Your best ideas may come in the shower. Still, they’ll get washed away with the soap if you don’t write them down.
The faintest ink is better than the strongest memory.
Why you should write (all) your ideas down.
Creativity is like a chemical reaction between two elements. The interaction of two previously independent substances combine to create a new substance or an entirely different element. If you remember your chemistry classes, you also know that some elements created from these union last microseconds.
As we, as one element, bump into people and ideas throughout the day, those fleeting moments of creative chemistry are born. Yet, so many won’t make it to our laptop if we don’t make an effort to capture them.
In an interview, now-passed but legendary comedian, George Carlin talked about the process he uses to capture all of his ideas and observations.
George Carlin on catching ideas to harvest…
“I take a lot of single-page notes, little memo pad notes. I make a lot of notes on those things. For when I’m not near a little memo pad, I have a digital recorder. Most of the note-taking happens while I’m watching television.
Because the world is undifferentiated on the television set. You may be watching the news channel, but it’s going to cover the breadth of American life and the human experience. It’s gonna go from suicide bombings to frivolous consumer goods. It’s a broad window on the world, and a lot of things are already established in my mind as things I say, things that I’m interested in, things that are fodder for my machine. And when I see something that relates to one of them, I know it instantly and if it’s a further exaggeration and a further addition, or an exception—if it plays into furthering my purpose, I jot it down.
When I harvest the pieces of paper and I go through them and sort them, the one lucky thing I got in my genetic package was a great methodical left brain. I have a very orderly mind that wants to classify and index things and label them and store them according to that. I had a boss in radio when I was 18 years old, and my boss told me to write down every idea I get even if I can’t use it at the time, and then file it away and have a system for filing it away—because a good idea is of no use to you unless you can find it. And that stuck with me. “
George Carlin’s filing system for his ideas.
“There’s a large segment of it devoted to language, which is a love of mine. And a rich area for my work talking about how we talk. One of the files is called “The Way We Talk.” And it’s about certain voguish words that come into style and remain there. But then there are subfiles. Everything has subfiles. There’s one that says “Crime.” There’s “Crime” and there’s “Law,” there’s “Sex” and there’s “Race.” And there’s “Humans”—that’s obviously a big folder with a lot of smaller folders in it, it’s about the human race and the human species and experiences and observations I have about that, or data that I’ve found about it. You know, 6 million people stepped on land mines this year. Those things interest me.”
Digital makes writing down ideas easier.
In the age of digital and the smartphone in our pockets, we are all now walking recorders of life. While most of your friends are capturing their lives and moments for Instagram, Snap, and Facebook with cameras, other tools serve a writer to capture ideas for your next blog or content marketing campaign.
A few I like.
When I can’t use my hands to write an idea down, “Hey Siri.”
I currently work in matters of voice and voice assistants. So it seems natural I would be inclined to use a feature that is coming into its own a little after Mr. Carlin. Apple’s Siri. Or any strong voice agent.
For me, Siri is invaluable. Especially when used with the new reminders app capabilities within iOS 13. While driving or I have my hands full when Siri is within earshot, I’ll simply call out to Siri to record the tickler of the idea I’m having.
“Hey Siri, remind me to ‘be amazing” in my ideas list”
To that, Siri’s response: “Ok. I’ve added “be amazing” to your ideas list.
Write or transcribe your voiced ideas with JustPressRecord.
For really messy ideas and points, I want the ability to vomit up ideas in order to pick through the mess later and find nuggets to build on. For this, I often use JustPressRecord. Tap a button and immediately start recording audio. Whatever babble that comes out of my head will be captured and automatically transcribes into text.
Ulysses. How to hold and structure ideas.
Once your ideas become text, which each aforementioned app does, I use Ulysses to file and further incubate those thoughts. See my thoughts about Ulysses in an earlier post about content strategy tools.
Writing down ideas.
As I heard in a podcast, “Ideas are worthless.” Execution is what makes them valuable. But you need to catch them first to execute. So write your ideas down.