I have an idea journal that I take with me everywhere, and I think you should have one, too. Here’s why.
I write. Fiction, mostly. Fantasy and sci-fi and short stories. I write blog posts. Sometimes I write stories about worlds I’ve created, and sometimes I write ideas I have for video games, and scripts, and ideas for radio shows. It’s not about sharing them. It’s that I have ideas that I need to get out. It’s about having things to write when I feel uninspired.
I have a friend who’s a jewellery designer, and another who likes to crochet, and a friend who paints miniatures, and I know photographers, and cooks, and bakers. They’re all creative folks who’ve found an outlet they enjoy. Here’s a thing they all have in common: they don’t let good ideas pass them by. They write them down and save them for later.
I don’t know if they have dedicated idea journals or not.
But I do, because I am a bit obsessed with organising things. I’ve been through a lot. Some have been nice leather notebooks, others cheap reporter’s notebooks, ring binders, old diaries, post-it notes stapled together (hey, you use what you have). Right now, I’m using this unlined, tarnished sketchbook that I’ve modded with a tin man picture I thought was cute.
I keep this notebook in my backpack, and later I transfer the notes I’ve taken into my idea folder in OneNote. (I gotta do a blog post sometime on how much I love OneNote.)
There be my full idea journal.
My handwriting is, at its best, neat. At its worst? It’s diabolical. It all depends on my mood at the time. I don’t have any nostalgia for, or deep connection to, pen-on-paper writing. If there’s an app that can do what a notebook can – OneNote – I’ll choose that any day. I like that I can add/delete/move snippets easily. I like that they are backed up on the cloud, so I can’t lose them. I like that they’re not hindered by my inability sometimes to read my own notes. I like that I can type faster than I can write. I like that I’ll never run out of space and have to start a new notebook. I’m all for good technology, guys.
It’s all the same to me.
Just keep an idea journal, in whatever format you wish.
What I put in my idea journal:
I write a lot in my idea journal. Some of it is garbage. A lot of it isn’t, though. It’s raw, fresh, unfiltered ideas. Your idea journal isn’t the place to develop story or articles ideas in-depth. It’s for little notes and scribbles. For doodles and flashes of inspiration that you can build upon later.
It isn’t a place to be embarrassed, coy, or conformist. Save all your ideas, whether you’ll ever use them again or not. You never know how they may develop in your mind, when given time later to germinate.
But write them down. Write them down. Don’t forget them.
Here are some things I’ve written in my idea journal:
- Snippets of overheard conversations
- Ideas for new blog posts
- New worldbuilding notes
- Song lyrics I’ve heard and enjoyed
- Song lyrics I’ve misheard and thought were interesting
- Notes on articles/books I’ve read
- Random memories that come into my head
- Quotes that I’ve found inspiring
- Food combinations I’ve thought would make good recipes
- How I think movies/books should have ended
- Sketches of character designs
- How I’d destroy my enemies…
What I use my idea journal for:
As a writer, I need a constant supply of words. Sometimes, for various reasons, I can’t make those words come to me. I’ll stare at a blank screen for hours, and maybe at most I’ll type a hundred weak words that I’ll later re-write anyway. Sometimes it’s hard to find inspiration. Sometimes I’m tired after a long day at work, or feeling unwell, or down for no reason, or I’m PMSing, or I’m hungry, or – as someone who lives in Scotland – sometimes I’m just fucking freezing and can’t think properly because of it. ❄️❄️❄️
(pardon my French, not really)
That’s when I pull out my idea journal. Because, hey, they’re my own ideas to use!
I like looking at raw notes and seeing the potential in them. It’s easier when you have a bank of notes – some good, some bad – to identify what’s worth developing.
I like to use my idea journal when I’m uninspired.
I like to use it when I’m stuck on a specific scene and need a distraction or a new angle to take. Sometimes you find inspiration in the oddest places. I got the inspiration for my short story – Space – from a snippet in my idea journal of something a guidance councillor said to me once!
I think everyone should have an idea journal. There’s nothing that spurs you on, I don’t think, more than seeing your untapped potential in your own words. Do you have one, or will you start one for the new year? Promise me. You don’t have to be a writer; just someone who cares about their artistic development, and wants to nurture their own ideas.
Keep an idea journal and choose to inspire yourself.
I choose to inspire myself,