Idea Logging Strategies

Idea-Log-GraphicLast week, I wrote about the transformative power of keeping an idea log. Well, this week, I think it’s worth talking about point #4 on my “How to Keep an Idea Log” list: namely, KEEP IT CONVENIENT.

I know, it sounds obvious, but do you know how many writers I know who have ten untouched “writing journals” lying around their house? Or maybe, like me, you collect apps on your phone. (Don’t even ask me about iPad-only apps!) Collecting notebooks, journals, and even nifty writing apps for tables and smart phones is a fine vice for writers and creatives, but not if you drown in having too many choices.

[Tweet “It’s better to have ONE notebook and use it than to have a HUNDRED, and use none.”]

Okay, you say, then what works?

The answer is… ***Drumroll, please***

It depends.

It depends on you, what you like, what you don’t like, where you go, what you do, and what sort of environment your idea log needs to survive. In just a sec, I’ll give you some questions to help you identify what type of notebook–virtual or otherwise–you might actually use. 

But first, let me tell you what doesn’t work. You know all those lovely journals, sitting on bookshelves and collecting dust, instead of getting filled with ideas? Those don’t work for you. So feel free to keep them around for their aesthetic appeal, but whatever you do, don’t pick one up and try to make it into your New-Improved-Really-Going-to-Do-It-This-Time idea log. Just don’t. Okay? Okay.

phone

Choose the Ideal Idea Log

Here are a few questions to help you navigate the table of tools below:

  1. HOW do you do your best thinking? For example…
    • While walking, hiking, or pacing?
    • While writing longhand?
    • At the computer?
    • While talking aloud, to yourself or with a friend?
  2. WHERE do you need to record ideas? For example…
    • In the car?
    • While running errands?
    • At the gym?
  3. WHAT METHOD of writing gives you the best flow? For example…
    • Writing with pen and paper?
    • Typing at your computer?
    • Dictating?
    • Or does it matter if you’re just recording inspirations?
  4. HOW do you like to SORT or ACCESS your ideas later? For example…
    • By searching electronically?
    • Chronologically?
    • Visually scanning entries, which you’ve sorted by topic?
Below, I’ve listed some examples of high-quality notebooks, notebook systems, computer programs, iPhone apps, and iPad apps with which I’ve had experience. I’ve ONLY included products that I’ve found are reliable and relatively flexible. For example, although I love the program Index Cards for the iPhone, I don’t think it translates very well between mobile devices and my desktop machine, so I haven’t included it below.
TOOL

VISUAL

AUDITORY

KINESTHETIC (USE WHILE MOVING?)

HIGH-TECH

PORTABLE

FLEXIBLE STRUCTURE/ SEARCHABLE

Notebooks
Arc customizable notebook system

X

X

X

X

Moleskine-style notebooks 

X

X

X

Computer Programs
Scrivener

X

X

X

Word processing programs

X

X

X

Dragon dictation (with other program)

X

X

X

Dragon dictation (with Bluetooth microphone)

X

X

X

X

Smart Phone and iPad Apps
Simplenote

X

X

X

Evernote

X

X

X

X

Recording apps (or digital recorder)

X

X

X

X

Paper 53 storyboarding app  X  X

X

 X

Do you have any “idea capture systems” to add to the list? Please share in the comments!

ChristianMarieHerron

Earlier this week, I shared my recent experience of working with a writing coach. And I’ve found it so beneficial, I wanted to share the love by introducing you, dear readers, to a broad spectrum of coaches with a broad range of expertise. For today’s guest, please offer a warm welcome to Christian Marie Herron, […]

Comments

  1. says

    I use the Notes app that came on my iPhone, its probably not ideal, but it serves me well enough, and everything is backed up onto my Mac so I have a copy. I’m sure there must be something better I could use, but for ease its brilliant, because its totally portable and with me all the time during my waking hours.

    Thank you for collating the list, I’ll take a look at Evernote later.

    • says

      I do like that the Notes app integrates with Siri — any time I can dictate instead of typing on the iPhone’s little screen, I’m happy!

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