Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

Capturing, Organizing and Developing Ideas

In December I wrote about being ready to receive – and record – ideas whenever and wherever they come. I also mentioned a few tools I use to capture inspiration when the moment strikes, such as special notebooks, digital recorders (I use an Olympus VN-6200PC), Dragon Dictation (an app on my iPhone that turns my voice into instant text), and the Notes app which looks like a post-it note or yellow legal pad in digital form. Other folks I know use Post-its or index cards and move them around the floor or the wall.  Many use Google Docs – which can be accessed from any where in the world via computer, as everything is stored in ‘the cloud.’

Lately I’ve been experimenting with mind-mapping to further organize and flesh out an idea.  This is an invaluable exercise that involves doing a ‘brain dump’ of everything related to the idea in one area.  Once you have everything down, it becomes much easier to see how the idea might be organized. It literally begins to take shape before your eyes. The traditional way to mind map is to scribble every associated thought, image, word etc. onto a large piece of paper, then draw lines connecting those that are related, and continue reorganizing accordingly. You can also do the same thing on a white or chalk board. If you’ve moved into the digital world, there are a number of mind-mapping software programs worth experimenting with – a few to check out are FreeMind (free), MindJet (paid) and SimpleMind (paid). Most of them provide an app version as well.

Whatever method you choose to use, I highly recommend keeping an ideas file, folder or notebook, in which to consolidate everything. You never know when you’ll use something – whether it’s an idea for an entire book, a compelling character or just a great line – and this way you’ll always know where to find it.


6 Responses to “Capturing, Organizing and Developing Ideas”
  1. Angela says:

    Great post.

    Maybe I am still in the dark ages…but I write in a notebook that I carry in my purse at all times. Whenever I have an idea that I don’t want to forget, I scribble it down. Then if I have some down time, like in a waiting room or before meetings, I look back over my past scribbles and maybe add or change something. This habit really helps me relax; I often find that I have fresh insight when I return my previous notes, and I don’t have the stress of trying to remember that million dollar idea I had a few days ago.

  2. Joanna says:

    Thank you, this is a great tip/reminder. I was working on a new idea at the weekend and thinking far too lineally, a good brainstorming session would have been far more valuable. It is also good to be nudged towards becoming more digitally savvy, so I have been checking out the Google Docs templates 😉

  3. Diane says:

    Thanks Emma, for the great tip on looking at digital mind-mapping. Have used mind-mapping at work but never thought about using it for writing ideas down… Also like the idea of keeping a file about everything, all ideas incase they come in handy at some later stage.
    Thanks again for the tips.

  4. Beth says:

    Mind-mapping sounds fascinating — I will definitely be trying it! And when life settles down again, I want to look into those apps, etc. In the meantime, yesterday I bought two small Moleskine notebooks to tuck in my purse, along with an Emma Bridgewater pen that says along the sides “Write it Down — Don’t Forget”. (I have quite a number of Emma Bridgewater dishes, teapot, etc. Now, with Emma Bridgewater stationery available in the local bookstore, I’m sunk!)

    When I was at the funeral home making arrangements for Dad’s service, I noticed the friend who’d accompanied me suddenly start writing furiously on a scrap of paper — it turned out she’d had an idea for a possible picture book for me to write, and she didn’t want to lose track of the idea, so she wrote it down and gave me the scrap of paper. I must transfer that to something besides a scrap of paper in the bottom of my purse!

  5. Patricia says:

    Your Post-its remind me of Journalism 101 and the rules of writing a story lead. 🙂

    I love mind-mapping. Used the technique last summer/fall when I worked with two other individuals at the Peace Museum to create an impressive exhibit of Greg Mortenson’s work to build schools for girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It helped us develop creative panel themes. But. it really helped us get our minds around the entire exhibit — from its inception and what we had to do to stay on schedule and ready for public display. Hadn’t thought to use it on my story because I was well into my manuscript and following the JWFK map. I have recently used it to help me mind-map my thoughts about developing my platform and my plan of action once I have a marketable manuscript. Will try it on my next story. Thanks!

  6. Patricia Tilton says:

    I love mind-mapping. I used it last summer/fall as I worked with a team to design a 12-pannel exhibit of author Greg Mortenson’s work to build schools for kids in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It allowed us to contribute all of our creative thoughts about panel themes, as well as map out a plan of what we needed to accomplish to bring it from inception to a fabulous display within a short time-frame. Never thought to use it on my manuscript, because JWFK seemed to fit that bill. But, I do see the advantages. And, I have recently used mind-mapping to think about my next steps once I have a presentable manuscript and the creative ways I can market and network. In the past I just kept a notebook of ideas. More recently I developed a form using the plot-sequencing form to work with an idea. Will definitely use mind-mapping in the future as I know how helpful it can be. Thanks!

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