writer

Take Note: Tips on Having (and Keeping) Your Ideas

Do you know someone who always has an idea for something? When you talk to them, it seems like their mind is going a mile a minute, while you have maybe half an idea a day, wondering how this person can be “on” all the time. I’m generally cyclic, going through periodic idea spells and no-idea spells, which seems to be the norm. In the no-idea spells, I tend to notice the idea people more, and find myself wondering how they do what they do. As it turns out, it’s partially a gift, and partially a practice.

You might have heard of James Altucher’s “10 Ideas a Day” exercise. It’s similar to a gratitude journal, where you sit down every morning and write down ten ideas, if not more. The theory is the “idea muscle” is one that can atrophy, like any other muscle, when it’s not used. Although the explanation felt a bit aggressive for my taste, I’m all for becoming an idea person. Ten ideas a day, how hard can that be? (I tried it this morning, and similar to this article explaining the experience, I “started sweating” around number 4).

Altucher’s idea exercise is great for carving out some time to get your brain moving, but realistically, our brains aren’t going to limit idea-generation to this small piece of the day. Whenever I have a brilliant idea for something, it arrives at a super inconvenient time, and I fall into the trap of “Oh, I’ll totally remember this later- it’s so amazing, how could I forget it?” But…then I do.



Those of us who have been burned by this experience enough times will find ways to avoid this happening again. Others might be blessed with being idea machines, so the loss of one idea doesn’t feel as tragic. Here are some of the best tips I’ve had for jotting down these ideas (with and without technology):

  1. ALWAYS write it down. Whatever your idea is, make sure you get it out of your head to a more tangible place (paper, phone, etc). I’d say 87% of the time, unless I write it down, I only remember having an awesome idea, but not the idea itself. It’s pretty frustrating. To avoid this, there are a few things you can do, depending on your personal preferences. If you are a pen and paper person, one idea is to always keep a notepad close by. If you’re more of a phone person, there are all kinds of apps you can use to keep track of ideas. If you just want to jot down the idea and nothing else, the Notes app that comes with most phones is an easy way to jot things down and have them saved for later. But, if you want to get into some high-end note taking, apps like Papyrus, Evernote, and more let you dictate, add pictures, and share your notes with others. And, most of them are free!
  2. Be Consistent. One of my issues is being super inconsistent about where I put them. Then, when I need to find something again, I’m scrambling around because “it could be in one of six places.” Whatever time you might have saved writing down your idea gets lost trying to track it down again. This article recommends not only keeping your notes in a consistent place, but separating them by types for a higher level of efficiency. This might mean having an app on your phone totally dedicated to business related notes/ideas, while jotting down notes for a screenplay in a notebook you carry around. No matter what system you choose, the key is to be consistent across the board.
  3. Make sure it’s decipherable. Not your handwriting, although it’s a good first step. Sometimes, if we’re in a huge rush, we jot down a few words and carry on our way. Later, when we revisit them, it looks like complete gibberish. Losing an idea this way is arguably more heartbreaking, because you’ve actually put some effort into saving the idea. Avoiding this type of heartbreak involves finding the line between writing too much and too little. Allow yourself the time to write down as much as you think you’ll need to jog your memory.
It really only has to make sense to you...

It really only has to make sense to you…

4. Revisit. Don’t leave your ideas to sit around collecting dust. At the end of the week/month/whatever interval you choose, go back and look over what you’ve written down. More on organizing notes will come in a later blog post, but in revisiting your notes you’re sorting out ideas you might actually want to take action on at some point later on. After all, what’s the point of writing all these ideas down if you aren’t going to see one or two of them through?

Whether you consider yourself an idea person or not, writing down your ideas when you have them, be consistent and clear, and go back and look them over every now and then. What are some ways that you’ve found to get notes from in your head onto paper?

This month’s theme is all about notes, stay tuned for future posts throughout the month!



8 Tips to Improve Your Business Writing Online and Off

This guest post is courtesy of Catherine W McKinney, who took part in the 30 Days of Blogging challenge we held in March. Catherine is a writer, always looking for a good story. She is the author of the ebook “Finn MacCool and the Woman”, tales of cats invading her home. You can visit her blog, like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter if you want to keep in touch.

catherineWM_cmToday communications run from in person, to telephone, to email, to blogs, to social media. And don’t forget traditional letter writing.

There are newsletters and articles to be written.

The very definition of business writing has changed, expanded, basically exploded during the past decade.

Most of what you learned in school does not apply to all this new media writing. So you wonder, what form should I write in; what tone; what style?

It’s less confusing than you think, and much more approachable.

Today formal business writing has been replaced by the conversational tone, the conversational style. In other words, if you can say it, you can write it.



Here are 8 tips to help you improve your writing:

1 Make the writing easy to understand. Don’t use professional jargon. You want to encourage dialogue not send me running for the exit. Allow your personality to shine through, the personality you showed during the job interview.

2 Be interesting. You want to hold my attention for a least a minute. Give me a reason to continue reading. Add some energy, some life to your writing. When appropriate make me laugh.

3 Be clear. You want your writing to be easy to absorb and answer all questions. Obscurity if your enemy. If I don’t understand what you are trying to say, I am not going to finish reading or seek any other contact with you.

4 Be logical. Provide the right amount of supportive information without overwhelming. Progress through your information step by step. Help me appreciate your expertise.

5 Be concise. Don’t waste my time. Stick to the point. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs. Chunk information together for me so I don’t have to go looking for the next thing I need to know.

6 Keep the message obvious. Remember the reader is the important person in this written conversation. Don’t hide the message, tell me why I should care. Tell me how it benefits me or my team or my business. Tell me how it will improve my life, answer my question.

7 Be purpose obvious. Stick to the topic. Allow the writing to be persuasive. Don’t hide what I should do next or what else I may need to know. Tell me.

8 Be easy to read aloud. Your writing needs flow, it needs rhythm. It needs to reflect how you speak, how you present yourself, your ideas. By reading your writing out loud you will easily spot rough patches, thoughts which are disconnected, sentences which don’t work. Reading out loud helps your editing process.

Whether you are sending an email, blogging, writing up advertising, creating the annual report, sending a thank you note, these 8 tips can help you write better. Better writing leads to better communications. Better communications leads to possibilities beyond your imagination.

It’s all about connecting with clarity, with respect and with a bit of imagination.