Organizing All Your Writing Ideas
It doesn’t matter what kind of writing you do – personal blog posts, freelancing, or fiction – when the ideas start flowing, life is good. Until, of course, those ideas flow like water through your hands. I can’t be the only writer who’s ever thought she had a brilliant idea only to forget it the next day because I said, “I don’t need to write this down.” Yeah right. Amazing ideas have come and gone for me, and it only took a few times before I realized I had to organize my writing ideas – and fast.
Don’t Rely on Your Memory
Unless you happen to have a photographic memory or know some amazing Jedi-mind tricks for getting stuff to stay in your head (and please teach me your ways!), your memory is faulty as hell. Some of my best ideas – the kind that had me mentally writing full paragraphs – come in the shower or middle of the night. Every time I tell myself, “I’ll remember this tomorrow,” it’s gone by the time I wake up.
Whatever method you use, try to keep it handy so that when the idea hits you, you can jot it down as soon as possible. I use a combination of methods from analog (paper and pen) to digital. The method doesn’t matter as much as finding what works for you and sticking with it. For me, this keeps me from stressing about ideas – that I have to set a time to “allow” the ideas to flow. My organization allows me to let the ideas come to me as they wish.
Keep a Notebook
Plenty of writers love the tactile feel of pen and paper. Carrying a small notebook around with you or keeping one in every room of your home is a great way to make sure the ideas never drift away. Write down a phrase that enters your mind, a concept, or as much of the pitch that hit you in mid-run or (like me) mid-shower.
Whatever notebook you use, it’s needs to be something that fits your lifestyle. Small ones that fit into a bag. Big notebooks that fit next to your laptop. A journal by your bedside. If physically writing your ideas down works best for you, make sure it’s easy to do.
When it comes to ideas, I’m a digital girl living in a digital world. I use the “notes” app on my phone for random ideas. I email myself in the middle of the night. But I also look for systems that can be used on multiple devices – laptop, phone, tablet. When an idea strikes, I want to be able to add it no matter where I am.
My favorite option for keeping up with multiple projects and ideas is Trello. Since I have both the kinky/sex writing life and the vanilla writing life, Trello’s system works well for me. In Trello, you create a board for whatever you want to organize. I created boards for both sides of my writing life. Then, within each board, I have separate lists based on the thing I want to organize. My Kayla board includes topic ideas for blog posts (one list for each website), podcast episode ideas (one for each show), lists of books, and an odd assortment of things I need to remember. Each item on the list is a “card” and I can archive each item as it’s completed.
When Writing Ideas Become Writing Work
Once an idea becomes a thing – an accepted pitch, a new blog post, a task – I need it to go somewhere that I can access easily and help me keep up with my to-do list. I’m a huge fan of spreadsheets for this (although I bet Trello would be perfect, too). I got the idea from Nicole Dieker in an article she wrote about organizing her work life. Like her, I created a spreadsheet that includes everyone I’m writing for (for pay) including my own websites (sponsored posts).
The site I’m writing for, the title or concept of the piece, the deadline, and how much I’m getting paid for it all get their own columns. I also included a column to check off whether it’s complete or not. It stays empty until it’s done, and then I add a “Y.” Because I’m a nerd, I also have a column for the word count of each piece. This is how I know that in an average month, I usually write about 40,000 words, sometimes more, sometimes less.
Sometimes it feels like your ideas have all dried up, and you’ll never think of anything new ever again. Other times, the ideas flow faster than you can keep up with them. The more you work at coming up with ideas, the more often they’ll hit you right between the eyes. Create a system to keep yourself organized, and you’ll make your writing life much easier.
Does anyone else have a system for keeping up with your ideas? What do you use? Share in the comments below!
do you have a template for your spreadsheet you’d be willing to share? I’m horrible at creating these sorts of things (I overthink how it should look) and would be very interested in a template to help me keep organized (especially something I can print off and stuff in my planner.
if not no worries, just figured I’d ask.
Thank you so much for sharing as much as you do – this site has been such a big help for me.
That’s actually a really good idea. I’ve modified spreadsheets that others have shared in the past. I don’t have any templates ready, but I’ll definitely look into making some that I can share with everyone.