Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

Keeping Track of Ideas

with 2 comments

notebook

Last March I blogged about a Computers in Libraries session on capturing, sharing, and acting on ideas (presented by Adam Shambaugh and Jill Luedke from Temple University). Since then, I’ve been thinking about the different tools I use to record my ideas:

On my phone:

  • Voice Recorder App – Mostly I use this to capture ideas while driving. Six-hour trips between Pennsylvania and New York equal lots of time for creative reflection. I try to be as safe as possible (open the app before I leave, keep the phone on my lap, one tap to record and pause, etc). On my last drive I recorded all the billboard messages I saw, transcribed them and am now working on a hybrid found/erasure poem using the messages as my text.
  • Notes App – I’ve been known to jot a line or two down in my iPhone notes. I usually do this when it’s the only available option—if I’m in the middle of attending a lecture or something. Eventually I transcribe these into one of my writing notebooks.
  • Camera – I like to take pictures of things like really great or really awful signage or businesses practices that I think might translate well to libraries.

On my computer:

  • Bookmarks – Yup, I still bookmark a TON of stuff in Firefox. And they’re not synced between my work and personal computers. I know there are more robust bookmarking tools out there, but bookmarking usually comes into play when I see something random (after clicking along from five different blogs/websites) that I’m not sure I’ll be able to find again. This results in a huge mess of unsorted bookmarks on both my work and personal machines. About once every month or two I go through them all and either organize them (if it’s a place I’ll want to visit multiple times), read the article/post and delete the bookmark, move the information somewhere else, or buy the item.

In the cloud:

  • TeuxDeux – I’ve blogged about this tool before, but can’t resist sharing it again. TeuxDeux is browser based which allows me to add “home” do-to items while at work and vice versa without syncing headaches. I also purchased the iPhone app, so my lists are available there as well. Yes, this is more of a to-do list tool than a place to capture ideas. However, in addition to a weekly calendar, there is a “someday bucket” which I use to record opportunities I want to look into at a later date. It helps me keep those opportunities fresh in my mind because I see them whenever I look at my daily to-do lists.
  • Google Docs – I recently received an email from Google notifying me that my 894 files stored in Google Docs are now in Google Drive. Eight hundred and ninety four files! I have Google Docs for everything—work projects, creative writing, papers, research projects, presentations, conference notes, lists of things to do, and more. I have a shared doc called “Fishbowl of Awesomeness” where my colleague Melissa and I put snippets of ideas we have for research and publication projects. Google Docs is also where I collect my blog ideas and outline them before drafting them in WordPress.

Tangibly:

  • Notebooks – While I do a lot of my work and writing digitally, I still love paper notebooks. I usually have a few going at once—right now there are three: a Moleskine in my purse/work bag at all times (for anything); a hand-bound journal next to my bed (mostly journaling and book notes); and a spiral bound notebook (reserved for poem crafting).

In the past I’ve collected ideas on sicky notes, large pieces of paper (mind mapping kinda stuff), Evernote on my iPad, and whiteboards. Having a great idea—the perfect line for a poem or topic for a post—and not having a way to record it is a terrible feeling. This usually seems to happen to me when I’m in the shower, just about to fall asleep, or somewhere in public where it would be awkward to pull my notebook out. I repeat the idea over and over in my head, convinced that there’s no way I could forget such a beautiful phrase or thought, but inevitably, the idea is lost if I don’t record it.

How do you keep track of your ideas? Any tips or tricks? Do you keep work ideas and personal ideas separate?

Image CC BY 2.0 courtesy of seanmcgrath on Flickr
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Written by Erin Dorney

November 12, 2012 at 8:00 AM

2 Responses

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  1. The best ideas always come when your mind is unfocused and allowed to free-associate: showering, doing dishes, waking up, falling asleep, working out, etc. This is why it is so important to set aside time for the mind to wander. How to keep track of them? I too love google drive, teux duex. I also sometimes tell someone else. And sometimes, when an idea comes and I’m not prepared to capture the thought, I assume the ideas wasn’t meant to be caught and I get to practice letting go. An interesting podcast on battling your muse: http://www.radiolab.org/2011/mar/08/me-myself-and-muse/

    A. Nonny Mouse

    November 12, 2012 at 11:38 AM

  2. Thanks for the comment and sharing the podcast! I like the idea of setting aside time to let the mind wander. It would be nice if we could build that into our daily practice somehow. Reminds me of how some companies let employees spend work-time on side projects. Do libraries do that? I hate the idea of letting an idea go… but it’s probably a healthy model sometimes. Let go of the guilt!

    Erin Dorney

    November 13, 2012 at 2:16 PM


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