I was asked recently, “Do you have a place where you collect your stories and illustrations, to write or speak with later?” This is a great question and I’ve actually wrestled with it for years. I think many communicators, writers and creatives have. Maybe a better way to word the question is, “How does one preserve ideas for later use?”
If you’ve spent anytime in the creative process, you know how ideas seem to have a life of their own. They show up when they want (often inconveniently) and if we aren’t careful to pay proper attention to them at that moment, they have a way of disappearing quickly. There are few things more frustrating than knowing you had an amazing idea, only to lose it because you couldn’t write it down fast enough, or because you lost the napkin you wrote it on.
You also probably know that some ideas aren’t for now, but for later. I often come up with the main points of a blog series months before I actually write it. The ideas may need to germinate a while longer before I am creatively and spiritually ready to tackle them. Practically, there may not be proper time to devote to the project. Parenting has that tricky way of interfering with life…
I sort of have a system for idea storage because I think it is good intellectual stewardship. If God sees fit to give me a great idea, I had better see fit to find a way not to lose it. And I sort of don’t have an idea storage system because it can easily devolve into a control thing. Jesus is the source of my creativity and sometimes trying to control it too much is actually a way to remove the process out of His hands. Part of my creative philosophy involves recognizing that all my abilities and ideas are actually His. I just get to channel them and pass them on. Idea generation for me is a deeply spiritual thing – a spiritual discipline almost. It goes hand in hand with my relationship with Jesus and flows from my time with Him. I never want to get to the place where I try to write without Him and just from the notes I’ve accumulated. Therefore, an element of it needs to be dynamic, loose and a little messy, a little bit out of my control. Otherwise it loses some of its power. It becomes me writing – and on my own, I’m not really that good. At least that’s how it works in my life.
All that being said however, here are is one practical way I hold ideas till the right time arises to develop and use them.
I have a dedicated space I work in – and I use it to store my ideas visually and in an incomplete form in front of me. Like most people, I have a desk where I park my computer. But I also view this space as more than just that – it is holy ground. My eyes spend a lot of time looking at the corner in front of me, so what that space looks like is important. It will generate or deaden my ideas and thoughts. I have two whiteboards there, a magnet board and lots of sticky notes on hand. As ideas float around, I park them for a while where I can see them, till I can get back to them. Keeping them in front of me is a valuable way to allow my thoughts to develop and percolate until it is writing time. In a down moment, as my thoughts drift, these ideas find their way back to my mental front burner and when the time is right, get handled. (More on writing when the moment of inspiration hits in a later post.) My idea storage isn’t a file, but the wall space in front of me.
Also, my most recently read books are here. I keep lots of highlighters, colored pens and sticky notes nearby for when a creative moment strikes. I also have photos of meaningful things here. Postcards of important trips. Unusual and funny kid pictures. Verses that are especially vital for me at the present time. It might be more cluttered than some like, but visually, it is a happy, vibrant place. It stirs my mind and spirit. It works for me. Jesus and I spend a lot of time together here.
I do have to protect it however. Life is crazy. I have 3 kids who try to creep their stuff in here. I have to fight to keep it ordered. When I do however, it does great things for my creative process.