I’m always writing.
I don’t mean I’m always sitting in front of a computer, churning out words, although it certainly feels like that.
No, the boon and the curse of being a writer is that you can do it anywhere. Many times, I’ll flesh out a column or a blog post while I’m driving, puttering around the garage, or in the shower. An idea will take hold, and I’ll start fleshing out ideas before I ever get a pen in my hand.
A couple months ago ago, I cited a Lance Mannion blog post (which is still the macho-est name since Dirk Facepunch) who wrote a great article in 2009 about what writing is.
Standing, that’s working. Sitting is working. Pacing is writing. I do my best thinking then. Looking out the window, that’s writing. Brushing your teeth is writing. Anything’s writing,” Rob says. “The hardest writing is showering.’
On the upside, that means that I can be working whenever I’m awake or have a little downtime. On the downside, that means I’m working whenever I’m awake or have a little downtime.
The problem comes when I get a good idea and start fleshing it out, only to forget it later. I usually carry a notebook around with me, but the Indiana State Police frown on people scribbling down notes while they’re driving down the highway.
I’ve also had a great idea that I wrote in my head and then found out that I had already done something just like it a few months earlier (that’s happened more than once).
Or when I’ve just spent the last 6 – 8 hours working, and I just want to relax and shut my brain down for a little while, I can’t stop thinking about new ideas.
So here are a few things I do stop thinking about writing for a while:
- Keep a pen and paper on my bedside table. When I have an idea just before I drop off to sleep, I write it down.
- Use Evernote on my mobile phone. I store all my ideas, interesting articles, and notes on my Evernote. And one thing I love about mobile Evernote is that I can record an audio note. When I’m in my car, I just hit the Evernote Audio button, and record the idea. It’s uploaded to Evernote, and it downloads to my laptop the next time I fire it up.
- Carry a notebook at ALL times: I’m a Moleskine snob and am very picky about my pens — blue Pilot G2 .05mm — and I make sure I have it with me. That way, I’m always ready when inspiration hits.
- Use a notes app on my iPad. For whatever reason, I’m not a big fan of the standard Notes app on my iPad, so I bought Draft a few days ago, and I’ve been enjoying that. I use it to take notes at sporting events I’m covering, and even use it when I’m watching TV. I also set it up to forward my notes to Evernote (which is also a note taking app, but I couldn’t tell you why I don’t use it instead. Certainly would’ve saved me $2.99).
- Just write the damn thing: I was trying to enjoy a quiet lunch when this blog post popped into my head. I kept thinking about it and thinking about it until finally I just pulled out my laptop and wrote it. Took me 30 minutes, and now I’m done. Of course, lunch is over and I have to go back to work. . .
The idea behind these strategies is that if I write an idea down, I get it out of my brain where it’s been rattling around. That frees me up to think about other stuff, or at the very least, stop thinking about that idea. I can shut down my mental writing for a while and focus on something else.
I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I keep a journal in my purse. :) There is just something special about the raw pen and paper drafting.
Great point. It’s so hard to explain to people how hard it is to escape your business when it’s always in your head. I use Evernote a tremendous amount too. I used Moleskines for years until I discovered Leuchtturm notebooks. They are a similar size but the paper is better. It’s creamy and thicker. I started getting agitated with the bleed through on the thinner Moleskine pages.
If you find yourself working from multiple electronic devices, and especially from multiple computers, DropBox is a good free option. I keep a simple text file called “Sparks” in there, and I have a shortcut directly to that file on my laptop, home desktop (which I rarely use anymore), work computer, and even my Nook Color. (I have a dumbphone, but there is a mobile version of DropBox.) When inspiration strikes, I double-click that link, type it, save it, and close it. You can probably do something similar with Google Docs.
The best part is that if any of those devices goes down, all those ideas are saved in the cloud, and I can access them from any device that’s connected to the Internet.
One last option: Get a tattoo of a blank piece of parchment paper on the inside of your forearm (your left, if you’re right-handed). You’ll never be without a piece of paper again, and the scribblings on your arm won’t look out of place.