Inspiration doesn’t usually follow a schedule, at least not for me. Many of my ideas seem to flash across my neural network (aka come into my mind) at rather inconvenient times, like when I am driving, just about to fall asleep, or at other times when pen and paper aren’t handy, or when I simply cannot write them down.
So what do I do when inspiration strikes?
Of course, if I am able, I write down as much detail as I can about my ideas when they come to me. But sometimes that just is not possible.
For the longest time I simply accepted that I was going to lose a lot of brilliant ideas. It was always frustrating to remember that I had an idea, and that it was probably a great one, but that I just could not remember it. About a year ago, I decided to try and do something about it. Over time I have developed several ways.
1. Always have pen and paper handy. I keep a notepad by my bed, in my car, and somewhere on my body just about all the time. Even so, it isn’t always convenient to write down a lot of details about an idea (like when I’m driving, running, etc.), but I at least try to get something down that may spark my memory later on. I am almost never without at least a pocket notebook of some kind, and a pen.
2. Create a notebook exclusively for my ideas. Aside from the notebook I keep on me, I also write down my ideas in as much detail as I can in a dedicated notebook. As I further develop the idea I expand on what I have already written. I also use mind mapping to further explore and expand my ideas. I write down everything that comes to mind about the idea, no matter how crazy, disconnected, etc. it may seem. I have found that the unconscious mind sometimes contributes things that the conscious mind may not immediately understand.
3. Make good use of the voice recorder on my Droid. Sometimes writing things down is not possible, dangerous, or just inconvenient. But I still don’t want to lose my ideas, so I have started using the voice recorder on my phone to document them. Voice recording is quickly becoming my preferred method of capturing ideas when they first come to mind. For me, its a lot faster to talk into the mic than it is to scribble something down, and the end result is more understandable to me, and usually contains a lot more information.
I am actually finding that my voice recorder is very useful for expanding my ideas as well. It is becoming a major tool for me in planning and writing larger projects, like the LifeSkills course I am working on, or my first book which I hope to finish the first half of this year.
Fortunately, my Droid cell phone has a great and easy to use voice recorder. If you do not have a phone with a recorder, there are several digital voice recorders out there. It may be worth picking one up.
4. Spend time every day to cultivate new ideas, or expand existing ones. I don’t have a great rote memory. That is, it is sometimes difficult for me to remember details of things that don’t make sense, or aren’t somehow critical or inherent to a larger concept I am working on. I am, however, able to develop new high level ideas or concepts, or make connections between concepts, pretty easily. Therefore, most of the ideas I get are conceptual or high level in the beginning. Therefore, it is important for me to spend time time developing these details and writing them down.
As I mentioned before, I use mind mapping to further develop my high level ideas. I also use meditation and journaling. I try to use these methods as soon as I can after the initial idea has come to me, at least to solidify the concepts. I journal the results down in the notebook I discussed earlier, and revisit the ideas I think are worth pursuing several times to continue developing them.
5. Brainstorm with others. Finally, once I think I have an idea that is worth developing, and have enough information to actually at least communicate the concept, I may discuss it with others to get different perspectives. I have a couple of people that I regularly share ideas with, and have found that developing ideas with others can be very helpful and valuable. I never hesitate to take advice from people that I think are credible, or that I can learn from.
Many of the things I have discussed in this article are just common sense. However, at times we really don’t think about how important it may be to capture our ideas, or are not in the habit of writing or recording them because we assume we will remember the ideas that are worth remembering.
For people like me, who write a great deal and like developing new projects to help others (and myself) on their journey of personal growth, capturing a many ideas as possible is vital. But even for people who don’t run blogs, or write books, acknowledging and capturing ideas can be very useful, even life changing. After all, it only takes one brilliant idea to change your reality.