Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly

Why You Need an Idea Book


A woman looking up from her book. I wonder what goodies she has in there.

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Earlier this week Creativity wrote about the importance of To Do Lists. Today I’m talking about another type of list – a list of ideas.

We touched briefly on this concept in the post Keeping Your Creativity Entertained when discussing having a notebook handy and journaling. Now I’m going to expand on it by explaining how to create an Idea Book.

First of all, what exactly do I mean by ‘an Idea Book’? Basically I mean getting your ideas down on paper (or computer screen); just getting them out of your head. The book can contain a basic list of ideas, or it can be far more in-depth with each idea taking up many pages. It all depends on the complexity of the ideas you’re trying to capture.

You may already be recording this information in your journal, on your whiteboard, on your fridge. That’s great. The important thing is to designate a place where you can catch all your random ideas, so when an idea flits through your mind you know exactly where to take it. I’ve found having a book specifically dedicated to idea catching works for me. It’s full of random drawings, quotes, possible book titles, characters, plots, locations, descriptions, facts. Anything that sparked excitement in my mind, no matter how small. I fill it with colours, pictures – things I feel a connection to. And best of all, because it’s all in a book, it’s portable.

But is it really worth all this trouble to put your ideas on paper? Let me give you some reasons why you need to start this habit.

It Gets the Ideas Out of Your Head

I don’t know about you, but I can’t keep ideas in my head. Some ideas stick around, jumping up and down screaming, ‘Record me!’ As Creativity mentioned earlier, when something is knocking around in your head, the voices reminding you of it, and willing you to do something about it, can be deafening. But there comes a point when these voices get distracted by the next big thing, or simply give up. If you haven’t captured the idea by then, you’ve missed your opportunity.

Other ideas briefly appear, tantalize you with their possibilities and then disappear just as quickly. These ideas are no less valuable. Capture them, and who knows where they will lead.

The act of getting ideas out of your head and onto paper can actually strengthen your ideas. Often if you start recording while the excitement and idea are fresh, the idea becomes clearer and bigger as you work.

It Helps Sort Wheat from Chaff

Not all ideas are worth pursuing. You want to find the idea that really excites you, that energizes you, that you are willing to sacrifice time for. The best way to find that idea is to record all your ideas. As you look over your list, that special idea will stand out. It will be the one your eye is continually drawn back to. It’s the one you keep adding to.

It Helps You See Connections

I once read a really great article by Orson Scott Card about Distractions from Writing. It started with a question from a reader who explained that he couldn’t ‘stay rooted to one project.’ He described continually leaving projects half done because of all the new ideas that kept popping into his head.

Orson Scott Card’s reply was very interesting. (I suggest you go read it in full of you have the chance.)

First of all he called the situation ‘thinking like a writer’ which means if you’re a writer you’re face this situation at some point. Then he let us all in on a little secret. None of those ideas are ready to be written when you first think of them. You need to keep the ideas moving through your head, because:

…pretty soon you’ll find two completely unrelated stories that, when you combine them, suddenly come to life in a way that is so rich and inventive that all your ideas that keep coming up now fit within the story instead of distracting you from it.

He also pointed out that if your idea came while you were working on a project, perhaps the idea is somehow related. He suggested spending minutes, or even a couple of hours, working through the idea. This may eventually show you how the idea is connected to your work-in-progress.

It is so true. Often our ideas are connected or should be connected. We may not notice this while they are swimming around in our head, but once they’re out on paper we’re much more likely to find the similarities and connections. So don’t miss the opportunity to discover them.

It Saves Ideas For When You Need Them

Sometimes I only get part of an idea, say a title or a snippet of dialogue. I know it’s not enough on it’s own, but I want to keep it safe until I have the rest. So I write it in my Idea Book, happy in the knowledge that I can find it when I need it again.

The Idea Book can also act as your personal collection of writing prompts. The best part of recording your ideas is reading back over them later, especially on those days when you’re stuck for ideas or craving entertainment. I love looking through my idea book. I start giggling, or at least crack a smile, every time. Sometimes I find a spot where I can add to an idea. Other times I discover something I can use in my current project.

If nothing else, the book makes me feel safe, because I know I have bottled ideas whenever I need.

It Shows Your Creativity You’re Trustworthy

As Tiv pointed out earlier, for our relationship with our Creativity to blossom, we need to prove we take his/her ideas seriously. One of the best ways to do this is to write the idea down. Give the idea it’s own special place on a page. I guarantee you, once you start writing ideas down, plenty more will appear.

Getting an idea down on paper is also an important part of an idea’s life cycle. Check out The Secret Life of Frank on the blog A Big Creative Yes.

What about you? Do you have an idea book? How do you keep your ideas safe until you need them?


Author: Jessica

I'm a writer who refuses to pin myself down to one genre, hopping from science-fiction and fantasy through to literary and even the odd western now and then. Check out what I've written at or follow me on Twitter @jessbaverstock.

5 thoughts on “Why You Need an Idea Book

  1. Pingback: The ProBlogger 7 Link Challenge « Creativity's Workshop

  2. I think this is a great idea. I carry a notepad around with me, and also use Evernote on my iPad or desktop to capture things electronically in the one place. Brilliant.

    • Evernote seems to be a very popular and useful tool for keeping track of items. I love having my iPod Touch with me wherever I go. It’s comforting to know I can type or record an audio message whenever I need.

      Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Keeping Your Creativity Entertained « Creativity's Workshop

  4. Pingback: Creative Actions: Record That Bouncing Idea | Creativity's Workshop

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