Good ideas are crucial to the success of freelance writers and all creative types. But you have to do more than generate good ideas: you have to get those ideas out of your brain and into some system to save them. Only then can you evaluate those ideas and pick the best for implementation.
The Best Way to Have a Good Idea? Have Lots of Ideas
In another post I discuss the Top 10 Ways to Generate Great Ideas, so please read that and the many insightful comments left by readers.
Today we have a different focus: how many, many creative people — freelance writers included — hinder their success by not having a good way to immediately capture ideas, and then store those ideas for further refinement and action.
I Use a Digital Voice Recorder to Capture All of My Ideas
My digital voice recorder is small and lightweight, about the size of a cigarette lighter, and it’s always in my pocket whenever I leave the house. It has 5 folders, and each holds 199 separate audio files. Each folder has a specific purpose:
- The A folder holds notes I dictate when I’m listening to educational audios in my car.
- The B folder is for poetry (I write haiku and other short poems) and also for specific notes for a nonfiction book I’m writing that I’ll be pitching to mainstream, traditional publishers.
- The C folder contains corrections and suggestions given to me by my tai chi teacher during our private lessons.
- The D folder is solely for writing and business ideas.
- The E folder contains items for my to-do lists, or information I need in the short-term, like a phone number or address someone gives me, or directions to a house or business.
My digital voice recorder also doubles as a thumb drive/flash drive, so I can use it store two gigabytes of files, and it also plays mp3 and other audio files. If you must know, it’s the Olympus WS-331M Digital Voice Recorder and WMA Music Player; I like it a lot, but there are many other companies making similar digital recorders and I can’t say mine is any better than the others.
You may also have a smart phone or other electronic device that can record your ideas. Just be sure you can easily connect the device to your computer and save the audio files, and that the device has enough capacity and flexibility to meet your needs.
Drawbacks to Using a Pen and Paper to Record Your Ideas
Many people still like to write ideas with a pen or pencil in a notebook or on scraps of paper. If this is truly what feels best to you, then do it.
However, there are 4 major problems with using paper for your ideas:
- You can lose the paper.
- You need to organize and store your written notes, which can be unwieldy.
- You can’t easily back-up your written notes, short of photocopying them or scanning them.
- You can’t easily store copies of your idea notes off-site. (Think fire, flood, theft…)
How I Store Ideas Long-Term
I put all my ideas in Word documents, with a different document for each writing project or business idea. Of course, if the idea comes to me while I’m near my computer, I just type it into a document.
I schedule time every week to listen to all the relevant audio files from my digital recorder. I can easily back-up and save both the audio files and the resulting Word documents, so I know I’ll never lose them.
Several software and Internet-based programs and applications also allow you to store your ideas. Have a look at this FreelanceSwitch.com post on Top 10 Note Taking Apps for Freelancers.
Reviewing and Evaluating Ideas
It’s crucial that you review your ideas and decide which ones you will implement. So whatever scheduling system you use to organize the what and when of your life, be sure idea review gets its proper place.
How do you save your ideas? Any horror stories to share about ideas lost? Anything you’d add to what I’ve said here?