Write down your ideas, no matter what

Hey all! This will be a shorter post than usual, and the start of a series roughly addressed to aspiring writers. I hope to do these kinds of things once a week on Mondays; if you have any suggestions for future posts, please feel free to leave a comment! 

Today’s topic concerns writing down your ideas. Whether you’re an aspiring writer, an entrepreneur, or a blogger, the simple concept of “collecting all of your ideas from over the years in one place” can be vitally useful. Allow me to explain how best to do this and why.

The first thing you will want to remember is that no idea is worthless. (At least, almost none of them.) To boil down my thoughts on the subject: if an idea comes to you, there’s a reason it did. In the moment, you may be happy to let it slide, to forget it—especially if you’ve already settled on a project and don’t need distractions. But chances are, somewhere down the line there will be a window for you to explore new things, discuss new thoughts, or build upon what you have. This is why I believe it is important to keep a seed list—a list of all your ideas relating to a certain passion, undertaking, or dilemma. 

The concept of a seed list was first introduced to me in a high school creative writing course. The basic idea was that, when you have a new idea for a story to write, you should jot it down as a bullet point on a list you can come to when you don’t know what to write about. This was derived from the idea that there are times when our minds are more open to ideas, and times when they are not. This is something that I very much subscribe to; there are many factors that play into our mental capacity at a given time.

At that point there were distractions and I didn’t have much of a mind for writing, so the “seed list” concept went over my head. However, I’ve recently begun using it again as my interest in writing has picked up—mainly when it comes to this blog. 

Allow me to provide more of a guide. If you come up with a concept for something creative—an inspired character or plot arc, for example—it may not quite fit into what you’re writing at the moment, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work down the line when you’ve published and are devoid of follow-up projects. To build on that, the practice can be utilized for so much more than book ideas. I keep a personal seed list for this blog, listing short summaries and one-liners telling the story of a single post. For example, one might be “Brandon Sanderson—history, legacy, and opinions—(link goodreads reviews and Brandon’s site).” Make sure you create your list in a place you can edit in the future—I personally like google docs. In this way, your project will always be active, always being added to—even when you don’t have a ton of time to sit down and write. When the time does come, you’ll be ready. 

If you’re a writer, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the “writer’s journal” concept. The idea here is similar, meant to stimulate your ability to observe and creativity as an artist. However, it’s a practice less focused around productivity and more on opening your mind and forcing yourself to write something down. To summarize, you want to use a journal or computer to record things you see or hear. Even if you think something isn’t important—an unusual sound, a color combination or pattern—write it down, and it may well serve a purpose. This plays nicely into the “seed list” concept: sometimes the seemingly unimportant ideas are the best sparks. Sparks light the fire of imagination, they are the seeds of a great tree, a tree that grows tall even when the sunlight of imagination is lost for a time. Take the light when you can; write it down, and cherish it when the sky grows dark.

-J.

5 thoughts on “Write down your ideas, no matter what

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  1. Aw yis, I love writer’s journals and commonplace books, and keep both of them. I’ve found that I don’t really subscribe to the Stephen King advice of ‘notebooks being a graveyard for ideas’. In fact, it’s the inverse for me. Anyway, thanks for this post!

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