Writing Pro-Tip: Have an Idea File

So, new writer pro-tip for you and for me. If you’re interested in capturing new ideas when they arrive, here’s a suggestion: have an idea file. Write it down on paper, as a Word doc, in an email – doesn’t matter. Just be in the habit of writing those ideas down when they arrive. Here’s why:

I see tweets like this all the time from other authors:

I can’t imagine whose purpose it serves to admit that you might not be a non-stop idea factory, but that’s another topic. Like a lot of other creative people, I want to do this for a living and so I have to be in the habit of capturing ideas when they happen. A lot of them happen in – surprise, surprise – my dreams. Yeah, I have some pretty intense dreams. Are they story-worthy? Well, that’s a longer question.

Fact is, I don’t dream in a coherent narrative. I had a pretty big one this morning before I woke up, something freakish and terrifying based on every alien movie I’ve ever seen. Usually, I decide that they aren’t worth keeping because I can’t make them into a story but today I decided to do something different.

As soon as I got up, I wrote down everything I could remember about the dream. What I saw, what I heard, how it felt. Then I saved it in my ‘Idea.File’ folder. Maybe the dream can be something that prompts a short story. Maybe it will be something to help me describe a later scene. Either way, now I’ve got a productive way to mine those subconscious sensations that would otherwise be lost to the fog of memory.

Sound familiar? It should – it’s similar to what Salvador Dali used to do. According to this Fast Company article, Dali would hold a key in his hand as he fell into a deep sleep. Once he was asleep, his hand would relax and drop the key onto a plate. The resulting ‘clang’ would wake Dali up again, ready to get back to work with fresh ideas brought up by his subconscious.

‘Does it matter if I write this stuff down?’ I have no idea, this is simply an exercise, learning to write down ideas and thoughts that may turn into something later. Jerry Seinfeld keeps a notepad next to his bed in case he thinks of something funny during the night, so who am I to argue with that?

To wrap up, this sounds like an idea that might work for me and also for you. Passing it along so that we can all make our stories that much better. Write on!

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