Keeping an Idea-Log

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Have you ever been low on ideas? I’d bet my favorite pen that you have. It seems that running low on “creative-juice” is one of the greatest stumbling blocks that writers face. You get into a project, thinking you’ve got it all figured out, and then… nothing. There’s a knot in your story that you didn’t see before, and you can’t think of a good way to fill the gap.

That was my problem. And, after some careful consideration, I decided to keep an idea-log, which I would carry everywhere, always observing, always watching for things to record. Some writers refer to this tactic as “keeping your creative antennae out.” It works because you have no say in what goes on around you, and will, therefore, be subject to plenty of random occurrences (one of which may spark an idea that could end up being your solution)!

When I go into “observation-mode,” I try not to filter anything. It doesn’t matter whether I think of an entire story or just a piece of some alien culture – it’s going down in the log. If a man in a banana suit passed me on the street and I started to wonder about a population of sentient fruit, that idea would have a place in my notebook.

After a while, it gets easier. Even the normal things start to seem new and exciting. You can start to think of certain essentials disappearing, like food, electricity, or clean water. How would life change? How would you cope?

One thing I will suggest is to give every idea its own page. Yes, it does use more paper, but seeing that white space below each note forces you to think about what else could be written – how each concept could be expanded upon. Thus, the idea-log starts out being kind of bare-bones, and gradually fills up with potential stories.

If you plan to write long-term, this tool is particularly useful. The idea-log will become so chock-full of ideas that you can build a whole career off of it (and then some!) I, for one, have enough ideas to last ten years, and I’ve only been doing it for a couple of months!

So what do you think? Will you start keeping an idea-log?

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  1. Such a great idea. I do this on my phone, but really it’s faster just to jot it down. I’m shopping for a new notebook:)

    • Drew Carson says:

      Hey Jody –
      It’s interesting – I actually tried keeping a digital log for a while, but it didn’t feel the same. Something about hand-writing in a notebook really opens up the creative part of my brain.

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