Writing Tips: 11 Tools To Capture Your Creative Ideas
Every writer has had more than one moment where a brilliant idea pops into our mind. Sadly, if we don't capture those ideas quickly they may be forgotten in the busy rush of life. Trevor Carss shares 11 free (or inexpensive) ways to make sure your genius story ideas never go astray again.
What if you are in the swimming pool and a thought floats by? Out for a run and forgot what you were thinking when you arrived home? For writing consistency, authors must remember and capture those fleeting moments.
When you have that next idea in mind, here are eleven ways to capture it quickly, before your thoughts move on to something else:
1. Google Keep
No matter what electronic device you have, Google Keep can capture anything for you. From text and drawings to audio and checklists, organizing your ideas is quite intuitive with this app. Google Keep is available for all major computing platforms.
Evernote is a more robust note-keeping app in this list, with additional collaboration tools to make working in teams easier. For authors, this can be helpful when collaborating with editors, agents, and publishers.
There are free and paid options to choose from, depending on your needs. If you are not in the Google ecosystem, this is the best option available.
[Note from Joanna: I use Things app on Mac which syncs between my phone and laptop. It's my external brain!]
3. Google Docs
If you have several long-form ideas to write out, including full novels, Google Docs is the go-to cloud word-processor without a price tag attached to it. It used to be that Microsoft Word would be the platform of choice for aspiring authors. Not anymore. Every author should be considering this for their writing needs.
In terms of capturing ideas on the fly, this word processor is more sensible if you intend to type out several paragraphs of content. Autosave is an author’s best friend, and Google Docs does it brilliantly.
[Note from Joanna: I've co-written a number of books with Google Docs. It's great for collaboration as well as idea gathering.]
4. Google Sheets
If you like spreadsheets, having ideas organized in columns might be your preference. You can capture thousands of ideas into spreadsheets, and it’s great for developing a content calendar of your upcoming writing ideas for publication. Now Google Sheets has checkbox options to ensure you’re tackling tasks.
5. Google Slides
Crafting outlines, chapter-by-chapter, can be facilitated with this app. This program is like Microsoft PowerPoint and is typically used for presentation creation.
6. Apple Notes
For a simple option, Apple users go with the native Notes app on their iPhones, MacBooks or iPads. For ease of use, this is a great option to get started with. Especially when time is of the essence, you might want an app that just works. This is the one. The major downside to Apple Notes is it does not play nice with any other device but Apple’s.
7. Moleskine Notebook
The traditional notebook still has its place for those who prefer paper notes. With today’s smartphone technologies, Moleskine has smart notebooks that can be scanned digitally for searchable notes. Or, if you’re just looking for paper capture, any notebook will do. Go with unlined paper if you like to sketch out ideas as drawings.
[Note from Joanna: I used Moleskines for 15+ years but have switched to Leuchtturm1917 as the paper quality is great for fountain pen ink and the pages are slightly wider.]
8. Post-it Notes
For brainstorming sessions, Post-it Notes are a staple item. Having a stack of these by your bedside table doesn’t hurt either. Some of the best ideas jump out at you while you’re lying in bed.
A unique idea capture method is Twitter. Known for its social media prowess, you can tweet an idea in 240 characters or less with Twitter. Keep in mind these ideas will be public, but that might work to your advantage if you are into social media for your marketing efforts. You can be the innovative author who tweets your ideas to the world. You are building a following while capturing your creativity!
When you’re just looking to get the creative idea written down, sending a text message to yourself might be the best electronic option.
11. Browser Bookmarks
While reading informative blogs, some of the articles you come across might spark an idea or two for you. In case you would like to refer back to the article in future, your Internet browser can bookmark the page for later.
To avoid app overload in your creative process, the suggestion is to use a maximum of 2-3 note-taking apps. My personal process involves a combination of Google Keep for notes on the fly, Google Sheets for content calendars, Google Slides for outlines and Google Docs for long-form content writing. Google Keep is the first place where my ideas go to grow.
By capturing your ideas in one main area, you will be better equipped to organize them for later. Avoid the dusty digital folder. This is the proverbial unused filing cabinet where ideas go to die.
Capture your ideas where you will see and act on them, rather than burying them away.
What are your favorite tools for capturing your creative ideas? Do you use any of the ones mentioned here? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
Trevor Carss is the author and illustrator of more than 50 children’s books and adult short stories.
Follow his latest thoughts at TrevorCarss.com.