You have this spark of inspiration that strikes you when you least expected it. You could be showering at the end of a long day, and this sudden burst of thought came popping up in your mind.
You put it away, thinking that you will be able to recall them when you need them. But the fact is, more often than not, we wouldn’t be able to remember the idea.
We are human beings, not a hard disk. We have so many things that happened in our daily lives that we put away many other things. It’s still there, archive somewhere in our brain. Over time, that idea fades away.
Keeping your Ideas together
Most good ideas come into our mind as hunches – small fragments of sparks, hints and notes that will be the foundation of our larger idea. Many of these hunches hang around for months and years before they can be combined with other hunches to form something useful.
The problem with hunches is they are incredibly easy to forget. You are reading this article and suddenly these little sparks of idea appear. The next moment you are on some social networking sites, checking your email, and doing other things. And before you know it, your hunches are gone for good. Even the ones you have managed to retain in your memory don’t really turn out to be useful, and subsequently you lose track of them altogether.
The Spark File
For the past year or so, i have been keeping a Spark File – my lovely moleskine that keep track of all my thoughts, ideas, sketches and anything i write on it. You don’t have to organize your spark file, you just dump all your ideas into them. The rationale is for it to become a central place to store everything, and to get them into words before you forget about them.
The idea of spark file has been around for centuries, probably longer. We write down things we like, we take note of inspirations we have. When we refer back to them one day, these hunches will be the building blocks of something bigger. We need to walk before we can attempt to run. All these hunches are just like baby steps, in preparation for for race ahead.
There are so many note taking software and applications in the market that you could literally get lost inside there. There is no best app, only the ones that is suitable for your needs and style. For me, I’m using Evernote and Workflowy.
Evernote: I use Evernote to exclusively clip articles i find interesting on the web, and when i stumble upon something that arouses my interest, i’ll archive it in Evernote. Clipping it on Evernote is to safeguard my possession, in case the article got taken down for some reason I’d still have a copy in there for me. Evernote can do so much more than storing articles. You can organize your articles into different categories, subdivide them into even deeper hierarchy . The nice thing about Evernote is it syncs your mobile devices and tablets with your PC. No matter where you read about that brilliant idea from, you can instantly store it in your account and retrieve it anywhere.
Workflowy: I use Workflowy as a tool to be more organized, and as a GTD tool. It change my life on how i see things as a whole. It has no hierarchy, it works just like a Spark file. When you finish something, you cross them out. It functions like a giant white board where you can store lots, and lots of things in there. There are so many uses for it, depending on what you want to do with it. Some use it to store their draft, some for To-Do list, the possibilities are endless. What i really like about Workflowy is it does not try to impose any restriction other than getting your words down. In another words, it’s a minimalist’s dream.
When i want to sit down and really start writing, the only application i use will be Zenwriter. It eliminates all the unnecessary stuffs, leaving you with just the words. It’s just like a blank sheet of paper. It may appear overwhelming and unwelcoming at first sight, but once you start writing, you will come to appreciate the simplicity of the design. Nothing else matters here, just you and your words. You can change the different background to switch things up a bit, and they are all very easy on the eyes. The soothing music playing in the background is a bonus. Definitely recommended for all inspiring writers out there. PS: This piece of work was done with Zenwriter.
Good’ old Pen and Paper evoke a special feeling
When it comes down to digital and technology, it’s all about convenience and productivity. Nothing can beat the efficiency of typing words into the word processor, but there’s something special about writing characters on papers.
We have a long tradition dating back centuries in putting ink to paper, and there’s a special feeling using pen to write characters on paper. Wherever i go, i always bring my pen and moleskine with me. It goes with me to work and vocation. There’s always something for me to document in there. It’s small, handy, and sturdy enough to take my rough handling.
Read through your Ideas
Now we are done with the tools used to compile all our ideas, it’s time to move back to talking about the spark file. Every now and then, I’ll pick up my spark files and read through what’s inside. Some of the contents in there might even surprise you. The things which you didn’t realize of its existence will re-surface before your eyes. You would be grateful for all the things you have documented, for it acts as a bridge between the past and present.
It’s interesting to reflect upon your ideas months and years down the road. You would be grateful when the spark file contains ideas on the project you are working on.
The benefits of keeping a spark file doesn’t just limit to writers. Anyone can benefit from having it.
So, go on, start collecting your ideas, curate them, and make them into the lovely spark file that is uniquely yours.
Inspired by the original post by Steven Johnson