Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Get Those Ideas Down!

About a month ago, I was driving to a friend's house, thinking about writing and all things related. A great idea popped into my head. I was so excited about it and just knew this idea would be my greatest story ever! I even thought of the perfect inspirational quote. Now, I really don't consider myself to be seeping full of wisdom, but I'm telling you, this quote was wise. Then, the most tragic thing happened to me. I arrived at my friend's house, got involved in other things and completely lost my entire idea--including the quote that I would some day be noted for! Anybody out there feel my pain?

What I learned from this situation is that if you are going to be a writer, you need to do as the great writing instructors of our time tell you to do: Write those ideas down! Here are a few suggestions to help you out with that.

(1) Start your own version of a swipe file. A swipe file is a folder of tested and proven ads, headlines, brochures, and sales letters. Journalists or advertising copy writers often keep a swipe file to refer to for project ideas. Every once in a while a story headline pops into my head. My story might have a different twist to a story I read in a magazine, or maybe something else might trigger the idea. But it's important to get that headline down--undeveloped or not. Create a folder on your computer that is specifically for this purpose. Label it as your "swipe file." Then when you are going through one of those slumps when you don't have any story ideas, you have something to refer to--and it might just be what you need to get inspired again.

(2) Consider the rooms in your house that you frequent the most. For me this is the kitchen and the living room. Make sure to have notebooks and pens at convenient locations in those rooms. When an idea hits, you can quickly write it down before you lose it. I have even put a notebook and two pens in my car--I really learned my lesson!

(3) Maybe this sounds a little cheesy, but carry a tape recorder around with you. It's great for those times when it is inconvenient to write. I did this recently while making bread. My hands were too gooey to use a pen and paper so I pulled out my recorder and hit that little red button. This is also a safer alternative when you are driving.

So there they are--three suggestions to help you get those ideas down. Will I ever make the same mistake again? Probably, but I can honestly say that these ideas have already helped me a lot. I hope they help you too.


Irreverent Freelancer said...

Man, I hate it when that happens! Great advice.

Robin said...

I keep meaning to hook up the little tape recorder...I do keep paper in all points of the house and in the car (but the tape recorder I haven't done yet)! Thanks for the tips!