When I have a great idea, it’s often hard to pull out a notepad, grab my pen, and find a flat surface to write on. All those little elements are friction and even the act of pulling out my notebook makes me question… is this idea even good enough to write down? Is this worth it?
Recording, organizing, and revisiting your ideas is a very important part of being a writer, so this was something I wanted to figure out. How can I make this a part of my process?
This is how: messaging apps.
I learned about this method from how Judd Apatow wrote Knocked Up. During breaks while shooting 40 Year Old Virgin, Apatow was emailing himself story ideas on his Blackberry. I thought that was brilliant, because email is already a platform that organizes content for you. You don’t need an extra note-taking app for that. It’s also up in the cloud or whatever, so you can access it on your phone, computer, tablet, whatever.
For me, I felt that email was even a step too far. For initial ideas, I use something simpler and more informal and that’s messaging apps.
I’m currently using Facebook Messenger to track all my ideas when I’m away from my computer which is very often. I like Facebook Messenger because I can access it on my computer easily and it allows me to delete messages too. It’s more personal preference than anything else. Here’s how I do it.
First, I set it up as though I’m having a conversation with myself. I’m the only one I’m talking to.
Then I treat it as though I’m telling the idea to myself. It’s a little conversation. You know how you sometimes talk out loud to yourself? Do that, but message yourself.
It can be anything from a question, to a title, to a paragraph. Sometimes I jot down a theme or something interesting I saw. 80% is nonsense, but 20% are pretty good ideas and stories I might pursue. This one for example: A boy going off to buy clothes for himself for the first time to impress a girl.
I don’t know what I’m going to do with that, but it’s definitely something I can expand on if I’m ever feeling completely drained on ideas..
What’s great about it is that these ideas are all kept in chronological order like a message thread, so I’m able to scroll back and find the date when I jotted it down. It actually brings me back to that moment where I came up with the idea: waiting for the bus or walking or having a drink at a bar. It’s a little snapshot of a moment in my life that I get to revisit, even if I was alone with my thoughts.
I have been using this method of tracking down my ideas for over a year now and I still have ideas in here that I haven’t gotten to yet. It’s fun to scroll back and see what I wrote.
It might seem sad as though you are having a conversation with yourself, but this is very useful for me. So I recommend giving it a shot and if you do, let me know how it goes in the comments below.
I made it my goal this year to come up with an idea — regardless of how bad it is — every day. If you want 10 measurable writing goals? Check out this video here.
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