Creative Thinking Tuesday, 30th September 2014


Just as every fortnight on a Monday I will be rounding up half a dozen articles or posts that I have found interesting, approximately every two weeks I’ll share a few quick creative thinking tips that I find useful. Today I’m focussing on a few simple ways to capture ideas.

Always carry something to write on: I’ve tried lots of things over the last ten years, from notebooks to Post Its, from napkins to phone apps, and all have had their advantages and disadvantages. I’ve settled on 5” by 3” record cards, plain white or ruled coloured depending on my mood (the former if I am just out to capture and doodle, the latter if I have something particular in mind). These cost around £2/£2.50 for a pack of 100 in stationery shops. They are great as they have just enough space to capture the outline of an idea. If you’re generating lots of ideas you can write each idea on a separate card. They are meant to be discrete things, but if you have lots of ideas relating to a project then you can later set them out on a surface to show how they connect – or you can put them in some kind of organised sequence.

Enter Technology

Tape yourself talking: if you have a smartphone there will be a simple audio recording app that you could use for free (and several paid ones, I use Hi-Q MP3 Voice Recorder on my Android phone). If you go for a walk by yourself, use the time for creative thinking and record your thoughts as you walk. Start by stating the date and time, and give a simple question that you want ideas/answers for. Then start talking. You can hold your phone to your ear and talk as if taking a call with no problems. I do this every time I walk to our local supermarket, roughly seven or eight minutes away, and have found it an extremely useful way to throw a lot of ideas out very quickly. Make time to review your recordings; if this is for an ongoing project then do it as soon as possible, but if this is speculative or you are capturing a time when you are talking aloud, perhaps once a month is often enough.

Google Keep: I struggled for a long time with a way to put my ideas somewhere that I could access them. I had several pads – one for workshop ideas, one for game ideas, one for story ideas – and all of them were a mess. I struggled with a basic memo app that came with my phone, but while I could see my notes I then had to transfer them elsewhere by hand. This is where Google Keep has excelled for me in the last eighteen months. I can make notes on my phone, tablet and computer and it synchronises across all of them. For recording ideas it is great – it’s not complicated or fussy, you just make your note and it saves and synchronises automatically. Simple colour coding make it look a little like Post It Notes, but allows you to distinguish between projects or themes that your ideas are for.

Today was all about neat and simple ways to record ideas and this is important. If you and your brain – whatever philosophical distinction we might want to make – know that you are actively recording your great ideas, then you will be more disposed to having them in the first place!

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

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