It always happens. You get The Great Big Idea – or even just a snibblet of The Great Big Idea. But it pops into your head while you’re in the shower. Or while the kids are throwing jelly sandwiches at the ceiling. Or while you’re dodging tractor trailers driving 70 mph down the turnpike to get to work on time. In short, The Great Big Ideas almost never come when it’s convenient to write them down. Lots of Great Big Ideas get lost that way.
I work from home while raising four kids. Before I did that, I did the extremely long highway drives to
and from work. Every writer knows to keep a pen and notepad handy at all times. But ideas don’t always come when it’spractical to put pen to paper.
So these are some strategies I have used over the years to try to hold on to those great ideas I get when my mind is wandering to great things to write about, but life – or dish-soaked hands – are getting in the way of letting me write them down. A lot of my new favorite tools center around my iPhone, which I just got a few months ago (Hello, my name is Julie and I’m a late-adopter.) But when I can’t find the traditional paper & pen/pencil, I’ve used everything from children’s toys to music earworms to remember my ideas for later. So here are some things I do to hold on to my creative ideas while on-the-go:
1) - Camera phone
This is my new best friend. My Camera Roll is part-photo album, part writer’s notebook. When I’m on Twitter, if I see a phrase that sparks an idea, I take a screenshot so I can go back later and remind myself of what I wanted to write. A couple of times, I’ve written whole poems just based snibs of phrases I found on my Twitter feed. When I’m out walking, if I see something cool that I think might make a good poem, that’s a snapshot for later. Having the photo right in front of me while writing brings back way more of the original inspiration, and helps write specific details of what I had in mind.
2) - Phone Notes/Recorded Notes
I don’t know about Android phones, but my iPhone came pre-installed with a little yellow Notepad app. When I can’t find my pen and paper, I go in and bang out the idea in the touchscreen for later. (Cursing Autocorrect a lot in the process.) I have a ton of notes in there. I’m not big on voice recordings, but if that works for you, speak your piece into your phone's Voice Memos app so you don’t forget for later. I’m sure there are other Apps out there you can download (if you know of any, let us know in Comments) but the pre-installed iPhone apps have been working for me. Love 'em.
3) - Magna-Doodles!!
If you have never heard of this toy, it is The! Best! Toy! In! The! World! – For Writers! It has a large plastic, water resistant writing surface and a magnetic pen. It’s portable. And the reason it’s great for writers is because you can keep it in the bathroom! Or next to the kitchen sink. It doesn’t get soggy like paper. And there are no electronic components to get wet! So if you have a brilliant thought with a head full of suds, just grab the Magna-Doodle, jot down your notes, and get back to enjoying your shower. They’re also portable, come in different sizes. And they’re fairly cheap, so you can buy several, and keep one in the car for you and still have another your kids can play with. Just make sure you transfer your notes onto something more permanent before your kids come along and erase it.
4) - Earworms
If you come up with a great idea... and have no way of recording it, this is one of those rare, rare times you’ll be glad for earworms – those annoyingly-memorable songs that get stuck in your head. Mine is “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” I don’t really like the song. I just wrote down the name and now, dammit! – I’m going to have Ricky Martin in my head for the rest of the day now, no matter what I do. So, when you’re stuck, sing your Great Idea to the tune of an earworm until you can get it written down. It will be annoying, but isn’t it worth having a little “upside-inside-out” in your head for a day (or whatever song is the earwormiest song for you) if it’s for the worthy cause of keeping hold of your creative idea?
If you have tactics for holding onto your creative ideas when you’re on the go, I’d love to hear them. Share in the comments. Or drop an email. -- WNG