice, typing notes into your phone or having a laptop to save ideas when you’re on the go may be your best option.

Start with what makes most sense and is easiest and – this is key – most fun for you. Most likely it will be a combination of on and offline resources, and don’t forget it will evolve, so if it takes more than a day to put in place that’s ok! These things need testing for efficiency with our own unique ways of operating.

Next time, we’ll look at ways to generate and cultivate the ideas now that you have somewhere to store them.

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