When Inspiration Strikes, Take Notes
I went to the movies the other day with family. I'm always very cognizant of turning off my cell phone. No one likes a cell phone to ring, beep, or buzz during their movie - myself included.
When I'm at the movies, the mall, the bookstore, a play, a concert... Basically anywhere, I'm also cognizant of the flow of ideas, random sparks of inspiration, and sideways thoughts.
Wait...what are sideways thoughts? Well, I don't know what else to call them so I'll tell you about a game I used to play with my Dad.
Campfire Games and Sideways Thoughts
We were a camping family when I was growing up. Every spring, summer, fall, and an occasional winter found us at a campground - tent, camper trailer, cabin... All had one thing in common, the campfire. Once night arrived we'd bathe in mosquito repellant, toss on an extra shirt, and pull up a chair and a stick for roasting marshmallows. Stories, silence, games, and idle chatter all often ensued until midnight or later. As the embers burnt down it often left only my Dad and I staring at the glowing embers or watching the stars.
It was on such a night that our Sideways Thinking game was born. The rules were quite simple. The person starting the game said a word. Any word. The next person said the very first word that popped into their mind, back and forth and round and round. This often led into hilarity and discussions of how one word sparked another.. It was by far one of my favorite games to play and is still shrouded by that late night, fireside mystique.
I find myself still playing it solitaire style. I will read a word or phrase or see a picture and then pay attention to the first thoughts or images that pop into my head. It's quite fun and you can generate some ridiculously odd and entertaining ideas this way. Perfect for children's writing, wouldn't you say?
Cell Phones and Movie Theaters
I blame this game for my bad cell phone behavior at the movie theater the other day. As I sat watching the ads and previews, my neurons were firing away. I wanted to capture a couple of these quickly fleeting ideas before they fled off into the void.
Out came my cell phone as I quickly opened my notes app to tap in my ideas. Tap tap tap. Ah, good. Phone away. Oo! Another one... Repeat scenario. Phone away. Movie starts. Neuro-firing behavior fails to obey the "don't talk during a movie" rule.
Out comes the cell phone again... "Hey! Can you put that away please?" hissed a very annoyed fellow movie-goer into my ear. Yikes! I quickly turned off the cell phone as I turned 50 shades of scarlet. I was both grateful and annoyed at the darkness of the theater. Grateful that no one could see my blush, annoyed because I now had to scrawl on my hand in the darkness and hope I could read it later.
In Amy Lynn Andrews’ Useletter, Issue 101, she shared how to become an “idea machine” inspired by author James Altucher. James writes 10 ideas each day because, he says, “if you don’t exercise your ‘idea muscle’ every day it [will]atrophy and you [will] lose the ability to be creative.”
I’m not so sure you would actually LOSE the ability to be creative, but it could get weak and flabby - just like any other under-used muscle.
How Do You Capture Your Ideas?
If a person really did generate 10 ideas every day, that's at least 3,560 ideas a year. Other than the notes app on your cell phone, and the ever-present pen and paper (or hand!) in your pocket, how do you capture your ideas? Once you capture them, what do you do with them? Do you have a system for categorizing and organizing all your ideas or does your system resemble mine...a jumbled pile of papers and post-it notes crammed into a giant envelope on the occasion the pile threatens to overtake your workspace like a killer blob. Yes, I need a better method! Help me out!
Please share your thoughts below!