Ideas are everywhere around us, all day long. Everyone has ideas. But not all ideas are created equal. A lot of people's ideas run the gamut of creating a shopping list, planning the most effective route to get from point A to point B, how to impress your boss for a promotion. There are ideas such as how to get that guy/girl to notice you. My favorite is how to bribe your children into doing their homework without them realizing there is a bribe involved here. Yup....
Some ideas strike you in odd places, at odd moments. Like when you are trying to get your children to behave in the supermarket and another kid four aisles over comes careening through. You have this sadistic image of that child getting snatched up and eaten by a zombie/ werewolf/ other monster of your choice so you can point to the incident as an example of why your children should behave! Or while you are waiting in the doctor's office and overhear a bit of a conversation about another patient's illness and plot a story featuring an outbreak of some sort of horrible disease. (I know, a bit cliche!) When you are standing in the walker's line at school and hear one of the other mother's talking about how she is going to leave her husband as soon as she graduates with such and such degree and he is never gonna see it coming. Given the horrible nature of her glee, you feel the need to plan a twisted moral story in which she dies horrifically three days before completion and as her husband is going through her things he learns the awful truth of their marriage!Yeah... I am a very dark and twisted person. Who knew? But here is a good idea!
As you are doing laundry you go to add more socks to the sock basket and find yourself wondering if socks are like dust bunnies and reproduce at an alarming and unexpected rate. All those socks without pairs are not from ones who have been lost, but ones who have been created through weird sock dalliances under the bed. Hmmm....
Yes, even in the midst of life, we have creative ideas. The problem is that when you are at the doctor's office, strolling (or dragging children) through the supermarket, waiting in line and these creative fits of genius (or morbidity) seize you, what do you do? You chuckle (at least I do), and plan on saving that great idea to jot down later. But by the time you make it back to your creative space (my desk in my case) the idea has been lost with the millions of others over a life time. (For you young aspiring authors, this gets worse as you get older, I promise!!) You console yourself with the thought that it must not have been that good anyway, otherwise you would have remembered it. But what could that story have developed into? Now you will never know.
Unless, of course, you keep an idea journal!
For those of you who have already read my little e-book Creative Exercises to Inspire, you know all about this. Ha! That is what you thought! I'm giving you a bit more information this time around. Idea journals are exactly that. Ever since the fifth or sixth grade I have kept an idea journal. And currently I have an entire shelf on one of my bookshelves devoted to the durn things. I have two poetry journals, a dozen notebooks with creative short stories and snippits of ideas and almost every book I have written (or started to write.) I have been oh-so-slowly converting it over to the digital age. I even still have my first idea journal. (It is a dark purple Fat Little Fashion notebook!)
I also have three other idea journals. I have my blog idea journal on my computer, my creative idea journal on my computer and a mini notebook that I carry in my bag with me everywhere I go. This way I can catch those niggling little snippets and bring them back to my computer. (See that Mead Notebook up there? Yeah, that is EXACTLY the one I have!!)
So get out there and start keeping an idea journal. (Make sure you back it up! Would be horrible to start it and then lose it because your computer ends up with a virus!) Write those ideas down. Whether they seem like good ideas, or corny, stupid ideas. (Like the sock story. Seems pretty stupid, but it could turn into something really interesting.) Some of your ideas in your journal will languish there forever. That is o.k. Don't get rid of them because one day you look at them and decide they are kind of stupid. You never know what other creative ideas they may spur on another day!
The book I am working on publishing actually came from a very lame idea from my first idea journal. It was basically NYPD Blue, except at that age I had never seen it. When I did see NYPD Blue I thought about throwing it away. After all, what good was an idea that had already been done? But it was so messy to tear the page out. So I left it.
Six years ago, I was flipping through my idea book, saw that one little silly story outline and because of outside influences thought 'But what if....' and now I am working on the sequel to that 'what if' story. Once you get the idea you are most ready to run with we will begin our research! (Spoiler Alert: that is next Monday's topic!) And while you focus on that one idea, any stray ideas that come along can get shoved in the idea journal until you can give them more attention.
What are some of your more off-the-wall ideas? How do you keep your idea journal? Feel free to share in the comments below!