Capturing Inspiration

graphic man chasing lightbulb
Attribution: By mohamed_hassan (Own work) [Public domain], via Pixabay

Maybe it’s happened to you, you’re at the grocery store or the park
and suddenly you have the Best. Blog. Idea. Ever. You have to remember
it but you’re not in front of your computer right now. What do you
do? You try to commit it to memory until you get home. However, by
the time you get back to your keyboard the idea is gone. It happens to
me all the time and it used to drive me crazy.

The best thing to do, of course, is to write that idea down. In
James Joyce’s seminal book, Ulysses, one of the main characters,
Stephen Dedalus, comes up with an idea for a poem while strolling on
the beach. He struggles but succeeds in capturing his inspiration. By
locating a letter in his pocket he was supposed to give to the editor
of one of the local Dublin newspapers and pencil nub he “borrowed”
from the city library, he then records the idea before it was lost
(see Ulysses, Chapter 3: Proteus). While I don’t recommend using scrap
off of a letter you were supposed to deliver on someone’s behalf, the
low-tech idea of keeping a pencil and notebook in one’s pocket for
this type of occasion is a good one and easy to implement. My issue
with this method is that I actually have to remember to pack up a
notebook and pen. Also, the notebook needs to be the right size. If
it’s too big it’ll be too hard to bring it with. If it’s too small,
writing will be a real chore. I really like the Moleskin notebooks or
a nice wirebound Rhodia notebook. That being said, I don’t always have
a notebook handy.

The method I use most often is the Evernote app on my phone (in fact,
I started this post on Evernote!). I almost always have my phone with
me so it’s always ready to capture an idea on the fly. That’s my
preferred app but there are literally hundreds of note-taking apps for
smartphones (including the default ones that come pre-installed on
your phone, like the Notes app on the iPhone or Google’s Keep for
Android
). They are a good choice because you don’t need to bring
anything additional with you and taking a note is a quick as a click
of a few buttons on a device you already have with you.

Another method that I’ve considered is recording a voice memo on a
recording app on your phone. The idea has been knocking around my head
for decades, since I read Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. In
that book, a character named Gordon Way leaves voicemails on his
secretary’s answering machine whenever he gets an idea he wants to
capture. I believe his poor secretary was meant to transcribe all his
rambling messages. This brings up a key point if you want to employ
this method: be succinct. You don’t want to wade through a
three-minute-long stream of consciousness voice memo from yourself
later when you want to actually write down the idea. As well, the
drawback of a voice memo is that you have transcribe the idea to the
written word. It’s another step and I can see that being a giant pain
in the ass.

Well, I hope that one (or more) of these ideas might be useful to
someone. Capturing inspiration and ideas when you’re otherwise
occupied is important. Some of your best thinking can happen when
you’re focused on something else. Ideas percolate through your
subconsciousness and then bubble up when you least expect it. You have
to catch them before they fade away.

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2 comments

  1. Inspiring read . Thanks

    1. Thank you for reading it!

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