I hear your protests. Writers are like squirrels? No, writers must be something majestic—deer, elephants, antelope.
No, my writerly friend, you are a squirrel. If you're not, you should be.
I often hear would-be writers complain of having no ideas with which to begin their world-changing stories. I will say it once and only once: That is a terrible excuse.
We live in a world teeming with ideas. Every stranger, every name, every image, every sound, every smell (stop me now; this list could get long). There is no reason to ever lack ideas if your mind is open throughout the day.
Here's where the squirrel part comes in (I know, you were waiting impatiently).
Take your little idea-acorns and hide them, scatter them, bury them. Leave them in tree trunks and beneath the soil. Stuff them in your mouth and carry them with you.
Okay, it's getting a little too literal. Here are seven real ideas of how to keep up with your idea-acorns (can we make that phrase a thing?).
After the squirrel reference, I thought I'd bring it back to familiar territory. Carry a notebook! Come on, people. They make big ones, small ones, leather ones, cloth ones. Check out your local book store or if you're really strapped for cash, grab some paper and a stapler to make one yourself. Don't tell me you have nowhere to jot your ideas because I won't buy it. I did, however, buy this—because it's tiny and adorable and fits perfectly in a small bag or a big wallet.
You don't get to choose where you are when an idea strikes you. Grab the nearest piece of paper and scribble away—a receipt, a movie stub, and business card. Get it down on whatever you have, as long as you get it down. Then you can decide what to do with it. One option is to keep a shoebox at home. At the end of the day, gather up all your idea-acorns written on paper scraps and toss them inside. When you find yourself in need of an idea, reach in and pull one out. Another option is to scatter the scraps, truly like a squirrel. Bury them in purses, beneath couch cushions, etc. When you find one, you might be so struck by your genius that you crank out a story on the spot. The downside is that when you have the desire to write and no idea, you might have to go digging. Or, if you're visually inclined, pin them to a bulletin board.
My Virgin Mobile phone from 2007 had a notes section so I know your fancy-shmancy smartphone has one. It might even have voice-recognition so you don't have to go through the trouble of moving your thumbs over the keys. In case you feel the need for a dedicated app, here is one for iPads that lets you add sketches to your notes.
There are many ways to go about this. Use a file created by a word processor. Put sticky notes on your desktop. If you're Apple across the board, creating a note for story ideas can be great because it syncs between your phone and computer.
If you're one of those planner-type people (you're a plotter, aren't you?), dedicate a section to story ideas. I know some of my best ideas come during thoughtful class discussions so if you're a student carrying said planner to class, this may be especially beneficial.
Hang a chalkboard in your room. Or if you want to go all out, buy some chalkboard paint and make one out of your wall. Write your ideas. Sketch them. Draw lines through them and arrows to ideas you might combine. Decorate with flowers and skulls, and then—here's the important part--write them.
Because none of this squirreling away acorn-ideas is worth a nut if you don't actually write your stories.
Another potential tool is Help Me Write, an online community you can use to get feedback on your ideas/potential stories. It's one I found recently and plan to utilize in the future. I'd love to hear from anyone who's already tried it out.
That's all from me. But I would love to hear from you! How do you keep your ideas organized? Are you a squirrel? Do you want to be?
Let me know in the comments!
Author & Editor