Where do you keep your ideas?

This past weekend, I came across the only journal I have ever possessed. I penned the first entry at the tail end of the summer of 2009, when this journal was freshly purchased on a Glasgow high street. Now it had resurfaced all dog-eared and dusty in a Brooklyn apartment. Having mostly lived in boxes during apartment moves in New York, I had not written anything down for quite a while, nor leafed through past entries. So I delved in, to be reacquainted with my past self.

A thoroughly underwhelming experience. From what I could make out from the barely legible passages, I had not done much but make endless grocery lists and write down school timetables. Coincidentally, I came across this piece on Flavorwire on authors who kept journals and used them as a reservoir of observations that they felt might inspire them in the future.

It got me thinking about where author’s ideas come from. Is it necessary to record these things in the moment? Or leave them to your memory to recall them at the time of writing? Some of the authors in the article contend that they use a diary or journal as a means of having a second life or opening up.

Do you, as writers, have a similar vehicle to expend your creative energies? Or do you have highly tailored or ingenious ways of coming up with great new ideas for your writing?


10 Responses to Where do you keep your ideas?

  1. Joelle says:

    I have kept a daily journal, writing three pages every morning, for approximately 15 years. In 2010, I got tired of it and quit for about six months, but went back to it and have carried on ever since.

    I often work out plot points, and occasionally write down new ideas for books. But the truth is I NEVER revisit these journals. They’re sooooo boring. They’re just me blathering on about the day before or what I plan to do. Oh, and a LOT of whingeing about publishing!

    And then, when I least expect it, I have a major epiphany, but I just learn from it and carry on…I don’t go back to it.

    The only time I’ve ever gone back and reread my journal was to revisit the first few months my husband and I fell in love. It’s terribly romantic!

    I have a notebook where I sometimes write down ideas, but honestly, I barely ever go back and look at that either. Ideas are hard for me to come up with. I’m lucky to get one or two good ones in a year so when one comes, my brain holds on with a vice like grip and I don’t need no stinkin’ journal to record it.

    I’m impressed by people who write literary missives in their journals and create beautiful things. Mine mostly exist because they’re cheaper than therapy and on the worst writing days, I can console myself, “Well, I wrote for thirty minutes in my journal. That counts, right?”

  2. Simone says:

    Smart phones really help with this, because wherever I am, I can email myself notes or ideas, and they’ll be waiting for me when I get home.

  3. Siri Kirpal Kaur Khalsa says:

    I don’t keep a journal. I’ve tried them, sometimes for years on end, but I write better and write more if I don’t keep them. Oddly enough, my longterm memory works better for things I HAVEN’T written down. But as a memoirist, I do refer back to the journals I’ve kept in order to get a timeline.

    I do jot down ideas, which typically come to me during morning meditation or while I’m washing the dishes (which I prefer to do by hand). These jottings on scratch paper I keep. If they pertain to the project at hand, I refer to them as I type. If not, I save them, and usually throw them away when I decide the idea wasn’t so hot after all.

  4. Gill Avila says:

    I’m a total scatterbrain–I get an idea, I write it down. Scraps of paper, envelopes, a notepad (spiral bound), tops of banker’s boxes, walls…I’m constantly surprising myself.

    • D. C. DaCosta says:

      I never go anywhere without a pen and something (anything! anything at all!) to write on. The page gets torn out and torn up once I’ve transcribed my marvelous ideas.

      On long auto trips I’ll have my passenger take dictation if I get a “red hot idea” while I’m driving. If I’m driving alone I bring along a voice recorder.

  5. Andrea says:

    I started in a journal when I was eight and kept one until I was about 25. I stopped writing in it because it had become a form of self-therapy, which made me associate writing with negative experiences. Also, when I read back what I wrote in those years I can only cringe at the amount of self-pity I had and how serious I took myself. Since I’ve given up journal writing, I’ve become much more serious with my creative writing, and much more creative. I’m in my thirties now and find life much more interesting in this stage. Story ideas I had when I was younger were quite childish.

    For my new ideas, I have several notebooks, but the most important ones I also keep in a computer file so I won’t lose anything.

  6. Emily Carter says:

    My journals keep details of travel and experiences and feelings because I KNOW how easy it is for me to forget!

  7. Vanessa Demasi says:

    I’ve tried many times to get into the whole journal thing but it’s a no go.
    The thing about ideas for me, though, is that they come at the worst times. A few weeks ago I was standing in line for coffee and I had an idea for a scene in the WIP. I waited until I got the receipt and then scribbled it on that.
    I have a smart phone but I have a great fear of trusting it as an idea stash since I know how easily that can all go bye bye if it falls in water or someone steals it etc. I prefer to have the ideas jotted down on paper somewhere and then also written on a word document that I e-mail to four or five different e-mail addresses.
    Now if you’ll excuse me, these tin foil hats won’t just make themselves…

  8. Tami Veldura says:

    I’ve always disagreed with the ‘rule’ that an author needs to have a notebook to write down their ideas as they have them or risk loosing them. I think if an idea is strong enough to stick with you until you get back to your computer to write it down, it’s worth saving.

    Having said that, my writing is almost entirely mobile. Between Google docs and Evernote I can go from idea to full draft without ever looking at a computer. When strong ideas do come to me they get dropped in my idea box in Evernote to ferment until mature.

  9. Bob Sweet says:

    I’ve never had any luck sitting down to think of ideas. Some people can do that, but a lot of us can’t.

    Ideas come to me while showering, commuting, fixing omelets, and shoveling snow. The key with me is simply writing them down before I forget them. And yes, that means getting out of bed at 3 a.m. and logging in to e-mail them to myself.

    I have a file with 20,000 words, ideas and scenes, that I hope to use in future books. Hopefully, some of them will work out. Now, to get the first one out.

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